Should employees be worried about AI job displacement?

Avanade has unveiled its latest AI Readiness Report. Picture: Avanade
Despite initial fears over AI job displacement, many are confident the technology will maintain or increase the number of human roles at their organisation

Privacy; transparency; security and governance; misinformation – just some of the risks and concerns raised over the past 12 months as artificial intelligence takes centre stage across the world of business and beyond. 

But, from the perspective of many employees, the prospect of AI job displacement – the ‘robots taking over’ – has been a very real fear. 

However, fresh research from Avanade, the leading Microsoft solutions provider, largely dispels this fear, with almost two-thirds (64%) of workers stating that AI will maintain or increase the number of human roles at their organisation in 2024. Most expect headcount to increase by up to 9%. 

Overall, the vast majority of employees (95%) at all job levels are optimistic about AI and excited about its potential to help them as a co-pilot at work, inspiring creative ideas and innovation. 

Florin Rotar, Chief AI Officer at Avanade. Picture: Avanade

“While businesses and IT executives are enthusiastic about driving business value with AI, the findings also reflect the increasing interest and curiosity we are witnessing from leaders and their people globally,” says Florin Rotar, Chief AI Officer at Avanade. 

Are organisations and their people AI-ready?

In carrying out its research, Avanade commissioned McGuire Research Services to survey 3,000 employees working for companies across numerous industries with annual revenue greater than US$500 million. These businesses were headquartered in 10 different nations including the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Germany and Japan. 

Respondents' job levels were specialist, mid-level management, senior executive or C-level, with each playing a part in AI decision-making or aware of their company’s current strategies in this space. 

Despite staff members exhibiting clear positivity on the subject of AI, it seems employers have plenty of work to do when it comes to ensuring adoption of the emerging technology is responsible and effective. 

Fewer than half (48%) of organisations have put in place a complete set of specific guidelines for responsible AI, while only 52% of workers say their company has complete human capital and workforce planning processes in place to safeguard headcount as generative AI is scaled.

A similar proportion (49%) of employees admit they don’t have the utmost confidence that their organisation’s risk management processes are adequate for an enterprise-wide technical integration of generative AI.

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Despite this, almost all employees (96%) are confident their companies and IT teams have the knowledge and resources to scale AI. 

“Not only do businesses need to take action to ready their people with the essential skills needed to utilise AI effectively,” adds Rotar, “but now is the time for leaders to prepare for an AI-first future by crafting well-defined and responsible strategies.”

How generative AI is changing job roles

Avanade finds that most employees expect GenAI tools like Microsoft Copilot to help them become more efficient, innovative and empowered in their roles. In fact, almost eight in ten (79%) anticipate they will impact up to 20 hours of a typical working week. 

However, one major concern is that most workers are ill-equipped to use these platforms to their full potential and take advantage of their many benefits. 

Employers don’t currently have the right mix of skilled AI talent to achieve their goals, meaning they need to invest in upskilling, reskilling and continuing education.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of respondents said staff will need some new skills or a completely new set of skills to work with GenAI tools in their day-to-day roles by the end of 2024. This sentiment changes among C-suite executives, 41% of whom believe employees will need fewer skills since AI copilots will do more of their work.

Jillian Moore, Global Advisory Lead at Avanade. Picture: Avanade

“GenAI tools will give employees more time to create, innovate and imagine – all of which will enable organisations to lead in their sectors and act on new ideas in ways never imagined before,” explains Jillian Moore, Global Advisory Lead at Avanade.

“However, it will be key for leaders to highlight and enable its benefits from the start. As an early adopter, we’ve found that ongoing training is critical. Helping everyone understand how to finetune their prompt questions and instructions will help employees explore AI’s possibilities.”

Read the full report: Avanade AI Readiness Report

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