What’s Holding Singapore Employees Back from Being More Productive?

In the rapidly evolving landscape of AI adoption in Singapore’s business arena, organizations face multifaceted challenges and opportunities. To delve deeper into these intricacies, CIO World Asia engaged in a conversation with Derek Laney, the APAC Slack Technology Evangelist at Salesforce. The discussion centered on the complex landscape of AI integration within business processes, shedding light on how companies are adeptly maneuvering through challenges while capitalizing on the vast potential of artificial intelligence. 

Overcoming Barriers to AI Adoption in Singapore’s Business Landscape

The foremost impediment to enterprise-level AI adoption is what experts often refer to as the “AI trust gap.” Despite businesses’ enthusiasm for embracing AI technologies and recognizing their potential for enhancing growth and productivity, this optimism is overshadowed by concerns, particularly regarding the use of large language models. Many interviewed businesses express apprehension about their data being employed as training data for such models.

To surmount this obstacle, businesses should meticulously assess a software vendor’s policies concerning AI utilization and ensure the presence of robust assurances for data protection,” says Derek Laney. 

Salesforce, for example, has introduced the Einstein Trust Layer, a tool that leverages generative AI capabilities while simultaneously safeguarding data privacy and security. This technology can remove user prompts and prevent models from retaining sensitive customer information, such as personally identifiable data. It can be applied not only to third-party large language models but also to a company’s proprietary models.

In the Singaporean context, Salesforce has committed to participating in AI Verify, an initiative spearheaded by the country’s Infocomm Media Development Authority. AI Verify offers a framework and standards that align with Salesforce’s vision of fostering a transparent, accountable, and trustworthy AI ecosystem. By actively engaging with and championing AI Verify’s principles, Salesforce not only reaffirms its dedication to responsible AI but also takes concrete steps to bridge the trust gap.

Once companies successfully address the trust gap, they can begin to explore the collaborative potential of AI. The recent proliferation of AI tools has predominantly been driven by individual users integrating them into consumer AI applications rather than leveraging AI collaboratively as a team. Notably, early users of Slack GPT, an AI-enabled platform integrated into Slack, discovered that AI’s effectiveness is amplified when used collectively. Tasks that are traditionally time-consuming and manual, such as creating meeting summaries, composing personalized emails, or assembling onboarding documents, represent simple ways in which teams can harness AI tools to redefine their work processes. Users also acquire knowledge by observing the outcomes of their peers’ interactions with AI agents.

Ultimately, advocacy for AI integration must originate from organizational leadership, spanning from C-suite executives to managers. These leaders must encourage their teams to explore and experiment with various methods of incorporating AI into their daily tasks while remaining attuned to employee feedback and concerns regarding AI adoption. This proactive approach is crucial for fostering a culture of AI adoption and innovation within the company.

Strategies for Mitigating Overreliance on AI within Companies

We must remember that AI should be used as a tool to help us be more productive and efficient, rather than replace us,” emphasised Derek Laney.

To mitigate the risk of overreliance on AI, companies can adopt a “human in the loop” approach, ensuring that human oversight and judgment remain integral to AI-driven processes. This begins with the establishment of clear internal policies and guidelines governing AI usage and involves educating employees on responsible AI utilization, with a focus on principles such as accuracy, safety, honesty, empowerment, and sustainability.

Accuracy: Employees should critically assess the accuracy of information generated by AI, ensuring that it aligns with real-world data and expert knowledge. This helps maintain the quality and reliability of AI-generated outputs.

Safety: Prioritizing safety involves safeguarding both personal and company data, particularly when AI processes are involved. Robust data protection measures are essential to prevent potential breaches or unauthorized access.

Honesty: Companies must uphold a commitment to transparency and honesty when employing AI. This includes communicating openly with stakeholders about the use of AI in various processes and applications.

By cultivating a corporate culture that emphasizes responsible AI usage and active human involvement in its oversight, companies can avoid pitfalls like the spread of misinformation or data breaches. This not only mitigates potential risks but also bolsters trust among employees and customers in the company’s AI practices.

Comprehensive education and understanding of AI utilization are key elements in mitigating mishaps related to AI adoption. These mishaps may include instances where AI tools generate false information used in professional settings or where sensitive company information is inadvertently shared in consumer applications. Building trust among employees and customers regarding how businesses employ AI tools is essential for sustainable and responsible AI integration.

Achieving Optimal Employee Productivity and a Positive Work Environment Through AI Integration in Businesses

In the context of deploying AI technologies to streamline repetitive tasks, businesses can leverage the time reclaimed by employees to engage in more meaningful and value-driven work that directly contributes to the company’s or team’s objectives. This necessitates a shift in how companies measure productivity, emphasizing actual output over activity-based metrics.

Regrettably, the global findings from Slack’s State of Work report indicate that a significant portion (27%) of leaders still predominantly gauge productivity through visibility and activity metrics, such as hours spent online or the volume of emails sent. To foster a culture that prioritizes productive tasks over mere performance, leaders should instead focus on measuring tangible outcomes achieved by their employees.

The report further underscores a noteworthy correlation between employees’ sense of workplace support and their heightened productivity levels. Notably, a majority of employees in Singapore (82%) identified feeling content and engaged with their organization, along with having access to technology enabling seamless collaboration from any location (82%), as key factors contributing to their increased productivity. These findings underscore the significance of intangible leadership qualities, including nurturing employee relationships and helping individuals derive value from their work, in fostering a supportive and innovative corporate culture as companies integrate AI technologies to reshape work processes.

Establishing a Robust Foundation for AI Proficiency in Singapore’s Evolving Landscape

To thrive in Singapore’s evolving AI-driven work landscape, organizational leaders must embrace AI as a tool to enhance and empower their workforce. Additionally, they should invest in equipping their employees with both technical and soft skills necessary for responsible AI utilization.

As AI tools gradually permeate workplaces, leaders should recognize the spectrum of skills required for effective AI integration. The majority of the workforce will initially need to grasp the responsible utilization of AI tools before seamlessly incorporating them into their daily workflows. Meanwhile, roles with technical responsibilities, such as AI engineers and data scientists, will necessitate a more comprehensive set of hard skills spanning areas like machine learning and data mining.

Recent research conducted by Salesforce revealed that an overwhelming 98% of Singaporean employees desire businesses to prioritize AI skills within their employee development strategies. Consequently, business leaders must ensure that learning opportunities are readily accessible to their workforce. Online learning platforms, such as Salesforce’s Trailhead, offer a range of courses, from AI fundamentals to ethical AI system development, making learning easily available to employees seeking to acquire AI proficiency.