Whether you consider yourself a gamer or don’t know your Mario from your Wario, there’s one game the majority of us will all be familiar with—and that’s Tetris. First created in 1985, Tetris remains an addictive puzzle-solving video game some 40 years later. And its challenges remain strikingly relevant today, particularly in the workplace.
That’s because with the arrival of AI, business leaders are having to rotate and shift assets of different shapes and sizes to fit together seamlessly. Instead of a one-size-fits-all implementation, today’s leaders should consider how both the technology and their specific business click. But, in doing so, they need to avoid one thing that threatens to topple the whole structure over—the great AI leadership divide.
What Is the Great AI Leadership Divide?
With AI doing a good job of advertising its business credentials to automate tasks and deliver meaning to people’s roles, you’d expect teams from top to bottom to support its implementation.
However, according to Aircall’s AI Index, there is a significant divide between leaders and junior staff members when it comes to AI. Whether it’s general optimism, AI’s effectiveness, employee concerns, or practical use cases, leaders and junior-level employees are too far apart on what AI means for their business to unite around its positive impact.
These gaps are a serious concern for business leaders and threaten to undermine any AI implementation they have planned. One of the reasons AI is so powerful is that it unites a team with game-changing insights and tools. But if one-half of that team isn't motivated enough to use it, its impact won’t be enough to drive success.
For businesses, every day counts. And when it comes to AI, any organization that delays its implementation will risk losing ground to the competition. With this in mind, let’s look at the leadership divide in more detail and uncover the key gaps that need closing.
The AI Leadership Divide in Detail
As our AI Index highlights, there are some key differences between leaders and junior-level employees when it comes to AI sentiment. Perhaps the biggest of these is the overall optimism.
In sales, 87% of managers and senior leaders are excited to learn more about AI, compared to 68% of junior-level employees.
In customer support teams, 76% of managers and senior leaders are excited to learn more, compared to 59% of junior-level employees.
This gap in appetite to learn more about AI and how it can help business growth is, for businesses keen to implement AI effectively, a case of falling at the first hurdle. Without optimism or even interest, it will be hard to get education or any change off the ground.
This is evident when we look at the fact that in sales, 73% of those at the manager level or above say that they understand AI’s value versus 54% of junior salespeople. Enthusiasm is the starting point for understanding and curiosity.
Another factor impacting the curiosity of junior team members is concern about AI. It’s no secret that despite the rise in businesses effectively implementing AI, there are still anxieties over how it impacts employees’ work and futures.
This is backed up by research from Aircall’s AI Index, which shows that junior-level employees are more likely to feel threatened by advances in AI than those at the managerial level and above—particularly in sales teams:
Sales leaders and managers are less likely to worry that AI will replace them than junior salespeople—43% vs. 52%.
Sales managers and leaders are less likely to worry AI will lead to lower pay than junior salespeople—36% vs. 49%.
The green light for AI implementation is likely to come from a more senior-level manager. But if the juniors tasked with using it in their day-to-day roles aren’t onboard or worse, are fearful of its long-term impact, then it’ll always struggle to have a positive impact.
Businesses must move swiftly to close the leadership divide that is affecting both optimism and confidence. But first, we must understand the factors behind the divide—and then the methods to solve them.
What’s Causing the Great AI Leadership Divide And How to Stop It
Unfortunately for business leaders looking for a quick fix, the AI leadership divide is brought about by several factors. Nevertheless, there are many things leaders can do to head these off and ensure sentiment around AI gets back on the right (positive) track.
Differences in the day-to-day
Unsurprisingly, a lot of what is driving gaps in optimism and enthusiasm between leaders and more junior-level staffers is how individuals are using AI in their day-to-day roles.
One of the most transformative use cases of AI is how it can automate time-intensive tasks. In the world of customer-facing teams, this can be anything from writing up call notes to transcription voicemails and sharing customer data with colleagues.
Aircall’s own AI-supported features are transformative in how they allow customer-facing teams to cut back on time-consuming tasks and focus instead on having meaningful conversations. Since launch, for instance, Aircall’s transcription features have been used to transcribe 65 million calls worldwide. Just think of the time saved so far!
Yet, according to our research, the amount of time restored will differ between senior leaders and junior employees:
Sales managers and leaders spend more time inputting/transferring data than junior coworkers—2.57 hours vs. 2.10 hours.
Managers across all levels spend 3.33 hours per week training or coaching others.
To remedy this, businesses should look to break down communication silos across the business so one level is aware of the hours another is spending on certain tasks. The positive impact of AI is not exclusive, and time restored to managers will ultimately benefit junior-level employees—whether in the form of more coaching, more hands-on leadership, or something else.
Moving beyond thinking about AI as just a problem-solver and communicating how these time savings level up to a broader business strategy will be key.
Lack of visibility on direction
Another reason behind the great AI leadership divide is a lack of visibility on the strategy behind AI. The technology has caused such a storm in the workplace that we might be forgiven for assuming everyone will naturally understand how leaders plan to use it. Yet something that will only continue to widen this gap is a lack of visibility over what the plan is.
The benefits of AI might be universal, but there will always be the need for businesses to do some tailoring specific to them. Whether that affects the timing, the ultimate goal, benchmarks, or even the personnel.
This is why effectively communicating your AI roadmap is key, with our AI Index research showing the lag in understanding that can come from a lack of it:
Junior salespeople are more likely to believe their business lacks the proper skill sets.
45% of sales managers say their organization will invest in AI in the next 12 months—only 26% of junior employees say the same.
68% of customer support managers similarly say they plan investment in the coming 12 months versus 44% of junior support.
Even if a business’s AI implementation is set for the latter part of the next 12 months, all levels within the business should know what’s happening. This doesn’t require sharing a granular level of detail. Instead, it’s about giving employees a heads up on the future of the business and assuring them that more detail is on its way.
That’s why we’ve created Aircall’s AI Action Plan. Preparing you for a journey that will potentially impact everyone at your company, it helps you put down markers for the necessary stages of turning AI ambition into AI action, including research, integration, education, and optimization. This is a crucial step in ensuring both leaders and junior employees alike understand how AI is set to impact their day-to-day work and help them unite behind its positive impact in the process.
Uniting Teams Around AI’s Positive Impact
Ultimately, teams are seeking to invest in AI to drive some serious business results and revenue growth. But achieving such results will only happen if teams are united around its benefits.
Businesses should look to assess their own AI leadership divide as early as possible and conduct research across their organization to understand the gaps that need closing. They should also prioritize tools such as Aircall’s Conversation Center—a new AI-powered solution fresh off the production line. In the Conversation Center, AI is democratized for the entire business, offering execs, juniors, managers, and leaders alike the same opportunities to access customer conversation insights.
Closing the AI leadership divide will be about visibility and agility and a part of how businesses drive this is in the tools they use. This is why we launched our AI Starter Package—additional AI features to empower teams to save time, increase efficiency, and accelerate growth.
The old ways of engaging with customers and driving sales and support rep performance won’t get us to where we need to go. The AI Starter Package is the answer to this—with call summaries, talk ratios, and key topics to assess performance and assure quality like never before.
Shifting the mindset and employing the tools capable of putting this into effect will be pivotal to improving productivity, driving results, and closing the leadership divide.
Discover Aircall’s new AI features for yourself and book a free product demo with our team today.
Published on January 2, 2024.