Rewards in the AI Age—some tips for reward professionals

South African Reward Association
March 2023

The launch of ChatGPT late in 2022, and the tremendous interest it provoked, inaugurated what one will one day see as the Age of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI will make it easier to generate outputs in virtually every industry, creating a challenge for reward professionals: how does one measure an individual’s performance when one of his or her outputs can be generated by an algorithm?

“AI is here to stay, and we can expect it to get significantly better. Reward professionals should see it as a great opportunity to refine their thinking about what constitutes great performance, and thus how to reward it,” argues Dr Mark Bussin, Master Reward Specialist and Executive Committee Member of the South African Reward Association (SARA). “Specifically, AI prompts us to look at what humans do best and use that insight to determine how we measure and reward our people.”

Dr Bussin offers the following tips to help reward professionals, and HR more generally, to use the AI revolution to the advantage of their organisations:

Focus on creativity, quality and innovation. AI is going to be a great tool for automating routine tasks, but when it comes to creative problem-solving or generating innovative ideas, it is a non-starter. Finding ways to reward individuals or teams for creativity rather than output would be beneficial to both the employees and the organisation.

Similarly, reward professionals should look for metrics that measure quality rather than quantity. For example, customer satisfaction or product ratings could be used to assess the performance of an individual or team.

Emphasise collaboration. Humans have leveraged the power of collaboration to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges over thousands of years. Encouraging individuals or teams to work together and rewarding them for doing so will play to humanity’s strengths and will generate excellent results.

Provide a sense of purpose. Humans are motivated to perform better when they feel their work is making a positive impact—AI is just a machine. Global research shows that purpose-driven companies realise huge benefits. Making sure the organisation has a clear vision and purpose can motivate employees to do their best, and ultimately drive the company’s performance in achieving its strategic goals.

Develop policy guidelines relating to the use of AI. Everybody in the organisation needs to know how AI should—and should not—be used. Each industry will have its own set of ethical issues, and employees will need charts to navigate this tricky terrain.

Provide professional development opportunities. It’s long been recognised that professional development is a key lever when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent—and driving high performance. Alongside providing policies to guide employees, organisations must provide employees with ongoing training in this rapidly changing technology and what it means for them. They will use it better and, as an added bonus, they will be more likely to remain with, or want to join, the organisation.

Use AI to speed up the drafting of reports and policies. Finally, HR and reward professionals themselves should find ways to use AI to make themselves more efficient. Freeing up more time to be devoted to adding value will also protect their own positions.

“The onward march of AI is in fact an opportunity for us all, and reward professionals in particular, to concentrate on the things that humans do best and focus on supporting them—leaving the drudge work to the machines,” Dr Bussin concludes.



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