Risk Management

There's an AI perception gap within organizations

Employees don’t realize how prevalent AI already is—and that’s a problem for the C-suite
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· 3 min read

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For years now, anytime you used navigation to find the coffee shop you swore was right around the corner, or watched as your phone autocorrected the word “fork” for the millionth time, you’ve been interacting with AI.

Before talk of generative AI reached a fever pitch in the last year, artificial intelligence developments, though plenty prevalent in daily life, went unnoticed by most of us.

Now, that’s causing a problem for C-suite executives: AI is still going undetected by employees, creating a growing disconnect within the workforce, according to a new study from workforce management company UKG.

The survey, which polled more than 4,000 employees across 10 countries, found a troubling gap: While almost 80% of C-suite leaders said their companies are actively using AI and 56% of the workforce relies on it, only 42% of employees think they’re using AI-powered tools at work.

“There’s clearly a misunderstanding of the capabilities that are behind the product, which makes these products magical in some ways, but I think that’s one of the reasons there’s a gap today,” Hugo Sarrazin, chief product and technology officer at UKG, told CFO Brew. “It’s critical for management to internalize this gap at this moment in time.”

Ultimately, it comes down to a transparency issue, Sarrazin continued. Trust is an important predictor of employee engagement, he explained. “If you break the trust between employer and employees, you have a business problem—and one that a CFO should care deeply about,” Sarrazin said.

To close this gap, and thus restore or foster trust, C-suite leaders need to work on transparency above all else, according to Sarrazin. “You need to explain where the technology is being used, how it’s being used, and how you’re doing it with a full understanding of the good, the bad, and the ugly,” he said.

For starters, he suggests “some sort of AI governing body” where your org can have a unified conversation about AI principles. Then a company should "publish them and make them available to employees," he added.

These kinds of measures could genuinely make a difference for morale: The UKG study also found that three out of four employees would be more excited about using AI if their company made it clear how it could “improve their workflow”. And of the employees who were willing to embrace AI, 63% said it would actually increase their job satisfaction.

Intriguingly, given this employee enthusiasm, C-suite executives are almost exactly split on whether AI will be more beneficial to employees—by eliminating mundane tasks—or to the company’s bottom line, at 51% versus 49%, respectively.

“Where does the balance lie? I think it’ll be all over the place,” Sarrazin said, but that just speaks to the uncertainty of the current moment. “We’re at a point where people don’t know what to think…There’s something in the water. We’re at an inflection point, and it’s exciting. It needs to be done thoughtfully, with the right guardrails.”

News built for finance pros

CFO Brew helps finance pros navigate their roles with insights into risk management, compliance, and strategy through our newsletter, virtual events, and digital guides.