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Artificial Intelligence

AI and employees: study examining the interactions

Published on 12 Dec 2020

What specific AI solutions are already being used in companies’ day-to-day practice and what impact are they having on employees? A research project initiated by IBM and ver.di with the support of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) offers first insights.

As things stand today, there is consensus on at least one point, namely that debates on AI held solely in ivory towers are useless. If AI applications such as the HR chatbot CARL or the customer service assistant PIA are to be used in companies today, a number of very real questions arising in the specific context of the application must be answered: how are the employees who are supposed to work with an AI application to be involved in the implementation of such application? What impact does the AI application have on occupational health and safety? What effect does the AI application have on job satisfaction? What new activities will arise, what will no longer be the case and what changes will there be to the profiles of skills for existing jobs? Employers, employees, works councils, trade unions, and other stakeholders must jointly consider such questions if they are to arrive at sustainable solutions for the use of AI in an operational context.


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    The graphic originated in 2020 in the context of a study entitled “Artificial Intelligence – a social-partnership research project explores the new working world”. It names the two initiators, IBM and ver.di, and lists the cooperation partners, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the research institutes ROA and INPUT Consulting. It also mentions the two companies involved in the study: Siemens AG and Deutsche Telekom Service GmbH.


    The graphic shows a large central circle inside which the names of the two research institutes that authored the study, ROA and INPUT Consulting, are shown in turquoise. Five smaller circles are arranged around this central one and are connected with the central circle by white lines. They contain, in a clockwise direction, the names BMAS, Siemens AG, Deutsche Telekom Service GmbH, ver.di, and IBM. In addition to being linked to the central circle, two circles holding the names IBM and ver.di are also connected to each other by a line to symbolise their collaboration in developing the idea for the study.

    © IBM/ver.di/BMAS

AI is a moving target

There are many questions, but few conclusive answers, as AI is a moving target. As is known, this is, among other reasons, due to the large number of technologies and applications and the dynamic development they are undergoing. Whereas industrial robots, for example, had difficulty picking and identifying objects a few years ago, substantial progress has since been made in AI and sensor systems – so much so that working methods in warehouses, for example, could completely change in the near future. Then there is the swift roll-out of new AI applications. Google can make adjustments and changes to its search algorithm at the touch of a button, impacting billions of users. However, the complex interactions between AI, work, and people in companies is at least just as significant.

Inspiration for designing the human-centric use of AI

At this juncture, the importance of the studies presented in the brochure by IBM/ver.di becomes evident: unique research designs and the inclusion of the various stakeholders and perspectives yield important findings for the human-centric use of AI applications. In this way, the studies make a valuable contribution to better and more reliable understanding and show that the close involvement of employees in the development of the new working world with AI is a critical element for success.

The results of these studies were made available in a publication at the beginning of December. The brochure also contains an article on the work of the AI Observatory.

Janzen Boehning

Audio Interview

Björn Böhning, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and IBM Labour Relations Director Norbert Janzen

Experiencing the AI applications CARL and PIA

Björn Böhning, State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and IBM Labour Relations Director Norbert Janzen spoke about the use of AI systems in business companies on the occasion of the publication of the IBM/ver.di study on AI applications in the working world. The conversation was moderated by BMAS director general Dr. Julia Borggräfe. You can listen to the German conversaton here:

Further information