Featured in today's briefing:
- New Charter research on centering workers amid AI rollouts.
- How to address the Israel-Gaza war in the workplace.
- Hiring via TikTok.
AI and Work Radar
- Some experts believe the cost of using AI tools—linked to the computing power to run them—will dampen enthusiasm for broad deployment of generative AI in businesses. The makers of the tools are now also attempting to pass along some of their hefty expenses. Google and Microsoft, for example, are rolling out more expensive tiers of their software programs, while Adobe has adopted a usage-based pricing model. Some argue that productivity gains more than justify paying the cost of such knowledge-work tools.
- Flattering ChatGPT before asking it a question seems to spur the chatbot to provide information it was trained to withhold, as does asking in Argentinian Spanish or Swiss German, according to Neil Serebryany, head of AI security firm CalypsoAI. Other research has found that using reverse psychology—such as asking for piracy websites to avoid, versus asking for a list of piracy websites—has a similar effect.
- Workers in a growing number of fields, including call-center employees, doctors, and therapists, are using AI to imitate—and enhance—human empathy, relying on the technology to generate scripts for more empathetic responses to customers and patients. While some ethicists are raising concerns about the practice, research points to its effectiveness: In one study earlier this year, peer counselors working on a mental-health support line gave answers that were almost 20% more empathetic when they took suggestions from an AI system.
Focus on Tactics for Making Sure AI Doesn’t Undermine Workers
People in underrepresented groups are often disenfranchised and devalued during moments of economic and societal transition. New research from Charter suggests that the same risk is present in this moment of widespread workplace AI adoption, particularly for women, workers of color, and those over 55—and that it doesn’t have to be that way.
The research—based in part on a survey of workers and managers—shows striking differences in the usage of AI tools and concerns about their implications for jobs across gender, racial/ethnic, and age groups. It also points to clear best practices for organizations that want to center workers amid the technological change. Among them: involving workers in determining how AI tools are used, clearly communicating about how they might impact work, and asking workers how they want to be trained.
At a high level, we found insufficient attention currently paid to what workers know about how AI could improve work quality and performance, and to how they want to be involved and supported. Survey responses suggest that employees will be much more enthusiastic and engaged with the changes if they have some voice in how they’re planned and rolled out.
Here are highlights from Charter’s new research playbook, Using AI in ways that enhance worker dignity and inclusion, which was produced with support and funding from the Innovation Resource Center for Human Resources:
Black workers are more worried about job precarity.
Over half of Black respondents express concern about AI replacing them in their jobs in the next five years (53%), 14 percentage points higher than for white respondents (39%). At the same time:
- Black workers and managers are more likely to already be using generative AI tools in their jobs compared to white colleagues (45% vs. 37%).
- Looking ahead, they are more likely to be enthusiastic about the prospect of using generative AI as part of their day-to-day work (61% vs. 51%). This simultaneous adoption and excitement, coupled with fears about job loss, suggests that it is especially important for employers to involve workers in AI planning, communication, and learning and development (see the playbook for advice on how to do this effectively).
Women are less likely to be using generative AI, and they’re more concerned about their jobs.
Women respondents are less likely than male respondents to be using generative AI tools in their jobs currently (35% vs. 48%). People who have not used generative AI tools to date are much more likely to be women.
Personal and professional use, as well as enthusiasm about using AI as part of daily work, drops off starkly with age.
Workers and managers 18 to 44 are much more likely than their 55+ colleagues to have used generative AI in their work to date. Personal experimentation also decreases greatly with age. This suggests a confidence gap that leaders might address with additional encouragement and support for older workers as they put these tools into practice in their jobs.
Here are some of the recommendations you can find in the playbook:
Download the full playbook for case studies and the full detailed frameworks for adopting AI in ways that put workers at the center. The research playbook is based on a survey of 1,173 individual contributors and managers across three sectors—manufacturing, service, and knowledge work—conducted in partnership with the research platform Glimpse. It also contains guidance from practitioners, labor economists, research scientists, and organizers about what’s known and unknown about AI in modern workplaces, including lessons from past technological transformations.
You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about how to adapt your organization to the changing world of AI.
What Else You Need to Know
The job market isn’t as positive for knowledge workers as it is overall. Despite the recent news that the US added more jobs than expected in September, professional-services roles including marketers, managers, and information-technology workers are seeing slower or no gains, a Wall Street Journal analysis found.
- Larger organizations saw a net loss of 83,000 jobs last month, 32,000 of which were in professional services, according to ADP, while median wages for newly hired workers in those roles declined by 1.4% from a year earlier.
- A separate Wall Street Journal column noted that the job market is “a lagging economic indicator that can go from good to bad in a short time,” pointing to the rapid pivot from job gains in late 2007 to losses early the next year.
The escalating Israel-Hamas war has workplace leaders looking for guidance on how to say the right thing.
- Bo Young Lee, Uber’s former chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer, suggests that companies can use their existing DEI infrastructure to respond to the situation internally. A post by Lee on LinkedIn, which detailed Uber’s response to Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2021, has been widely circulated as an example of how employers can address the current violence with their workers.
- Uber’s response included five components, Lee wrote: First, it asked workers to share their desired outcomes from the company, held listening sessions for workers to talk through their feelings, and reached out to experts on religion in the workplace for insight. Next, it created and circulated a rubric that gave workers insight into its decision-making, with questions like “Do the events impact our business, our employees, or our partners?” and “Are the suggested actions consistent with our values?” Finally, the company collaborated with its interfaith employee resource group to host educational sessions on the situation.
- US organizations with a presence in Israel have scrambled to ensure worker safety—some US banks, for example, have counseled employees there to work from home for the foreseeable future—and to address workforce disruptions as staffers are displaced or called up for military service.
- Those without staffers in the region should still address the violence internally. “It’s imperative that you speak to your employees,” Edelman CEO Richard Edelman advised in an open letter to clients of the PR firm. “Tell them what you are going to do.” Some US organizations have made donations in support of the victims, for example, while others are emphasizing their mental-health support and flexible policies that allow workers to take time off to deal with anxiety and grief.
A majority of working parents have considered quitting their jobs due to the lack of child-care benefits, according to a survey conducted in June 2023 by the nonprofit Catalyst. Even before pandemic-era child-care subsidies expired a few weeks ago, many working parents reported difficulty affording child care without workplace benefits.
- The report also found that three-fourths of women are concerned that unmet caregiving needs would negatively affect their careers, compared to just half of men.
- When asked about whether they would use workplace caregiving benefits, 75% of working parents say they would take advantage of benefits like on-site child care or backup child care.
An “age-performance paradox” in hiring could harm older workers. Hiring managers prefer to hire young candidates, even while organizations overwhelmingly recognize the value of their own midcareer and older workers, according to a new report from the nonprofit Generation and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
- When asked to consider hypothetical candidates for entry- or intermediate-level roles, the report found, hiring managers were least likely to consider candidates aged 45-64, preferring younger workers instead.
- Respondents shared concerns that older candidates would be unable to adapt to new technologies. Just 30% of hiring managers said that workers over the age of 45 have the right tech skills, while 52% said the same of workers ages 30-44.
- At the same time, 89% of employers reported that midcareer and older workers performed at a higher level than younger colleagues, and 83% said older workers learn as quickly (or more quickly) than younger workers.
New California laws will require investors and companies to disclose data related to diversity and climate change. One law will require venture capital firms to annually report demographic data of the founding teams for each of the companies in their investment portfolios.
- Two laws relate to climate disclosures: One will require companies with revenue over $1 billion to report annual emissions, while the other will require companies with annual revenue over $500 million to report climate-related financial risks twice a year.
- The diversity-disclosure law will take effect in 2025, when VC firms will begin reporting the gender identity, race, ethnicity, disability status, identification as LGBTQ+, veteran status, and California residency of founding teams they have invested in within the past year.
- The climate laws will take effect in 2026, though affected companies will only have to report Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Beginning in 2027, companies will also have to disclose Scope 3 emissions.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Start with the facts before solutioning. To avoid fixating on finding solutions without knowing all the relevant information, open decision-making meetings with all attendees sharing what they know about the facts of the situation. Proceed with discussing opinions on next steps only once everyone has had a chance to share.
- Invest in a mental-health employee resource group (ERG). While ERGs have traditionally been organized around identity groups like race, gender, sexuality, veteran status, and caregiver status, a mental-health ERG can provide a support system for employees with mental-health concerns, as well as provide the organization valuable insight on how best to support employees.
- Train managers to have conversations about benefits. A comprehensive benefits education campaign should include resources and tools for managers to support their reports through the open-enrollment process. In addition to covering the details of benefits policies, train managers on compliance, empathy, and tact.
- Charter Pro Insight: Reframe meeting note-taking. Encourage junior staffers, who may be attending the meeting more as observers than active participants, to own note-taking with a focus on capturing key takeaways and next steps, and to circulate these thoughts to attendees post-meeting. As Mita Mallick, Carta’s head of inclusion, equity, and impact, writes in her new book Reimagine Inclusion, doing so allows them to “receive credit and recognition, and is one way to also start amplifying the voices” of those who may not have as much of a chance to share their thoughts live.
Au revoir resumes? Some employers are asking job seekers to apply for jobs directly on TikTok, having them submit videos on the platform in place of traditional CVs.
- Cleo, an AI personal finance assistant, is requiring job candidates to submit TikTok video answers to interview questions including “Do you have main character energy?”
- The TikTok medium has limitations for hiring. “I still required a telephone interview to request basic information that otherwise would have been provided in a CV,” acknowledged one recruiter. There are accessibility and inclusion concerns related to requiring TikTok videos as well.