From Terminator to Teammate: Shifting Staff Attitudes about AI

by Jodie Ferretti

It used to be if you said “AI” at work, the most you might hear was “Oh, yeah, you mean Hal?” or “I’ll be baaack” in your co-worker’s very best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression.

But Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a futuristic concept relegated to sci-fi novels and movies (that’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Terminator above for those of you without Netflix accounts).  It's here, and it's transforming the way we work. Whether we're aware of it or not, AI is already making an impact on our professional lives, from streamlining operations to enhancing decision-making.  

For you and your business to stay ahead in this ever-evolving environment, it's crucial to embrace AI and start a conversation with your team about, not just how AI will impact your business, but how AI will impact your staff.

As the Employee Relations Director at Covalent, I know the first question people will ask is, “Is this going replace me and my job?”  And that shouldn’t be any surprise.  People asked the same questions when the internet exploded onto the scene not so very long ago.   But the reality is far more intricate. What we're witnessing isn't job replacement, but job augmentation, and it's poised to empower, not displace, the human workforce.

AI Is the Ally, Not the Enemy

Given AI’s place in pop culture, it’s no surprise many see it as our enemy, not our friend. And yes, bad human actors will always have the potential to use AI for immoral purposes. But the day-to-day reality of AI is that staff can, and should, see it as a tool, or, better yet, a capable teammate that handles the repetitive tasks that bog us down – data entry, scheduling, basic coding – while freeing us to focus on what truly makes us irreplaceable: creativity, strategic thinking, and human connection.  

Think of it this way. Say you're a talented software developer. Instead of wasting hours sifting through endless lines of code for errors, AI can do the heavy lifting, flagging potential issues for your expert analysis. This frees you to focus on crafting elegant solutions, innovating new features, and collaborating with colleagues to bring groundbreaking ideas to life.  

The benefits extend beyond efficiency. AI can analyze vast amounts of data, providing insights and trends that would be impossible for humans to uncover alone. This empowers you to make data-driven decisions, anticipate market shifts, and tailor your approach with an unparalleled level of precision.  

Seeing Your “Human Only” Skills in a New Light

But isn't this just a fancy way of saying AI will take over some tasks? Yes, and that's a good thing! By offloading the mundane, AI allows staff to dedicate their valuable cognitive resources—human-only skills--to the tasks that truly benefit from our uniquely human abilities. We become strategic problem-solvers, empathetic communicators, and visionary leaders.  

So, how can you guide your staff in thinking about AI and their skills?  

Upskilling, not replacing: Instead of fearing irrelevance, embrace ongoing learning. Focus on honing your "human skills" – critical thinking, collaboration, and emotional intelligence – and stay current on emerging technologies to remain relevant and valuable.  

New opportunities: As AI automates mundane tasks, new roles will emerge, demanding human ingenuity and expertise. Embrace the chance to redefine your career path and explore exciting possibilities at the forefront of innovation.  

Empowerment, not displacement: See AI as your partner, not your competitor. Leverage its capabilities to augment your skills, boost your productivity, and unlock your full potential.  

The future of work is not about humans versus machines, but about humans and machines working together. By embracing job augmentation, we can create a workforce that's more efficient, innovative, and, most importantly, human. So, join me in ditching the doomsday narrative and embracing the exciting possibilities that await us in this new era of human-AI collaboration.

Partners in your digital transformation.