Workers hiding AI use on important tasks over fears about being replaced: report

The ChatGPT chat screen on a laptop computer and logo on a smartphone arranged in the Brooklyn borough of New York, US, on Thursday, March 9, 2023.

Gabby Jones | Bloomberg | Getty Images

AI usage in the workplace is at an all-time high with workers determined to get ahead of their busy schedules, but concerns about the nascent technology replacing jobs are still there, according to a new Microsoft and LinkedIn research.

Microsoft and LinkedIn released their Annual Work Trend Index Wednesday which looked at the effects of AI on the labor market by surveying 31,000 people across 31 countries including the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, India, Singapore, Australia and Brazil.

It found that although 75% of workers are using AI in the workplace, over half of respondents don’t want to admit that they’re using it for their most important tasks. This is because 53% of those who are using AI at work on their most important tasks are worried that it makes them look replaceable.

Additionally, nearly half of professionals are concerned that AI will replace their jobs and are considering quitting their current postings in the year ahead.

Colette Stallbaumer, general manager of Microsoft Copilot and co-founder of Microsoft WorkLab, told CNBC Make It that workers need to get over their fears and start embracing AI.

“The more you can as an employee lean in and learn, the better off you’re going to be,” Stallbaumer said.

“I think that’s where people have to get over the fear hump a little bit and move into optimism, move into a growth mindset, taking the opportunity to learn these skills, because all of the data shows it’s going to make them more marketable, whether you’re inside your company today, or looking to make a move or get hired.”

Bosses are keen to hire workers with AI aptitude

Hiring for technical AI talent has skyrocketed 323% over the last eight years, according to the research. But workers from non-technical backgrounds who know how to use AI tools like ChatGPT and Microsoft Copilot, are also in high demand.

The study showed that 66% of leaders said they wouldn’t hire someone without AI skills and 71% of leaders would rather hire a less experienced worker with AI skills rather than a more experienced person without them.

Although bosses value AI knowledge in the workplace, they’re not taking an active approach to develop employees’ skills. Nearly half of U.S. executives are not currently investing in AI tools or products for employees, and just over a quarter of companies are planning to offer training on generative AI this year.

Meanwhile, only 39% of people globally, who are using AI at work, have received AI training from their employers.

“What’s interesting about the data is it feels like employees are getting it in terms of the adoption of AI but it feels like companies are not yet fully getting it,” Aneesh Raman, vice president and workforce expert at LinkedIn told CNBC Make It.

“The big call out is if you’re a company, you are either falling behind or getting ahead. There’s no standing in place and so you should be having conversations about what is your point of view on AI and how it’s going to grow the business.”

Workers are using AI to get ahead

Despite some of these fears, workers are aware of the advantages AI tools provide and are using it to progress their careers.

Over three-quarters of professionals say they need AI skills to remain competitive in the job market and that it will give them access to more job opportunities. Just under 70% say it can help them get promoted faster.

“I think the key for everyone is realizing for most of us, our jobs will change and new categories of jobs will emerge and what people can do to deal with that anxiety, is think skills-first,” Raman explained.

“Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has this line: ‘It’s the era of the learn-it-all, not the know-it-all,” Raman said.

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