Brits embrace AI at work as job apocalypse fears recede

tech 2It is not only marketers who are embracing the rise of artificial intelligence, with UK workers in general appearing to have overcome their fears, with job cut concerns seemingly a distant memory as three times as many (57%) workers this year say that GenAI could help them to be more efficient compared to last year (19%).

That is according to PwC’s Hopes and Fears Survey, which quizzed over 56,600 workers in 50 countries, including 2,000 in the UK, which also reveala that workers recognise the potential of the technology to improve their efficiency and workload, creating opportunities for employers to drive innovation.

In the UK, it is claimed that 41% of workers are facing a significant increase in their workload and 37% believe they need to learn how to use new tools and technology to do their job. Even so, nearly half (45%) feel too much change is happening at once, and 40% don’t understand the need for some changes.

Surprisingly, these concerns are more than matched by workers’ optimism for the future. Three out of four workers say they are ready to adapt to new ways of working, while two-thirds (65%) are excited about new opportunities.

Indeed, 68% of workers are confident that GenAI will create opportunities to learn new skills, while many think it will make them more creative at work and improve the quality of their work (64% and 62% respectively.)

PwC UK head of workforce Sarah Moore said: “Workers are telling us they’re motivated and ready to adapt to AI and other changes, but they’re also overwhelmed by nonstop disruption.

“Even positive change can be stressful when it’s coming from all angles. With a clear strategy, employers can help by equipping their workforce with the knowledge and skills to adapt.”

Overall, employees’ perception of GenAI is more positive than negative, with 57% predicting it will improve their efficiency and nearly half (46%) believing it will help them to manage their workload.

This is a significant jump on last year when only 19% of workers thought GenAI could make them more efficient and productive.

But positive attitudes are not translating into regular usage. Less than half of UK workers (47%) have used GenAI at work in the past year compared to 61% globally, and only 18% use it daily or weekly for work purposes compared to 28% globally.

Reasons for workers’ reluctance to take up GenAI tools range from lacking opportunity to use it in their work (33%), employers not providing access (25%) and not knowing how to use it (23%).

Workers have also expressed concerns that GenAI will increase bias within their organisation (45%) and provide misleading information (47%), reinforcing the need for clear articulation from employers of where, when and how the technology should be used.

When it comes to acquiring the right skills, only 19% of Gen X and Baby Boomers anticipate a substantial shift in the skills required within the next five years, compared to 31% of Millennials and Gen Z.

This is in contrast to the views of leaders in PwC’s CEO Survey, which showed 78% of UK CEOs reported some extent of skills shortage within their organisation, and 68% specified a lack of tech capabilities in inhibiting their ability to transform.

A shift in skills requirements is already being reflected in the job market with posts for specialist AI jobs (those requiring technical skills, such as machine learning) in the UK growing 3.6 times faster than for all jobs over the last decade, according to PwC’s 2024 AI Jobs Barometer.

PwC UK workforce transformation partner Alastair Woods said: “GenAI holds immense potential, but this will only be realised if employers equip people to use it and allow for experimentation.

“The research tells us that as AI changes how businesses operate, skills must change too. Employers must engage employees in the transformation ahead and map out the new skills needed in key parts of the workforce.”

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