June 2024 | Point of View

Your workforce is using GenAI wrong—here's how to fix it

Like it or not, your employees are using GenAI. The question is: How much oversight do you really have?

Your workforce is using GenAI wrong—here's how to fix it

Companies have a significant GenAI adoption problem, but it’s not what they think.

With the significant surge in GenAI use and experimentation over the past few years, Microsoft and LinkedIn report that 3 in 4 knowledge workers are using AI tools at work. There’s just one problem.  

They are taking a BYO-AI approach. It’s unstructured, ungoverned, unmonitored and unstrategic.  

And unlike rolling out a new ERP or performance management system, leaders aren’t going to have to convince their workforce to use GenAI. That ship has sailed. Instead, they are going to have to convince them to use it the way the company wants.  

Experimentation is good, but it’s not enough to build a sustainable AI-enabled organization. Successful GenAI adoption will require an approach that considers both the technical and human aspects of change, defining the tool as an innovation partner to teams and setting objectives that drive the business strategy and offer both individual and company value.


Key Takeaways

Set both a top-down & bottom-up strategy

As with any new priority or emerging technology, the first step is to determine your organization’s approach and philosophy for GenAI. At high level, executive teams should consider the following: 

  • How can we better serve our customers?
  • How can we be more effective and efficient?
  • How can we better enable and support our teams?
  • What risks do we need to consider and mitigate?
  • How can we best protect our data?
  • What expertise do we need to add or increase?
  • How can we foster innovation without losing governance?

Answering these questions requires an understanding of each of your key departments and business functions, as well as the opportunities and risks GenAI can create.  

Once the approach and philosophy for AI is determined, the next step is to think about rollout and broad adoption across your organization. Executive sponsorship and championship is essential, but the bigger task will be demonstrating, proving and institutionalizing the change across your organization.

There’s good news and bad news on the road ahead: The good news is that a majority of your workforce is probably already using GenAI tools. The bad news is that you have no idea how, where, or to what end.

That makes this change management process harder than many that have come from before. You have excitement and buy-in, but alignment and governance won’t come without partnership and side-by-side innovation.

For GenAI, change management will require both a top-down and a bottom-up approach that connects business objectives to individual wins and allows for (guided) experimentation without penalty.

Effective GenAI Adoption Requires Top-Down and Bottom-Up Support

Why is employee perspective and feedback so important? Because GenAI is a tool for the masses, and it’s already in their hands. Leaders need to learn from hacks employees who have already been piloting – and show clear support for them – while also communicating the vision for the future state.

Make GenAI adoption more of a cultural movement, less of a mandate

There’s a common theory of motivation that relies on two approaches: the carrot (positive incentive for good behavior) and the stick (negative consequence for bad behavior).

There’s merit to the carrot-and-stick approach when it comes to changing people’s behavior. But it’s limiting in the context of GenAI adoption in the workforce. Why? Because employees have found their own carrots (more time!) and employers have already lost the control needed to enforce many sticks.

We recommend companies think about GenAI adoption as a cultural movement, not a mandate.

GenAI can and should bring fresh perspective to the company and pull junior and senior colleagues out of the weeds to really think about how they want to reimagine their role, improve their quality of work-life and contribute to the company’s new vision. It’s also a time to reimagine what innovation looks like in the organization and how it is measured and promoted.

For your team, this is a coaching opportunity to focus on a flexible vs. fixed mindset to growth and value. Where fixed mindsets fixate on what’s working right now, flexible mindsets allow for continuous improvement and the value of partnering with AI to produce higher-quality outcomes.

Mindset Impact on AI Collaboration: Fixed vs. Flexible

By approaching this as a cultural shift vs. a new directive, employees will inherently be able to answer the all-important “What’s in it for me?” part of change management. More time, expanded value, enhanced insight, stronger performance and better career resiliency are attractive to all.

But for any detractors, inertia will soon become a powerful stick. A common refrain among AI analysts is that “AI isn’t coming for your job, but people who partner with AI are.” And it’s no secret there are countless examples of failing to adapt leading to a death rattle.

Think about when knowledge of the stock market and individual stock performance used to carry great value. Then the internet leveled the playing field by connecting access to that data in an instant. That expertise is no longer differentiating, and so we evolved to provide advice on what you can and should invest in based on your individual profile. Now with chatbots and prompt engineering, we will need to innovate again.

This is the crux of what companies and individuals alike need to prepare for: If your knowledge is now common knowledge, what new value can you provide?  


Trust and mentorship are important elements to proper GenAI adoption 

Trust in AI-generated data has been in focus, and for good reason. Deepfakes and hallucinations have caused chaos and confusion for many. But even as the technology gets smarter, it’s human-to-human trust and connection that will make the difference in your adoption process.

Leadership—and specifically trust in leadership’s vision and goals—is essential to alignment, but it’s not enough.

People will need to hear and see GenAI uses from others they trust—peers, their immediate manager, and colleagues across the organization. They will also need permission to innovate and have it pay off, with both successes and failures. Successes should be promoted across the company in town halls and internal communications. Failures should be recognized as risks and tests worth taking for long-term growth, while promoting what was learned from them.  

A critical element often overlooked in GenAI adoption is the need to focus on people leaders—supervisors, managers, and anyone with direct reports. This group, coined as "The Missing Middle," is essential for successful change management and adoption.

Organizations frequently bypass middle managers, resulting in a gap where these leaders are not adequately equipped to support their teams in transitioning to the future state. By empowering and involving the Missing Middle, companies can ensure these leaders have the tools, training, and support needed to guide their teams effectively.

Investing in the Missing Middle is vital. These people leaders are the linchpins in translating strategic objectives into day-to-day actions. Without their buy-in and active participation, the broader workforce may struggle to align with the organization's vision for GenAI. Thus, it’s crucial to integrate middle managers into the change management strategy, providing them with clear communication, resources, and mentorship opportunities to foster a culture of innovation and trust throughout the organization.

Some level of resistance and fear toward GenAI should be expected. Your team will not experiment or report learnings if they feel their job is at risk, particularly in sectors prone to layoffs.

Consider the following strategies to deepen trust and foster adoption through collaboration and mentorship. 

Steps for Successful GenAI Adoption

Of note: most companies are already investing to educate their teams on GenAI, but many are missing opportunities to invest in space to practice, test & learn, and further brainstorm use cases.

In many ways, this is about re-investing in your team and allowing them to shepherd and ideate innovation on their own. It creates trust and helps ensure a feedback loop to leaders so you can re-optimize and enhance your strategies regularly as the whole organization learns.


How We’ve Done It

In late 2023, West Monroe launched our first internal GenAI chat platform, Nigel, Powered by Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service, the closed API allows our team to get a boost on analyzing data, drafting emails and writing code in a secure setting.

Nigel is accessible to every employee to improve delivery and efficiency for all, and the platform is constantly updating based on user feedback. From adding new prompts to the library to creative new use cases, ensuring a feedback loop takes out the guesswork, increases speed and ensures the platform is iterating to add value to our team.

Conclusion: Defining success on company & individual terms


Benefits Table
Increased efficiency Time savings
Increased customer loyalty Increased employee engagement
Time savings Increased job satisfaction
Greater outcomes Opportunities to upskill


Companies understandably seek quantifiable results from any investment, and that includes employee use of GenAI. Leaders are focused on productivity and how that can unlock further growth and profitability, but they should not overlook the qualitative benefits of empowering and equipping teams to work smarter.  

With strong GenAI adoption and support, employees may find they are able to focus more on the work they enjoy, reach for a promotion, and reinvest their time savings in whatever matters to them. In short, it’s important to allow space for employees to give value back to themselves, not just the company. 

This ultimately goes back to trust: If you empower your employees with GenAI, allow space for productive learning and experimentation, and then act on their feedback and ideas, it creates a cycle of continuous improvement and employee engagement that will set your business up for long-term success – not just with this technology but also with whatever comes next.

So don’t let your business become the next GenAI playground without your knowledge and guidance. Consider the business goals and the best ways to put power into the hands of your people to reach them.

Did you know 70% of projects fail in implementation?

Don’t let that happen with your GenAI roll out. Read more on The Real ROI of Change Management.

Read More

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