The Power of Trust:
Do employees see the emergence of AI as an opportunity or a threat?
The answer depends on Trust.

Stuart Elliott

Author

Stuart Elliott

Author

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Navigating change has never been more critical in today’s rapidly evolving landscape. Humans, with an inherent inclination towards stability, often resist change. Yet, history showcases our remarkable capacity to adapt. Now, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) propels us into uncharted territory, the stakes are higher than ever. The benefits are undeniable, as AI promises increased efficiency, improved decision-making, and innovative solutions. However, risks loom large, from job displacement to ethical dilemmas. Amidst this uncertainty, trust emerges as the linchpin for successful organisational change. This article explores how trust shapes our approach to AI adoption and organisational transformation, highlighting its role in fostering collaboration, resilience, and innovation. As trust becomes the currency of change, organisations must prioritise building and maintaining trust to thrive in an era defined by rapid technological advancement and uncertainty.

 

Throughout history, humans have always struggled with adapting to change. Our minds are wired to create routines and habits that allow us to navigate our lives in a predictable way. However, despite this need for stability, we constantly search for new experiences and innovations.

This paradox is most evident in our development of and resistance to new technologies. We have thousands of years of experience doubting the very advances that have brought us to where we are today.

When the first printing press was developed in the 15th century, many feared it would lead to job losses and financial ruin. In fact, many presses were destroyed by scribes in protest, and book merchants were chased out of towns.

The telephone’s invention caused concerns that it would remove the need for face-to-face meetings. There was also fear that the disembodied voices would send people mad.  And while we worry about data security and the potential risks of Wi-Fi, when it was launched, the biggest concern with Wi-Fi was that invisible rays might be going through our bodies and getting consumed in our food and drink.

We nearly always resist change when it is first thrust upon us, but we nearly always adopt and adapt to make it work for us.  Which brings us to the rapid rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in a way that we have never experienced before.

To put the adoption rate into some perspective, it took Netflix some 18 years to reach 100 million users, and it took Facebook 4.5 years to get to 100 million. Compare these to ChatGPT where it has taken just two months to reach 100 million users.  And ChatGPT is just one of the growing stable of Generative AI applications and tools currently available.

So, what is the fuss all about?  When asked about the benefits of AI, ChatGPT provided this response:

 

1. Increased Efficiency
2. Improved Decision Making
3. Enhanced Customer Experience
4. Innovative Solutions
5. Resource Optimisation

 

And the workforce expects to see benefits from AI as well.  A recent report from global HR technology company UKG highlights the opportunities for employees.

However, to balance the scales, ChatGPT was also asked to provide the top five risks associated with AI. As you can imagine, there is some cause for concern.

 

1. Job Displacement:
2. Bias and Fairness:
3. Privacy Concerns:
4. Security Vulnerabilities:
5. Ethical Dilemmas:

 

So, while AI is becoming an indispensable part of the modern workplace, revolutionising the way we work and offering significant benefits, many workers are uncertain about whether it will help or hurt their jobs.

A recent Gallup survey of more than 18,000 workers revealed that 53% of workers say they don’t feel prepared to work with AI, while just three in 10 think that AI can be beneficial to their work.

Similarly, a 2023 KPMG study titled ‘Trust in artificial intelligence’ found the following:

  • 61% of people are wary about trusting AI systems
  • 67% report low to moderate acceptance of AI
  • 85% believe AI results in a range of benefits
  • 50% believe the risks of AI outweigh the benefits
  • 50% are willing to trust AI at work
  • 40% believe AI will replace jobs in their area of work

 

How can employees navigate AI in the workplace?

An organisation’s ability to successfully integrate AI and reap its benefits will depend enormously on the level of trust within the organisation.

In the Deloitte 2024 Human Capital Trends, trust and transparency are called out as critical enablers for the future. An increasing focus on trust and transparency was identified as the trend that would have the greatest impact on an organisation’s success, both this year and in the next three years.

So what is a high-trust culture?

It is a workplace where trust-based relationships are highly valued. Initially, trusting workplace relationships are built and nurtured between leaders and employees. However, a trust-based approach also has a notable impact on customers, investors, and the community at large, which further drives experiences of pride and camaraderie. While engagement metrics primarily look at employee sentiment at a point in time, trust measures are based on the drivers of employee attitudes, proving to be more predictive.

In our research, we have found that employees experience high levels of trust in the workplace when they:

  • Believe leaders are credible (i.e., competent, communicative, honest)
  • Believe they are treated with respect as people and professionals
  • Believe the workplace is fundamentally fair

 

There is a strong connection between a high-trust culture and business success. Our 30 years of research and data from over 100 million employees proves that high-trust workplaces see larger returns to the bottom line, higher levels of innovation, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and organisational agility. Leaders who care deeply about their business’s financial well-being should prioritise building a high-trust company culture.

For 30 years, Great Place to Work® has studied and recognised organisations with high-trust cultures, partly through our Best Workplaces™ lists. For these companies, a defining feature of being recognised as a great workplace is a high level of organisation-wide trust, as reported by employees. This research, along with findings from various independent research groups, illustrate that high levels of trust can be a critical strategic advantage for organisations across industries, sizes, and locations. Strategies to measure and boost engagement alone have little impact on long-term retention and performance, whereas cultivating a high-trust culture is a proven driver of several business outcomes:

  • Stronger financial performance
  • Greater stability during economic downturns
  • Lower levels of voluntary turnover
  • Higher levels of innovation and creativity

 

Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place To Work, stresses the pivotal role trust has in binding employees and organisations together. More than an abstract concept, he says, trust is necessary for an environment where everyone feels valued and heard. 

The same goes for AI implementation.

High levels of trust create a conducive environment for organisational change by promoting transparency, collaboration, resilience, and innovation, ultimately leading to successful outcomes and sustainable growth.

Companies, such as Adobe, stand out among the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For because of their employee-centric approaches to AI. Adobe actively involves employees in the testing of new capabilities powered by Firefly, its family of generative AI models.

Prior to the beta launch of Firefly, the company conducted a voluntary employee session addressing the ethical aspects of generative AI, attracting thousands of attendees and showcasing substantial employee interest and investment in issues surrounding responsible AI innovation.

With 75% of employees reporting that they would be more accepting about AI if their companies were more forthcoming about how they are using AI, greater transparency and collaboration seems to be the way to increase trust between employees and their companies. 

“When employees trust the intentions behind AI, they are more likely to embrace and collaborate with it. Companies on our list have worked very hard to have a high trust level with their employees,” says Bush. “Change can make people fear the unknown, but they won’t panic about their job safety and financial security if the foundation of trust already exists. Instead, they’ll want to learn more.”

Measuring the strength of attributes such as communication, integrity, caring, collaboration, and fairness provides insights into the level of trust within organisations and how any change initiatives, including the introduction of A.I., are likely to be perceived. Business leaders need to know if people are likely to focus on the risks or the opportunities? Will they feel empowered to be part of the exciting change or be victims of someone else’s plans?

Trust stands as the cornerstone of organisational change in the age of AI. As we navigate the complexities of technological evolution, fostering a culture of trust becomes paramount. It empowers employees to embrace change, innovate fearlessly, and collaborate effectively. By prioritising trust, organisations can unlock the full potential of AI, leveraging its benefits while mitigating risks. In embracing trust as a guiding principle, organisations can navigate change at the speed of trust, charting a path towards sustainable growth and success.

Get more insights:

Want to understand more about Trust and how Great Place To Work can help you? Get in touch now.

 

Stuart Elliott

Stuart is a highly experienced strategic Human Resources professional who promotes organisational change to transform people, drive performance and deliver sustained value.

Holding roles in both business and human resources at executive and general management level, Stuart has spent significant parts of his working career in some of Australia’s largest and most well-known banks and held roles across HR, change management, institutional banking and strategic management.

With expertise in areas such as understanding and driving organisational culture change and preparing for the future of work as well as Enterprise and Strategic Workforce Planning Stuart joins the Great Place To Work Australia team as our leading Strategic People Consultant to work with clients across Australia improving employee experience and engagement – and living out our mission – of making every workplace a great place to work for all.

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Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Australia 2024 Evaluation Methodology

Great Place To Work determines the list using our proprietary For All methodology. To determine the Best Workplaces in Technology list, Great Place To Work analyses the survey responses of tens of thousands of employees from Great Place To Work Certified™ companies in the technology industry.

Our survey enables employees to share confidential quantitative and qualitative feedback about their organization’s culture by responding to 60 statements on a 5-point scale and answering two open-ended questions. Collectively, these statements describe a great employee experience, defined by high levels of trust, respect, credibility, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. In addition, companies provide organizational data like size, location, industry, demographics, roles, and levels. Great Place To Work measures the differences in survey responses across demographic groups and roles within each organization to assess both the quality and consistency of the employee experience.

Statements are weighted according to their relevance in describing the most important aspects of an equitable workplace. Survey data analysis and company-provided datapoints are then factored into a combined score to compare and rank the companies that create the most consistently positive experience for all employees in this industry.

To be considered for the list, companies must be Great Place To Work Certified™ and nominate as a company in the technology industry.

We require statistically significant survey results, review anomalies in responses, news, and financial performance, and investigate any employee reports of company incompliance with strict surveying rules to validate the integrity of the results and findings. 

Categories

These organisations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

  • Micro 10-29 Employees
  • Small 30-99 Employees
  • Medium 100-999 Employees
  • Large 1000+ Employees

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Australia 2023 Evaluation Methodology

Great Place To Work determines the list using our proprietary For All methodology. To determine the Best Workplaces in Technology list, Great Place To Work analyses the survey responses of tens of thousands of employees from Great Place To Work Certified™ companies in the technology industry.

Our survey enables employees to share confidential quantitative and qualitative feedback about their organization’s culture by responding to 60 statements on a 5-point scale and answering two open-ended questions. Collectively, these statements describe a great employee experience, defined by high levels of trust, respect, credibility, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. In addition, companies provide organizational data like size, location, industry, demographics, roles, and levels. Great Place To Work measures the differences in survey responses across demographic groups and roles within each organization to assess both the quality and consistency of the employee experience.

Statements are weighted according to their relevance in describing the most important aspects of an equitable workplace. Survey data analysis and company-provided datapoints are then factored into a combined score to compare and rank the companies that create the most consistently positive experience for all employees in this industry.

To be considered for the list, companies must be Great Place To Work Certified™ and nominate as a company in the technology industry.

We require statistically significant survey results, review anomalies in responses, news, and financial performance, and investigate any employee reports of company incompliance with strict surveying rules to validate the integrity of the results and findings. 

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces for Women™ List Methodology

The Best Workplaces for Women™list is determined using Great Place To Work’sFor All™methodology to evaluate hundreds of Certified™Great Place To Work®organisations across Australia.   

Data is based on over 40,000 employee survey responses from women in Great Place To Work® Certified™ organisations across Australia. 

The survey 

The survey enables employees to share confidential quantitative and qualitative feedback about their organisation’s culture by responding to 60 statements on a 5-point scale and answering two open-ended questions. 

Collectively, these statements describe a great employee experience, defined by high levels of trust, respect, credibility, fairness, pride, and camaraderie. In addition, companies provide organisational data like size, location, industry, and the number of women in the workforce and management positions. 

Considerations 

Great Place To Work analysed the gender balance of each workplace, how it compares to each company’s industry, and patterns in representation as women rise from front-line positions to executive/C-suite roles. 
Survey data analysis and women’s representation figures are then factored into a combined score to compare and rank the companies that create the most consistently positive experience and opportunities for all women, regardless of their role or demographic background.   

Eligibility   

To be considered for the list, companies must be Great Place To Work Certified™. Companies must also employ at least 50 women. We require statistically significant survey results, review anomalies in responses, and investigate any employee reports of company in compliance with strict surveying rules to validate the integrity of the results and findings. 

Please note this list is NOT ranked. 

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Australia 2023 Evaluation Methodology

Great Place To Work, the global authority on workplace culture, determined the Best Workplaces™ Australia 2023 List by conducting annual workforce studies through our Trust Index Survey™ and Culture Management platform Emprising®, representing the voices of almost 50,000 employees across Australia.

Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organisation creates a great place to work For All™, meaning that the company empowers all individuals to reach their full human potential. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees report about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organisation, no matter who they are or what they do. We analyse these experiences relative to each organisation’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry and region. The remainder of the evaluation is an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of the company’s values, people’s ability to contribute new ideas, and the effectiveness of their leaders to ensure they’re consistently experienced.

To ensure surveys truly represent all employees, we require enough people in each organisation to respond that results are accurate to a 95% confidence level and 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

 

Categories

These organisations’ assessment is based 100% on employee responses to the Trust Index survey.

For larger organisations with more than 100 employees, we also use our Culture Audit™ tool, asking organisations to share with us their practices, policies and programs to creating a great workplace For All™ and evaluating the approach they take.

Why do you say in one place your national list scoring is based on 85%/15% and in another place that it is 75%/25%?

We are explaining two different things:

1.  The criteria we evaluate

2.  Where the data comes from