Decoding ChatGPT: Your new digital teammate, not a stand-in.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the hot new hire in businesses worldwide, and if you’re an ambitious entrepreneur in South Africa, you’ve likely caught on to the trend. Particularly in the realms of labour relations and legal affairs, AI has risen from novelty to necessity, promising to streamline operations and deliver remarkable efficiencies. However, as with every business decision, you must carefully manage potential risks. Deploying AI in your company is no different than making critical decisions in finance, marketing, or operations – it all comes down to effective risk management.

Generative AI has many faces, one of which is OpenAI’s language model, ChatGPT. It’s become a go-to for drafting documents and offering insights into complex regulations. Still, remember – ChatGPT is more of a digital teammate, not a substitute for your legal and HR team. The goal is to let it take on repetitive tasks, while your human professionals focus on the bigger picture.

Embracing AI doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind. Certain risks are inherent in using AI tools like ChatGPT for legal or HR-related work. For instance, keeping up with the latest labour laws or new precedents is not its strong suit, considering its knowledge was last updated in September 2021. Remember that the rules for labour bodies such as the CCMA and other bargaining councils are constantly changing. Labour-related Acts change regularly too, so generative AI cannot contextually engage with any confidence.

Legal language, famed for its precision, poses another challenge for generative AI. A slightly misplaced phrase could send the entire meaning of an employment contract haywire. That’s why any AI-drafted documents should pass under the watchful eyes of your legal team. For instance, in preparation for Arbitration Hearings, the Training Team at CEO strongly emphasises the value of submissions that tell a persuasive story in a logical, convincing and chronological fashion. ChatGPT – if trained correctly – can be a tremendous help in arranging arguments and events in a well-expressed fashion, but any legal references or opinions must be carefully checked.

Guidance and advice are out of ChatGPT’s league, so it’s your legal labour professionals who should weigh decisions or actions based on potential risks and benefits. The same is especially true even in cases when you are drawing up labour related policies or contracts for your company.

To enjoy the benefits of AI while mitigating the risks, you need a proactive strategy:

Involve your human team: Even if AI generates the initial drafts, human experts should have the final say on the accuracy, completeness, and legality of all documents.

Draw the line: Certain tasks, especially those involving sensitive discussions or data, should be off-limits for AI such as ChatGPT. You wouldn’t let a semi-skilled labourer operate highly technical machinery, so why allow GPT to carry out the advisory and compliance work of a legal counsel or a dispute resolution official?

Stay informed: Labour law landscapes change. Ensure your business practices align with current legal regulations, something that AI with a fixed knowledge cut-off might miss. For instance, CEO has an excellent knowledge database and up-to-date understanding of labour relations matters.

If AI is a new team member, then training is key: For every new hire in your company, skills transfer is a given. This is no different in the case of generative AI as a new teammate. Skills transfer in this case would include Training Prompts. A training prompt is an essential part of your work with ChatGPT-4, for example, providing the foundation that it needs to generate relevant content and brainstorm effective strategies. The concept of a training prompt revolves around the principle of ‘priming’ ChatGPT with information. As it interacts with the input data, GPT uses the prompt to understand the context, gauge the requirements, and build its responses. The more specific and juicier the prompt, the more delicate and targeted GPT’s responses can be.

The bottom line is this; AI like ChatGPT, when used judiciously, can add significant value to your business. It’s about viewing AI as a piece of your broader risk management puzzle. By blending vigilance with innovation, you can tap into the tremendous potential of AI while keeping potential pitfalls in check. It’s not just about embracing the digital revolution – it’s about mastering it.

By Annelien Breed

Executive Director of the Consolidated Employers’ Organisation (CEO SA)