CVS cuts 5,000 jobs, employees secretly use AI to work quicker

Plus, research shows a quarter of workers are looking for new jobs.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s look at some news stories from this week and see what lessons we can learn from them.

1. CVS slashes thousands of jobs amid corporate refocusing

Healthcare behemoth CVS said it will lay off 5,000 employees in an effort to address business demands in a changing market.

According to Forbes:

In a statement Tuesday, CVS said the company and the industry are “evolving to adapt to new consumer health needs and expectations.”

“As part of an enterprise initiative to reprioritize our investments around care delivery and technology, we must take difficult steps to reduce expenses,” the company said. “This unfortunately includes the need to eliminate a number of non-customer facing positions across the company. We do not expect there to be any impact to our customer-facing colleagues in our stores, pharmacies, clinics, or customer services centers.”

While often seen as just a drugstore, CVS is actually the third-largest healthcare provider in the nation. When a company that big cuts jobs, it’s a big deal. But from a communications perspective, it’s worth noting CVS’ memo about the layoffs places a specific emphasis on how the changes will not impact the customer experience nor the bread and butter of what the public perceives CVS to be. While the note could have perhaps talked a little more about the affected employees, this is a smart example of addressing the concerns of your largest stakeholder group before that group has a chance to even voice them. It’s simply smart risk mitigation on CVS’ part to assure the public that their consumer experience won’t change. It also offers a reminder of a classic change communications formula: Acknowledge, align and assure.

2. Are employees using AI to secretly improve production?

We’ve covered AI in depth here at Ragan with an emphasis it’ll affect the employee experience going forward. But are employees using it in a more covert way to do their more menial tasks for them? According to one report, the answer is yes.

According to Insider:

Those secretly using AI on the job — experts call it “shadow IT” — appear to be legion. Back in January, even before rival tools like Bing Chat and Google’s Bard were released, two-thirds of ChatGPT users surveyed by the social network Fishbowl said they were deploying the technology on the sly. That shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the power of AI to boost productivity. In one study, AI made computer programmers 56% faster at coding. In another, employees completing writing tasks were 37% faster when they were assisted by AI. In many cases, those who use the new tool get an immediate leg up at work.

“From decades of research in innovation studying everyone from plumbers to librarians to surgeons, we know that, when given access to general purpose tools, people figure out ways to use them to make their jobs easier and better,” Ethan Mollick, a professor of management at the Wharton School who studies AI, recently observed. But with technology like ChatGPT, he noted, employees aren’t telling their companies about their discoveries. Instead, they’ve become “secret cyborgs, machine-augmented humans who keep themselves hidden.”

So what to do about this? Communicators can begin by working with the digital, IT teams and any other relevant stakeholders to craft guidelines about the appropriate use of AI software in the office. Consider electing a cross-functional taskforce to make sure each relevant business function is included. As is normal with tech so new, there aren’t a ton of guardrails in place around the usage of generative AI. To ensure a safe, ethical workplace in which employees are using this tech the right way, comms should reach out to employees about the right and wrong ways to interact with AI. The sooner this happens, the more issues will be avoided.

3. One in four employees searching for a new job

A good chunk of the American “skilled” workforce is looking for new work opportunities or will seek to in the next year, according to research by Robert Half. This adds another wrinkle to the job market, especially as new data says that there are fewer open jobs than ever before, but that’ll soon change.

According to HR Dive:

A quarter of workers say they’re looking for a new job, signaling steady job optimism for the rest of 2023, according to a July 27 report from Robert Half, a talent solutions and business consulting firm.

In addition, another 24% said they plan to start searching for a new role by the end of the year. The combined percentage — 49% — is up from 41% during the third and fourth quarters of 2022.

“The takeaway for employers, especially those facing recruiting challenges, is that skilled workers are willing to make a move for the right opportunity,” Dawn Fay, operational president of Robert Half, said in a statement.

The takeaway? Take care of your employees or they’re going to start looking for greener pastures. It’s not a complicated equation. Show real value to the people who make up your organization and invest in their successes. If you don’t, someone else will.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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