Seven in 10 workplaces will integrate artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of chatbots and virtual personal assistants (VPAs) by 2021 to assist employees’ productivity, a new study finds.
“Digital workplace leaders will proactively implement AI-based technologies such as virtual assistants or other NLP-based conversational agents and robots to support and augment employees’ tasks and productivity,” said Helen Poitevin, senior research director at Gartner.
But the report warned that past incidents have shown that poorly designed assistants cause frustration among employees, sometimes prompting bad behaviour and abusive language toward the VPA.
“This can create a toxic work environment, as the bad habits will eventually leak into interactions with co-workers,” continued Poitevin.
The report points to recent experiments which have shown that people’s abusive behaviour toward AI technologies can translate into how they treat the humans around them.
As a result, Gartner predicts this development will prompt 10 per cent of organisations to add a digital harassment policy to their workplace regulation.
When establishing VPAs in the workplace organisations must also train the assistants to respond appropriately to aggressive language.
“They should also clearly state that AI-enabled conversational agents should be treated with respect and give them a personality to fuel likability and respect,” added Poitevin.
“Finally, digital workplace leaders should allow employees to report observed cases of policy violation.”
According to Richard Chiumento, director of Rialto Consultancy, this clearly demonstrates why leaders cannot not underestimate the major change programme that is required when it comes to embedding and integrating new technologies like AI and robotics into the workforce. “And there must be real depth and commitment to this change,” he said. “Few would forsee the potential side-effect of fuelling bad behaviour elsewhere in the workforce. This demonstrates new processes, methods of working and strategies need to be clearly thought through and even, if it is impossible to predict some outcomes, leaders must be alert to the unexpected.”