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Employees more comfortable than bosses with GenAI, research shows

While workers are looking forward to artificial intelligence (AI) taking over repetitive tasks, managers are more cautious about implementing the technology – and its impact on jobs.

Some 86% of the professionals LexisNexis surveyed for its Future of work report 2024 either agreed or strongly agreed that they were willing to embrace generative AI (GenAI) for both creative and professional work.

Negative attitudes towards AI have often resulted from fears of job losses and concerns that such technology would only be accessible to people with specialised skills. But GenAI changes that by “by levelling the playing field in terms of data access and decision-making capabilities”, according to the survey of 500 professionals worldwide.

“This is also reflected by professionals’ awareness that, increasingly, technologies like generative AI play a critical role in future growth,” it said.

The survey found that 70% of professionals either use or plan to use generative AI for personal purposes and almost the same amount (68%) either use it for work or plan to do so in future.

The most common use was for increasing efficiency, followed by summarising content, conducting research and improving work quality. Understanding new concepts, drafting documents and writing emails were also on the list.

It is likely the list will get longer as 82% of those surveyed expect GenAI to take over a range of repetitive administrative tasks, and when asked to predict the percentage of current job tasks generative AI could perform in the next two to three years, more than half said between 11% and 50%.

“The lower concern about job displacement suggests that workers have grown more optimistic about how AI can augment, rather than replace, human skills” LexisNexis report

It might be surprising, then, that many professionals still seem to be pretty positive about the impact of generative AI, with more than two-thirds of them seeing GenAI as a helpful tool or supportive co-worker. Only 4% considered generative AI as a threat to job security, according to the LexisNexis report.

When asked about potential downsides to GenAI, the threat to jobs fell near the bottom of the list, with only 39% selecting it, compared with the more than 60% who were worried about the accuracy of AI-generated results.

“The lower concern about job displacement suggests that workers have grown more optimistic about how AI can augment, rather than replace, human skills,” the report said.

Workers might be relaxed about the arrival of their new AI co-worker, but nine out of 10 also recognised the need for training so they could keep up.  

Critical thinking and problem-solving topped the list of skills to include, followed by data analysis and interpretation, adaptability and flexibility, and creativity and innovation. Technical skills such as coding, along with communication and interpersonal skills, were also mentioned.

But even if employees are rapidly warming to the idea of AI doing away with the boring bits of their jobs, it seems that managers have a more nuanced outlook, which includes worries about jobs for their staff – and themselves.

A separate survey of 1,000 business leaders for organisational design and planning software company Orgvue found that even if executives are investing rapidly in AI, they still have some concerns.

“Despite the rush to invest in AI, many businesses are unsure how they will integrate AI into the workforce effectively and how they will keep pace with the operational changes the technology will trigger,” the report said.

According to Orgvue’s Human-first, machine enhanced: the role of AI in workforce transformation report, the vast majority of business leaders (82%) invested in either GenAI, machine learning, robotic process automation, or another form of AI in 2023.

“Despite the rush to invest in AI, many businesses are unsure how they will integrate AI into the workforce effectively and how they will keep pace with the operational changes the technology will trigger” Orgvue report

More than two-thirds said AI was a main driver for workplace transformation over the next three years, but they also said the biggest barriers to preparing workforces for AI include a lack of organisational expertise, employee scepticism and a lack of regulation on deploying AI in the workplace.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that 93% of business leaders in the survey believed preparing their workforce for AI was challenging: 50% were unclear how AI would impact the workforce, 48% were unsure how they would manage developments in AI to optimise use of the technology, and 70% said they had a sense of responsibility to protect the workforce from redundancies before adopting AI.

Despite the uncertainty, organisations still expect to ramp up their AI investment, with a third planning to increase spending by more than 50% over the next year, while 69% said they will have implemented AI in their core operations by 2025.

Business leaders believe AI will be transformative for their workforce, with 82% saying they expect it to increase productivity over time and 73% that it will help them cut costs.

But nearly half (41%) believed AI would cause widespread disruption to their workforce and the same percentage (41%) were fearful that AI could even replace them.

While 51% of organisations have given employees permission to use GenAI, only 37% have a clear policy on its use.

Organisations also see differences in how well they think employees from different generations will cope with AI. They believe Generation Alpha (2010 to 2024) and Generation Z (1995 to 2009) will join the workforce ready to work with AI, but that Baby Boomers and Generation X are relatively unprepared.

Three-quarters of organisations said they planned to introduce specific training programmes and tools to help older generations use AI – and over half plan to prioritise hiring from a younger talent pool.

Oliver Shaw, CEO at Orgvue, said the impact of AI is immediate and pervasive, flipping the switch on entire industries overnight.

“What other technology has ever delivered such a profound impact so quickly? This forces organisations to leap from cautious pilots directly into full-scale transformation,” he added.

Shaw said business leaders need to pinpoint the areas of their organisation where AI will touch, and develop strategies around how they will manage AI’s introduction.

“We’re just at the dawn of AI’s era, so we must map where AI will strike and look to reskill workforces, fostering ethical AI use. This isn’t about bracing for change, but embracing and steering it, ensuring AI enhances our humanity,” he told Computer Weekly.

Generative AI is still emerging and the debate continues about the impact it will have, with suggestions that around 10% to 30% of roles could be automated by AI.

Last month, in one of the most striking case studies so far of the rise of GenAI, buy-now-pay-later fintech firm Klarna said its generative AI assistant was now doing the work of 700 customer service agents.

Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said at the time that as more companies adopt AI technologies, societies need to consider the impact of AI. Even if it has a positive impact for society as a whole, he said, we need to consider the implications for the individuals affected.

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