Microsoft’s Work Trends Index report has uncovered a rapidly developing “AI-Employee Alliance”, as employees identify artificial intelligence as a quick and easy way to quell job burnout.
Although a significant number of survey respondents admitted to harboring fears that their roles may be subsumed by artificial intelligence, a much larger proportion displayed an eagerness to delegate as much of their work as possible to AI.
As tools like AI assistants continue to be added to all sorts of workplace software, from project management tools to business communications platforms like Microsoft Teams, questions about AI's capacity to replace jobs will persist – but opinions still vary greatly on its possible impact.
The AI-Employee Alliance Explained
Microsoft’s Work Trends Index, published this week – which draws responses from 31,000 full-time or self-employee workers across 31 markets – found that 70% would delegate “as much work as possible to AI”.
76% said they were comfortable using AI for admin-based tasks, and the vast majority said they saw no problem in using it for analytical tasks (79%) and creative work (73%).
We're currently witnessing the creation of what Microsoft has dubbed the “AI-Employee Alliance”: AI, at least in the short term, is on the side of the overworked and the underpaid, tired of performing various aspects of their already-stressful jobs.
Luckily, almost twice as many business leaders see AI as a way to increase productivity (31%), rather than reducing the number of staff on their payroll (15%).
With huge fractions of the global workforce finding their mental health negatively impacted by their workplace, it’s understandable that workers are viewing AI tools like ChatGPT as a helping hand, not a hindrance.
But considering the ongoing public discourse and ominous predictions from think tanks, research groups, and consulting firms about AI subsuming hundreds of millions of jobs – as well as the fact that the survey found 49% of people are worried Ai will replace their jobs – the results are still somewhat surprising.
“It’s fascinating that people are more excited about AI rescuing them from burnout than they are worried about it eliminating their jobs,” author and organizational psychology professor Adam Grant said while commenting on the findings.
An Optimistic, Open-Minded Global Workforce
In the Microsoft survey, the company also revealed that the vast majority of workers believe AI “can enhance creativity”.
Along with the administrative and analytical tasks mentioned above, Formulating ideas for work (76%), as well as editing (75%) were also popular use cases identified by survey respondents as jobs for generative AI tools and/or other kinds of artificial intelligence.
According to the data, it seems like the more time you spend using AI, the more likely you are to appreciate its capabilities. 87% of workers in creative roles who consider themselves “extremely familiar” with AI, for instance, said they’d be happy utilizing AI for creative tasks.
Why Building AI Aptitude is Important for the AI-Employee Alliance
AI aptitude, as Microsoft puts it, is an umbrella term for a collection of workplace skills that all employees are going to need going forward, especially knowledge workers.
82% of leaders say their employees will need “new skills” to be prepared for the growth of AI.
“Skills like critical thinking and analytical judgment, complex problem solving, and creativity and originality are new core competencies – and not just for technical roles or AI experts,” Microsoft says.
The tech behemoth – which has bankrolled ChatGPT creators OpenAI – said that the business leaders they surveyed cited how important it was that employees understand when is best to “leverage” AI in productive ways, as well as more specific skills like prompt engineering and writing.
Employees that want to upskill themselves should take a two-pronged approach: firstly, building that AI aptitude that Microsoft suggests, while also investing time in developing skills like flexibility and emotional intelligence.
These are skills that AI tools will struggle – or take longer – to develop but also seem the most necessary in a working world that will be full of challenges, but also opportunities for reinvention.