top of page

Three Things CEOs Must Tell Their Employees About AI

For CEOs who are closely paying attention to the current environment and care about the future, it’s essential to develop and clearly communicate their stance on artificial intelligence (AI) to their teams. These messages to everyone in the organization must be delivered clearly and effectively. Specifically, all levels of employees need to know the leadership’s position regarding AI adoption, what the benefits are, how they’re going to be realized, and how the implementation will affect them.

I’ve been leading and developing highly successful innovation strategies for global leaders like Cisco, IBM, and others, and I’ve seen what separates market leaders from those who fall short. More often than not, it comes down to leaders who fail to understand and communicate the ramifications of transformational technology. Think of Yahoo failing to understand the importance of internet advertising and shifting from a dominant player in the internet revolution to trailing behind or Sears missing the boat with e-commerce and going from being a top retailer to bankruptcy.

But those scenarios didn’t have to happen, and leaders must learn from them.

Three Key Messages

There are several keys to an effective AI strategy, and getting others on board is one of the most important ones. What follows is a breakdown of what CEOs need their employees to know about AI.

Message 1: AI is emerging as the top enabler of growth and innovation.

One of the most important things to understand about AI is that it’s not just a technology—it’s about people. It’s a transformative tool that enables you to innovate and deliver unparalleled value to your customers. I believe it’s crucial to embrace AI as a central element of any growth strategy. By leveraging AI, you can uncover new opportunities, create more personalized customer experiences, and stay ahead of market trends.

Closely associated with that understanding is the realization that most organizations have no choice whether to adopt AI or not. It’s simply a matter of survival.

For CEOs and top executives, there’s an almost automatic assumption that new business processes and best practices can be added and implemented without getting a lot of employee feedback. But that assumption is simply wrong.

Encourage employees to think about how AI can enhance their current roles and processes and communicate clearly: Everyone is an innovator. Employees must have effective channels to communicate their ideas about the best use of AI, and those channels must be in place and tested well before any implementation begins.

Message 2: Ethical and responsible use of AI is an organizational priority.

AI comes with a variety of valid concerns. Some of these concerns are about business processes and others are about morals and ethics. Organizations must address these concerns to establish ethical and responsible standards.

Here are some of the most important issues or concerns that CEOs need to be especially clear about—to themselves and their employees:

Transparency: Companies should be transparent about how their AI systems work, including the data used to train these systems, their decision-making processes, and the rationale behind their outputs. This transparency builds trust and allows employees to understand how AI impacts them.

Accountability: There must be clear accountability for the decisions and behaviors of AI systems. Organizations should have mechanisms in place to track AI and address any issues or harm arising from its use.

Fairness And Anti-Discrimination: AI should be designed and operated to treat all users fairly and without discrimination. This involves actively identifying and eliminating biases in AI systems to prevent them from perpetuating or exacerbating social inequalities.

Human Oversight: AI should be designed to support human decision-making, not replace it. There should always be a mechanism for human intervention and oversight, ensuring that AI acts as an aid rather than an autonomous decision-maker.

Message 3: AI is a partner, not a replacement.

One of the biggest benefits of AI is its ability to automate common functions and tasks. It can also gather immense amounts of data quickly and efficiently and then analyze that data to generate content or recommend organizational decisions.

But that kind of automation can lead to layoffs and undermine the morale of employees, who might flat-out resist and sabotage this new way of doing business. CEOs need to address their employees’ concerns with automation and job security directly and in a way that demonstrates genuine empathy while being transparent and making organizational goals clear.

But how? The answer to that question isn’t simple, but it is straightforward: Tell employees that they can use AI to enhance their careers and add to their skills, and they can then use those skills to stay ahead of market trends, both for themselves and the customers with whom they work.

That means adding upskilling and reskilling programs that work. Spell out how they’re going to work and emphasize how these skills acquisitions will complement new AI technology and help employees develop and further their careers.

Putting It All Together: Delivering The Right AI Message To Employees

To review, the AI messages CEOs deliver to their employees must be based on transparency and open dialogue, along with a clear strategy and effective programs to support employees. The journey to effective AI is a mutual learning process for both CEOs and employees and meaningful two-way communication is essential to make AI work properly. Employees must know the do's and don’ts and that they can use and enhance AI without negative repercussions.

Finally, CEOs need to be open and flexible when it comes to AI. It’s been around a long time, and we’re still in the early stages of this transformation (e.g., think of the internet in the early days of the World Wide Web). There will be plenty of changes, twists, and turns in any implementation, and openness and flexibility are requirements to get the most out of it.

This article originally appeared on on April 19, 2024


bottom of page