Recently, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) achieved a significant milestone in its battle with the entertainment industry. In a groundbreaking move, the WGA successfully negotiated and established clear AI guidelines to protect its members’ interests.
But why should this development matter to you? This issue between the Writers Guild of America and AI proves the need to discuss the ever-evolving relationship between technology and people inside the workplace. It highlights the necessity of defining the role of artificial intelligence in your staffing firm.
Behind the Scenes of WGA’s Strike and Successful Negotiations
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is a dominant force in Hollywood. It stands as a powerhouse representing 11,500 film and television writers.¹ These writers negotiate their contracts every three years with major studios.
Jumping ahead to May 2023, the WGA initiated a strike when negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) came to an impasse. The WGA’s primary demands revolved around two contentious issues: higher pay and more stringent regulations on AI utilization.
The Co-Chairman of the WGA negotiating committee said that these strikes and discussions are essential for the survival of writing as a profession.² Without proper guidelines, AI threatens all Hollywood writers WGA represents.
With only 146 days on strike, many television shows, like late-night talk shows, bore the brunt of the industrial dispute. Fortunately, the tentative deal made on the 27th of September was made official earlier this month. This deal encompasses several vital elements: a pay raise, a revamped residual formula, and guidelines for utilizing AI.
AI in the Entertainment Industry and Its Broader Implications
But why should you, a staffing leader, pay attention to this? Well, the absence of clear AI guidelines poses a direct threat to employees. And this isn’t confined to the entertainment industry; it’s a concern that resonates across various professions.
Under employers who have no regard for their people, having no specific rules about using tech tools can result in less favorable situations for employees. This is why the strike is a big deal beyond Hollywood. It highlights the importance of valuing actual humans over AI tools that can copy human intelligence.
Following the WGA demands, company leaders need to be prevented from taking advantage of actual employees using AI. For example, without any rules set in place, Hollywood studios could write full movie scripts and hire writers for lower pay.
They could argue that generative AI did most of the work and they are professionals are only there to edit. Different varieties of this scenario could be done in many other industries like manufacturing and IT.
Related Reading: 5 Lessons Staffing Firms Can Learn from the Writers’ Strike
Lessons for Staffing Firms
With more than 1,000 companies mentioning artificial intelligence in their quarterly summer reports this year, it becomes hard to deny the popularity of AI.³ This makes WGA AI demands all the more crucial and necessary for every industry that uses this innovative tool.
Taking a page or two from the WGA, the following are specific lessons staffing firms like yours can learn from the recently concluded strike.
Put Your People First
One of the most important lessons you can get from the concluded WGA strike is to put your people first. Just like how the guild fought hard for its writers’ rights and proper compensation, a staffing firm should always champion its workforce.
Even when technological advancements can recreate some human activities, you need to remember that your primary resources are professionals and experts. They’re not expendable commodities that AI can easily replace. Instead, your people are the key to meeting your client’s needs, so you need to help them with their growth and well-being.
Protect Employee Skills and Creativity
The core of the WGA proposals on artificial intelligence is safeguarding the creative contributions of its writers. For staffing companies, this should teach you about the value of preserving your employees’ expertise for your client’s benefit. Every employee brings something to the table.
Specific professionals are more compatible with one client than with another. This means you must protect your employees’ skills, creativity, and talent from being replaced by recent innovations.
You can also empower your workforce to continually enhance their skills, making them less susceptible to replacement by AI. Encourage their professional growth by offering development opportunities.
Develop Clear AI Guidelines
Just like the guardrails created between WGA and AMPTP, staffing leaders like yourself should be able to develop clear rules about the usage of AI between your clients and your people. Many industries are different from one another.
This means AI usage can have varying extents depending on the role or responsibility it’s used for. This makes it your responsibility to develop clear AI guidelines that champion your people while also meeting your clients’ needs.
When making guidelines, always remember to include ethical considerations in your decision-making. For you to continue protecting your people, you also need to make sure the rules state that technology should be used as a helping hand for your experts and not as a form of replacement in any way.
Monitor and Evaluate AI Implementations
Since we’ve established that AI can be used to help workers, it’s become even more critical to keep track of how it’s applied in the day-to-day work setting. Just like the writers’ guild, you must also understand the processes that happen when sending your people to client companies. Do they use AI as part of their daily work routine? Is their usage of AI acceptable based on the guidelines created?
As the link between clients and experts, it becomes your job to monitor AI usage. You also need to evaluate whether the implementations of tech tools are acceptable or adequate. This way, you can make any required changes or adjustments to improve AI usage.
Embrace Ongoing Adaptation
Just like the WGA had to adapt during their strike, staffing firms should stay nimble in today’s ever-evolving job market. Adaptation isn’t just a one-time thing; it’s a journey. For instance, they had to adjust their negotiation strategies when the strike lasted longer than expected
. Similarly, staffing firms must be ready to pivot when market conditions change. Maybe you planned to focus on one industry, but suddenly, another one’s booming. Adapt and be flexible.
Give Employees a Voice
In essence, the strike done by the WGA was a proactive effort to give writers a voice in the entertainment industry. The fight benefited the writers by allowing them to champion their rights and proper compensation. As a leader in the staffing industry, you can take this as a great example of how to proactively advocate for your people, even when meeting clients’ needs.
Listen to what your employees need by giving them a platform that they can use to share their thoughts freely. In this way, you can make more informed decisions regarding professional placements and client partnerships.
Maintain a People-Centric Culture
Unlocking a people-first culture with AI is all about using tech to amplify, not replace, the human factor. AI isn’t the terminator; it’s your trusty sidekick in building solid connections among colleagues, clients, or potential hires. Through personalized interactions, you can form real, trusty bonds that beat the bots.
Moreover, nurturing empathy and emotional smarts sets the stage for a workplace where teamwork and problem-solving reign supreme. AI can be an enabler for teams, helping them navigate complex challenges with innovative problem-solving while maintaining a human touch.
This blend of technology and human-centered values boosts morale and empowers your workforce to thrive in an evolving landscape.
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1 Koblin, John, and Brooks Barnes. “What’s the Latest on the Writers’ Strike?” The New York Times, 27 Sept. 2023, www.nytimes.com/article/wga-writers-strike-hollywood.html.
2 Grobar, Matt. “WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser On The Breakdown Of Negotiations With “Divided” AMPTP.” Deadline, 3 May 2023, deadline.com/2023/05/wga-strike-chris-keyser-interview-failed-negotiations-amptp-ai-1235354566/.
3 Zakharenko, Hanna. “AI Is so Hot Even KFC and Williams-Sonoma Execs Are Talking about It.” The Washington Post, 24 Aug. 2023, www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/08/24/ai-corporate-hype/.