Is Employee Well-Being More Important Than the Bottom Line when Considering Adoption of AI?
July 12, 2022
Lately, employee well-being has been found at the core of business resilience, while the bottom line has become somewhat of a secondary concern. Will the importance of “people-oriented” aspects of business be long-lasting, or is this just a result of the Covid-19 pandemic? In a recent study, LSU SDEIS Professor Andrew Schwarz explored whether human-centered attributes or cost-related attributes are more important to companies in relation to adopting artificial intelligence (AI).
Schwarz, along with colleagues from the UK and Hong Kong, conducted a study to determine why (or why not) firms are adopting AI for their companies. In a partnership with a market research company, the researchers randomly selected medium to large-sized companies based in the United States to take part in the study from May 19, 2021 – July 13, 2021.
Initially, the participants were invited to complete a web-based survey where they were interviewed based upon their preferences for an AI solution that they would consider for their organizations. Participating industries included manufacturing, finance/insurance, health care, hotel/food, retail, comp manufacturing, construction, agriculture, software, wholesale, utilities, information, info services, scientific, legal, government, education, transportation, publishing, and mining.
Throughout the survey, participants were asked to rank the importance of a mixture of people-oriented and cost-related attributes when deciding on whether to adopt AI.
- How does the AI solution impact the cost structure of your organization?
- How does the AI solution impact the well-being of your employees?
- How much do your employees trust the decisions made by the AI solution?
- How much of an impact will there be on the transition from human workers completing the task to the AI solution completing the same task?
- How many safety brakes are present in the solution to override the decision made by the AI?
- How many new insights does the AI solution provide to you over the current solution?
- How much confidence do you have in the outputs of the AI solution?
- What are the capabilities of the AI solution?
- What is the functionality of the AI solution?
Once the researchers compiled the data, the results were very surprising. In past findings, the bottom line was usually the top concern when adopting new technology and now it seems that above all else, companies are most concerned about the well-being of their employees. Out of all of the attributes presented to participants, the impact of well-being on employees and the amount of trust employees had in the decisions made by the AI solution ranked at the top of the list. These two attributes fall within the human-centered focus of decision making within the AI context and proved to be of greater importance than established literature has previously indicated. This could indicate the long rather than short-term perspective from executives and aligns with the recognized shift in emphasis on well-being that has stemmed from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The relatively high-ranking attribute- the amount of safety brakes in place to stop the AI solution even if there will be unintended consequences- indicates that company decision makers want to make sure procedures and mechanisms are in place to ensure that autonomous processes can be stopped, either with a human in the loop or via other monitoring mechanisms, to provide the required levels of safety and security for the organization and workers.
On the other hand, the attributes related to return-on-investment factors such as the functionality offered by the AI solution, the impact on the cost of doing business, and the amount of new insights that you will gain from the AI solution, are positioned toward the middle of the attribute ranking. The ranking position of these attributes in relation to the well-being of related factors indicates that, moving forward, there should be a stronger focus on procuring/developing a user friendly and effective AI solution as well as building trust and confidence amongst employees than solely focusing on cost aspects.
Throughout the E. J. Ourso College of Business, specifically the Flores MBA Program, we make sure students are exposed to a well-rounded education that emphasizes the importance of not only cost-related attributes in business, but also people-oriented attributes. The Covid-19 pandemic has literally changed the future of business, therefore human-centered skills, such as leadership development, are more important now than ever. We want to make sure that our students leave the college with the knowledge to make sound business decisions while investing in their employees’ well-being, which in turn is beneficial for the bottom line.
In light of this research, Schwarz and his co-authors are currently involved in a follow-up project examining how technology affects the well-being of employees. The authors have some early evidence that employees who engage in productive technology use see a variety of benefits, including, but not limited to, positive mental health, reduced burnout, increased productivity, better relationships with others, and an increase in organizational outcomes. They believe that AI will further enhance these benefits and that the work-from-home movement, due to COVID-19, allowed individuals the flexibility to find levels of well-being that we had not seen before. In short, organizations should strongly consider AI and work-from-home options to enhance the well-being of their employees.
About the Stephenson Department of Entrepreneurship and Information Systems
The Stephenson Department of Entrepreneurship and Information Systems at LSU’s E. J. Ourso College of Business combines teaching and research to create a rich learning experience for its students. Relationships with industry and state agencies enable the department to assist organizations with issues related to entrepreneurship, information systems, analytics, and business intelligence, as well as innovation and technological change, and offer enhanced career opportunities for its graduates. Collaborative research efforts of its diverse faculty have resulted in major grants from the National Science Foundation and the state of Louisiana. For more information, visit lsu.edu/business/sdeis .
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