by: Kay Francoeur
Our CEO Ken Kanara recently posed this question about ChatGPT, the AI-powered natural language processing (NLP) chatbot from OpenAI: does ChatGPT make you more fearful or optimistic about the future of your career?
The results of this LinkedIn poll were revealing – only 17% of respondents said they were Fearful, while 83% are Optimistic about the AI-enabled future that complex machine learning models like ChatGPT suggest we are not just on the cusp of but fully rocketing toward, whether or not we’re prepared for this leap. Most of the commentary came from the Optimists, with a few caveats woven in. Respondents feel that it’s usually beneficial to embrace disruptive technologies, and while an AI as powerful as ChatGPT will certainly change the shape of work and affect entire industries, it seems like a helpful tool to drive value so long as we keep some reasonable guardrails in place.
What does the acceleration of advanced NLP AI mean for business? Pertinent to the executive search work we do at ECA, what changes might this technology bring in terms of the kind of talent clients are seeking, and the process through which candidates are hired?
To answer the first question: we don’t really know yet. This is truly a watershed moment, and the full implications are yet unclear. But what we can be certain about is that the changes this technology will bring are immense and will probably alter things in ways that we can’t even imagine yet. Unlike temporary disruptions like the Covid-related supply chain crises, as Ross Gruetzemacher wrote in HBR last year, “societal changes from transformative AI will likely be irreversible and could even continue to accelerate.”
We also know that staying agile in business means staying ahead of the curve. Because we can’t yet anticipate which versions of this tech will stick, encouraging broad adoption of language-based AI tools throughout your business is probably a smart idea. If your team gains a better understanding of what is possible using these tools, you will stay ahead of the competition. A bit ominously, Gruetzemacher reminds us, “Remember that while current AI might not be poised to replace managers, managers who understand AI are poised to replace managers who don’t.”
With regard to NLP AI’s potential impact on executive search and the hiring process, we will be coming back to this topic over the coming months, as we observe how this technology impacts different industries and we test out its possibilities internally. Certainly, industries that rely heavily on customer service functions will see drastic changes, as chatbots are integrated into functions like 24/7 customer assistance, data entry, and identifying trends in customer feedback. Healthcare is another field where NLP AI is already making huge inroads, for example applying machine learning technologies to ease the use of clinical decision support tools and to better organize biomedical data and electronic health records.
At ECA, I see several areas where ChatGPT could be integrated, but I’m not fearing for my job. My favorite part of being a Project Manager is the human-to-human component – every day I get to speak with super smart candidates who are passionate about their work. ChatGPT produces impressive responses but is somewhat “lacking in personality” – in short, we still need humans to do the crucial work of evaluating EQ and probing for candidates’ enthusiasm (as well as lurking red flags) when hiring for a role.
Coming back to Ken’s original question, where do I fall on the spectrum of fearful to optimistic? I’d say I’m in the due diligence phase. An academic by training, I look at the evidence first, and there is a huge outpouring of information to think through.
ChatGPT has saturated the news. Stories about tech layoffs unfold in parallel with the revelation that Microsoft is investing billions in OpenAI, while simultaneously firing thousands of its own employees. My professor friends who stayed in academia are deeply concerned about AI-enhanced plagiarism, worrying that this heralds a return to handwritten blue book exams. My father-in-law has mostly replaced his retirement hobby of embroiling himself in flame wars with physics scholars on ResearchGate. He passes time by giving ChatGPT a stream of prompts, using it as something between a Magic 8 Ball and a modern Pythia: write a paragraph about black holes; a soliloquy about Einstein; a short story set on a ship involving his son, a group of monkeys, and biodiversity (yes, this was a real prompt). ChatGPT as oracle answers, not always accurately but profusely, with an eerie almost-humanity. It fascinates for good reason – it is the harbinger of something coming, something that is indeed already here.
The title ChatGPT suggested for this article was “Revolutionizing Business Operations with ChatGPT: The Future of Automation and Insights.” It’s a good title, but I decided to go another way, for now.
Kay Francoeur is a Project Manager at ECA Partners. She can be reached at [email protected]