How CIOs Can Integrate AI Among Employees Without Impacting DEI

Gartner found only 21% of organizations offer training programs to employees displaced by AI.

David Sugden, Principal Analyst

June 17, 2024

4 Min Read
Business people and AI robots working together

AI technologies are pervasive and integrated into employees’ daily tasks to optimize and streamline operations and enhance data-driven decision-making. This integration spans diverse tools, from virtual assistants and digital avatars to autonomous machines and broader AI-based solutions.

CIOs are eager to incorporate AI in everyday operations. However, there is a readiness gap among employees when it comes to the widespread integration of AI in the workplace. Challenges include skills gaps impeding AI utilization, bias concerns in algorithms, fear of job displacement, and inadequate transparency.

As AI becomes incorporated into everyday operations, employees embrace it. However, if AI is not integrated into the workforce correctly, it will negatively impact diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. The swift integration of AI – coupled with biases inherent in AI models – results in trade-offs of enterprise DEI and disadvantages in skills development and talent acquisition, ultimately undermining workplace diversity. Failure to address these concerns will hinder technological advancement and impede progress toward building a more competitive and equitable digital future.

To address these concerns, CIOs should raise DEI to the forefront of future AI-based technology purchasing and deployment decisions. Specifically, CIOs should take the following actions to support DEI.

Related:Digital Workplace I&O Leaders Must Prioritize DEI Initiatives

1. Address Digital Dexterity Gaps to Forge Better AI Partnerships

Gartner has found that 21% of organizations offer training programs to employees displaced by AI, aiming to equip them with the skills for career development and to enhance their understanding of digital-human symbiotic relationships. Thus, the lack of enterprise AI training is one of the biggest obstacles preventing the AI-augmented workforce from being equitable and inclusive. This is partially due to enterprises not having formal structures in place, such as communities of practice, AI councils, or AI governance. Having structures such as these will prevent business units from operating in silos and place DEI and training as a wider priority.

As technology adoption accelerates, employees risk falling behind in adapting to meet enterprise demands. This trend has been evident across computing eras, from PCs to the current AI and Internet of Things era. Each phase widens the gap between technology introduction and employees’ ability to use it effectively. Failure to address this now will lead to further resistance and anxiety when looking at the reality of AI adoption in the workforce.

In this context, digital dexterity refers to the workforce’s adeptness at embracing and proactively using existing and emerging technologies. It emphasizes fostering collaborative partnerships with AI, treating them as equals rather than adversaries.

To prioritize DEI in addressing employee upskilling to leverage AI, CIOs can embrace a spectrum of initiatives, from establishing peer mentorship programs to providing access to online courses, workshops, and conferences. The aim is to promote educational opportunities for those most at risk of falling behind, which will increase the cost risk in the future due to the extra cost of retraining staff or seeking new talent.

To successfully link digital dexterity to DEI to prepare employees, CIOs should implement a training program that equitably exposes all workforce segments to AI and the machine economy to develop soft and technical skills. Shift the focus of AI adoption away from solely business needs and focus on individual empowerment. Leaders often think big and forget to focus on who technology decisions impact. Take a piecemeal approach to adoption and set up the right communication channels for people to voice concerns.

2. Embrace an Adaptive AI Strategy for Greater Inclusivity

AI strategy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Because of this, CIOs should adopt regionally tailored approaches to prepare their organizations for the pervasive integration of AI into the workforce. This directly supports the nuances of different regions and employee needs associated with where they work.

CIOs may not fully understand the skills their teams possess or lack. CIOs must acknowledge the need for adaptability in managing talent, considering that employees worldwide vary in their comfort and proficiency with AI. Factors like geography and culture influence how people perceive and utilize emerging technologies.

When looking at AI deployment on a global scale, CIOs should adapt and prioritize an equitable AI strategy to accommodate cultural differences and individual needs across regions, reducing potential resistance. Explore the implementation of AI and other disruptive innovations in emerging markets, where resistance is typically lower, facilitating smoother adoption. This strategic approach can pave the way for broader acceptance and utilization of these technologies across markets.

About the Author(s)

David Sugden

Principal Analyst, Gartner

David Sugden is a Principal Analyst in Gartner's Research & Advisory in the Technology Innovation practice. He covers DEI and digital equity in the context of emerging technology.

Sign up for the ITPro Today newsletter
Stay on top of the IT universe with commentary, news analysis, how-to's, and tips delivered to your inbox daily.

You May Also Like