More than half of employers want to embrace AI at work but only one fifth are currently doing so, study finds

But with many firms planning to use AI in the future, experts advise people professionals to start thinking about how it will impact the workforce in the long run

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More than half of employers say AI at work is to be embraced, with 49 per cent of employees agreeing, research has found. 

However, the research by Hays, which surveyed 8,853 professionals and employers, found that most were yet to use the technology, with less than one in five workers (15 per cent) using AI in their current role, and just over a fifth (21 per cent) of organisations.

This is despite 66 per cent of employers intending to allow staff to use AI tools going forward.

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But, while there is a somewhat mixed sentiment towards the implementation of AI, there doesn’t appear to be widespread fear of the technology, with just 8 per cent of employers thinking it should be feared, and 13 per cent of employees.

To ensure that any AI implementation does benefit both workers and employers, rather than causing them to fear it, Hayfa Mohdzaini, senior tech research advisor at the CIPD, recommended employers to think about its purpose, benefits, risks, and to create a timeline for successful adoption.

“Our general advice would be to always consider the impact that AI or any technology might have on your people and having a roadmap for introducing AI or any technology in the workplace is helpful so people are clear about the organisation’s direction,” she said, adding that the minutiae of how a role could potentially be impacted by AI will also be important. 

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“For example, using an AI chatbot for customers would enable customer advisers to focus on other work. [But] are there enough people to step in if customers ask to speak to a person? Will there be enough variety in the customer advisers’ work to keep them motivated?” Mohdzaini added.

In addition, Clare Walsh, director at the Institute of Analytics, explained that creating policies around the responsible and ethical use of AI, which are then led and modelled by management, could be the best way to ensure that any potential implementation benefits both staff and the business.

“Responsible use of AI is a benefit, not a burden, but a responsible use policy will not emerge organically. There are times when AI absolutely should not be used, and it’s essential to know the difference as we’re expecting more legislation to follow, so ethical and responsible innovation will benefit everyone.

“For example, we recommend that you only use something like Chat GPT to do something that you, the human, could already do yourself if you had more time.”

Mohdzaini said there could be a trend of thinking of AI as a “futuristic brain bot” rather than the reality where it’s already “embedded in a search engine, recommending people you could connect with on a social networking platform or the GPS that’s telling you how to get to your destination.”

Walsh agrees: “[Many workers] have certainly used AI and benefited from it already, but perhaps weren’t aware. If you have a chatbot on your company website, that’s an AI-powered system.”

However, with “AI technology progressing at speed” Simon Winfield, managing director of Hays UK & Ireland, said it's important that organisations start to think about the skills they need to use it effectively.

The study found that currently only 27 per cent of organisations are upskilling staff to prepare for the use of AI. As such, Winfield added: “With over half of employers saying they don’t have the right skills within their workforce to make the best use of AI and technology, it’s a huge opportunity for professionals to upskill in getting to know how AI could affect their profession.”