When many of us were in school, our teachers would tell us that we needed to learn to do math equations by hand because “you’re not always going to have access to a calculator in the real world.”

They couldn’t have known about full-time access to computers, the internet, and mobile devices in our pockets that would revolutionize every aspect of the way that we all work, connect, and collaborate.

For years, employers also struggled with the shift to a connected office.  Emails were printed and filed away, much of the internet was blocked on work computers, and online sources could not be cited as “real” information. It took a lot of work to rethink the way that we work, but here we are, and by nearly every measure we are more productive as a result.

Today, schools and workplaces are grappling with the same shift when it comes to AI. A recent survey by Microsoft showed that 75% of knowledge workers are already using AI on the job, but many employers don’t know how to handle that.

Can generative AI be used to help write a report? Does any use of AI need to be disclosed? What about AI productivity tools? And how do we make sure that employees aren’t sharing sensitive data with AI companies?

Fortunately, we already have the answers. Our workforces have been through many technological shifts, and in every case, the companies that were able to embrace those changes, while managing risk, followed the same 3 steps:

  1. Policy — This one may not be the most exciting, but it is essential. What are your general principles when it comes to using generative AI, sharing data, etc.? One thing I can promise you is that you won’t get it right the first time, but even imperfect policy gives our people guardrails that we can adjust and add onto over time.
  2. Process — How do you work with AI? Do you need to get approval to introduce a new tool? Or do you have a centralized learning hub where everyone can share what’s working for them? Once you uncover a way that AI can be applied to make your work better, you’re going to want to apply that again and again, and that can only happen if you define the processes you use.
  3. Tools — Given the incredible potential of these technologies, it only makes sense that we’d find the best-fit tools and give our teams access to the best possible versions. We don’t want our people constantly using trial versions, with some using one set of tools while others use another. Defining the tools that you use — and providing your team access to premium versions — gives your company a chance to get really good at using them, and receive the maximum value from them.

AI tools are just like any others in our businesses, and when used well, they can multiply our productivity. Used poorly, they slow us down and create frustration.

Now is the best time to be putting policies, processes, and tools in place for your team, before the practices become so entrenched that they’re hard to change.

Shameless plug: We’ve recently been helping a variety of different teams to develop their own AI policies, process, and tool sets. If there’s anything we can do to help your organization, hit Reply — we’d love to start a conversation.