Klarna, the Swedish buy-now-pay-later company, exemplifies the potential of generative AI. They use AI for creating and personalizing promotional images and marketing copy, resulting in significant cost savings. This year, they reported that an AI chatbot assistant is effectively replacing 700 human customer service agents, projected to boost profits by $40 million.

Klarna’s approach highlights the potential of generative AI to power business-wide systems, such as customer service. It also helps individual employees with daily tasks.

U.S. businesses are investing in AI and eager to realize similar benefits. Currently, these tools mainly assist workers with specific tasks, saving time without significantly impacting overall business operations. For example, AI can accelerate coding or automate benefits inquiries through chatbots for human resources professionals.

To adopt AI as extensively as Klarna, companies need to be comfortable with AI accessing sensitive data and interacting directly with customers. Etsy’s CEO, Josh Silverman, shared an experience where they defaulted customers to a generative AI chatbot, which was poorly received. He described it as one of the worst-performing experiments during his tenure. Etsy shifted to an optional chatbot interaction, but even then, it likely impacts sales.

The impact on workers is also a concern. Polls suggest that most Americans are apprehensive about AI reducing job quality and quantity. Surveys reveal that workers want their organizations to communicate openly about AI’s role, provide training on new tools, and involve them in defining AI’s implementation.

Tech and finance companies are leading the way in integrating AI. Accenture developed a custom ChatGPT version to assist employees in crafting sales proposals. The company involved proposal writers in designing and testing the tool, conducting extensive demonstrations and training for the 1,500 employees using it. Sarah Szuminski, Accenture’s North America lead for proposal writing, said that eliminating time-consuming tasks allows writers to focus on strategic messaging.

IBM emphasizes the importance of human oversight for AI-based systems, particularly in decision-making that affects people. They manually review each of the 5 million résumés received annually. Academic research has highlighted biases in AI systems, with some tools recommending African Americans for less prestigious jobs.

The heightened interest in generative AI has increased focus on employee skills. A Microsoft and LinkedIn survey revealed that 66% of business leaders would not hire someone without AI skills. While the specific AI skills are still evolving, some argue that they will be as essential as basic online literacy in the digital workplace. Others emphasize the importance of adaptability and learning new skills.

Companies are also grappling with the implications for younger workers, whose entry-level work can be automated by AI. Without those initial jobs, how do they acquire essential judgment, values, and company culture necessary for career advancement?

While there are no easy solutions, executives remain optimistic. Etsy’s Silverman, addressing issues like chatbot response times, said the problems are solvable. He emphasized the importance of continuous learning and experimentation.