Rapid developments in the world of artificial intelligence have led people everywhere to question how this technology will impact their work and personal lives. Already, employers are implementing AI across their organisation to empower and accelerate their workforce in new and innovative ways. However, this also raises an age-old question on everyone’s mind: do people feel they are doomed to be displaced by technology?

The answer is no, according to a majority of those surveyed by Randstad in our latest Workmonitor Pulse Survey. Globally, most (52%) believe AI will lead to their own career growth and promotion rather than losing their job. This is evidenced by a surge in job postings seeking AI skills. Randstad’s own tracking of such postings indicate an increase of 2,000% since March alone. Furthermore, almost two in five UK employees (37%) are excited about the prospect of AI in the workplace, a more common attitude than concern, which was expressed by one in three (33%). 

workmonitor generational differences
workmonitor generational differences

It’s understandable that people see AI as a potential threat to job security. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs Report, a majority of companies surveyed said they plan to accelerate the automation of processes as part of their workforce strategy. However, they also plan to shift many of their workers from declining roles to growing ones. And another study conducted by Upwork found that most executive leaders plan to hire more workers as a result of AI adoption. 

Our survey showed that a quarter of UK workers (24%) are already utilising AI at work, leading to 47% who believe that AI will eventually affect their industry and job. 

When it comes to AI skills training the research found that only 7% of respondents received training in the last 12-months, while 19% expect some over the course of the next year. On the whole, 30% of those surveyed reported they received no learning and development opportunities in the past 12-months, and the figure widens when considering blue-collar workers (43%).

And of all learning and development opportunities respondents wanted to have available in the next 12 months, employees rank AI (19%) as the fourth most important skill set for development, behind leadership skills (25%); wellbeing and mindfulness (23%); and coaching and mentoring (20%). While employees clearly appreciate how AI skills could support them in their current and future roles, a gap exists between the training they want and training they receive:

top 5 development areas
top 5 development areas

Like industrial revolutions that have occurred before, today’s technological innovation is expected to be a net job creator rather than destroyer. However, companies must take measures to prepare their workforce for the forthcoming changes in how work gets done. 

Workers surveyed by Randstad largely agree, with 48% saying they need learning opportunities to future proof their careers. These sentiments were especially strong among older Millennials (35-44), of which 52% felt this way. It’s not surprising that late-age Gen X and Baby Boomers (55-67), are least likely to feel this way at 38%. This group is consistently found to be the least enthusiastic about learning and development over years of research.

With so much focus on AI, and an overall positive view of its impact on people’s careers and development, we found a plurality of those surveyed view this technology as a facilitator of human interaction. Just over a third (35%) say using AI will allow people to spend more time with each other in and out of the workplace, compared with 30% who disagree. 

regional differences

We found significant variations in attitudes and outlook among the different regions in the world. A vast majority (74%) of those in India said they were excited about the prospect of AI in the workplace, more than twice the rate in Germany (36%). At the same time, workers in India expressed the greatest apprehension about the impact of AI on their jobs, with 52% saying they are concerned. 

AI global differences
AI global differences

Conversely, German workers were least concerned at 33%. These contrasting feelings may be due to the high rate of AI utilisation on the job in the world’s most populous state; 56% say they are currently using this technology in their work — far higher than those surveyed in Australia, Germany, the UK and the US.

There was a notable appetite among workers who wanted AI-directed learning and development opportunities in the next 12 months, with India the highest rate at 30%. Outside of technical development, more than a quarter (28%) of workers in Australia and the US wanted to acquire more management and leadership skills — the highest of all the countries we surveyed. There was also considerable desire for wellbeing and mindfulness coaching, led by Australia (27%) and the US (25%).

disparities in L&D opportunities

A particularly concerning finding is that AI learning and development opportunities have been offered to date mostly to white collar workers. While just 7% of all respondents said they have been offered development opportunities in the past 12 months, but among the blue collar subset, just 4% said they were provided such resources. In fact, 43% of blue collar talent haven’t been offered any form of training, compared with just 27% for white collar workers. Breaking down response data by age, over half (52%) of Baby Boomers haven’t been offered any learning or development opportunities, compared to just 12% of those within the Gen Z age bracket.

As tasks are automated in the future, those lacking proper training are at the highest risk of job displacement. Even though AI is considered a high-skill domain, the reality is that all workers may need to acquire some AI-related competencies in their jobs in order to thrive in the labour market. For example, auto mechanics have had to learn digital skills as technology is increasingly embedded into the operating systems of vehicles.

According to the World Economic Forum, the global labour market will experience a market churn of 23%. For those in occupations at high risk for automation, they face an uncertain future. However, with the right training and development, enabled by efficient internal talent mobility, these workers may be able to quickly find different employment aligned to their newly acquired skills. Our data shows that the UK workforce expects employers to help them stay relevant in a highly dynamic economy, with 28% willing to leave their job in the next 12 months if their expectations for learning and development are not met. Gen Z and Millennial workers are especially adamant about getting the right development as 33% of each age group said they would leave their company.

Millennials thoughts on AI
Millennials thoughts on AI

supporting people through the transition

Our data shows that proliferation of AI-empowered tools will change the future of work in a deep and irreversible way. That people are more excited than fearful of this technology is a positive indicator of society’s readiness to embrace automation and all the benefits that come with it. This transition, however, requires significant employer support to ensure those affected are either prepared to perform different types of work or assisted with career transition. To do this effectively, these critical considerations should be addressed:    

  • Change management. Effective adoption of any technology hinges on people’s comfort level working with new tools. The learning curve, job loss concerns and pressure to be more productive when using AI may seem especially daunting for the uninitiated. Employers should thoroughly communicate the benefits of automation — perform work more efficiently, complete tasks more quickly, and achieve a higher quality of work — to engage with the workforce. Also, be clear about expectations and set realistic goals and timelines.
  • Learning and development. Many of the resources needed are those supporting the skilling of employees. AI is great for eliminating repetitive, low-value work, which means people can now focus on higher-value tasks such as relationship building, problem solving and ideation. However, they need to learn how to perform new tasks efficiently using AI tools. Successful implementation of new technology is only possible when the people using them are competently trained.
  • Workforce feedback. Giving people a say in how they use AI to get work done is essential to widespread adoption. Regular surveying, along with soliciting feedback from focus groups, can help identify issues and challenges, as well as opportunities to better implement and utilise AI. Furthermore, when employees feel they can influence how technology is implemented in the workplace, buy-in will more readily occur, and resistance to change becomes less of a barrier to overcome.     

With AI adoption being rapidly adopted in many organisations, employers must be purposeful in acclimating their workers to the changes ahead. This means developing a strategy to support their needs for learning, developing and adopting. With workers expecting AI to help their careers, organisations are in a unique position to fulfil their people’s ambitions.   

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