Communicating with employees whose jobs could be lost to AI (Response to a Globe and Mail reader question)

For those old enough to remember, there was a time when you could pick up a dial-tone telephone and press “0” to reach the operator. A live person would then come on the phone line to connect your call to your desired number. At one time, there were also “lift operators” who would manually time and stop elevators, for guests to disembark on a particular floor. Further back on a historical timeline, we even had jobs for lamplighters who lit outdoor oil lamps or candles on city streets at dusk, only to come back and extinguish them at dawn.

Those jobs and many others along the way, have become extinct over time. There is even a term for the phenomenon of job losses caused by technological change. It’s called “technological unemployment.”

This term will likely become ubiquitous soon enough, given the unprecedented rise of AI at breakneck speed in our workforce today.

Business Insider recently published an article calling out 10 human roles that AI and tools like ChatGPT are most likely to replace according to experts. Some examples include: Tech jobs such as coders, data analysts and software engineers, legal industry jobs such as paralegals and legal assistants, and even accountants. The article quoted a McKinsey study that predicted 30% of workplace hours could become automated by 2030!

These patterns of job losses in certain professions are not new to our society. Collectively as a whole, we’ve been here before. What is unprecedented however, is the massive scale and speed at which disruption is impacting future career prospects.

So, I wasn’t surprised, when the Globe and Mail asked me to respond to a reader question, where a manager worried that employees could get spooked about helping to develop an AI tool that could ultimately replace their jobs.

The question came from a content marketing agency, and incidentally, the Business Insider article named media jobs, such as advertising, content creation and journalism as a sector at high risk.

The truth is, none of us really know the full impact that AI will have, given how fast this technology is evolving and changing. However, we can say with a fair degree of certainty that many leaders, in many sectors, across many offices are asking this very same question as our Globe and Mail reader: “How can I get my team to train AI that may take their jobs?”

One thing is for sure – we can’t be led by fear, and we must remember that when jobs are lost, many new jobs are created and therefore gained. As we go through this massive period of transition however, there are some key communications best practices that can help us ride the proverbial wave at work more successfully.

Please see my response to the reader question below, for my take on how best to approach such change management communication.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation and have wisdom on this subject matter, please do share your perspectives with us on social media. We’d love to hear from you!



The following article excerpt was originally published in the Globe and Mail on April 30, 2024, in the Careers section’s Nine to Five feature.


How can I get my team to train AI that may take their job? 


I manage the creative department of a content marketing agency. We’re working with a tech company that’s developing an artificial intelligence tool to produce content for our clients, but we need our writers to train the new systems by evaluating the responses that the AI generates. To be entirely honest, this platform might replace the writers’ jobs eventually. How can I get the writers to participate without them feeling alarmed that their jobs are at risk?



Julie Labriepresident, BlueSky Personnel Solutions, Toronto

Put simply: You can’t prevent your writers from recognizing this eventuality. There’s no doubt that they’ll see it, just as you’re seeing it. Instinctively, while you want to soften the blow, attempts to position this work differently will come across as disingenuous and misleading, seeding mistrust.

Your best course of action is to be upfront about this initiative. State the obvious so your team feels seen and heard. Encourage open dialogue and create a safe space for honest communication, which is a leadership best practice. Then discuss the bigger picture together, about how AI will affect the future of their work. Instead of running away and hiding from the change that AI will bring, stimulate conversation about how writers can lean in, adapt, and find opportunities that will work for them.

Similar to how staff react when a company loses a significant contract and know that layoffs are coming (although AI’s runway for change is likely longer), be aware that some of your team members may be happy to participate in this project and add it to their career profile, while for others, this may prompt them to start looking for work elsewhere. Accept that this is an unavoidable part of the change management process, reflecting the ebb and flow of business.

Consider how the internet transformed our lives and work. Generative AI will play a similar role – especially in content marketing. We all must ultimately embrace this upcoming disruption and learn how to make it work for us.

To read the second answer, by Nadini Dukhu, team lead of HR services, MaxPeople, Toronto, please visit: The Globe and Mail’s career section (for subscribers).



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