Artificial intelligence (AI) can play a crucial role in assisting leaders and their teams in making strategic, as well as immediate, data-driven decisions. Generative AI will revolutionize the way we work. AI is the electricity of the 21st century. Ignore it and your business will be left in the dark. After all, we already know many ways that generative AI will shape how we work.
Now, a survey suggests AI has the potential to automate 40% of the average work day, according to research firm Valoir. The widespread use of generative artificial intelligence -- such as ChatGPT -- has raised public awareness of its ability to increase productivity and efficiency, as well its risks.
The research notes: "AI, robotic process automation (RPA), and similar tools and technologies have been around for some time. However, the availability of large language models (LLM) generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Google Bard, and the embedding of generative AI in various enterprise applications from human resources to customer service to development platforms, is causing companies and their employees to take notice."
Other research shows that generative AI adoption in marketing reveals promising productivity gains, with marketers estimating generative AI can save them the equivalent of over a month per year, making room for more meaningful work.
To better understand the potential impact of AI and automation on productivity, efficiency, and jobs, Valoir conducted a global survey of more than 1,000 workers in a broad range of industries, and validated the data with in-depth interviews with people employed full-time in finance, HR, IT, marketing, operations, sales, and service roles. Here are the key findings from Valoir:
Automation is already under way at many companies, with workers reporting they have automated an average of 20% of previously manual tasks during the past two years. Although the level of automation varied by geography, job role, and industry, nearly all workers have experienced some automation in the past two years. In many cases, low-code and no-code platforms have enabled business users to automate their own processes. Rules-based and traditional AI approaches have driven automation as well. Automation is already under way at many organizations, with workers automating an average of 20% of their work in the past two years.
Generative AI has reached the tipping point, with more than 50% of workers having experimented with generative AI, either at home or in the workplace.
Workers could see significant automation through generative AI and other technologies, with 40% of the tasks of the average work day ripe for automation.
Most employees believe this automation will lead to job replacement, with the average worker believing 48% of their co-workers could be replaced by automation in the next two years.
AI's potential for job automation or replacement
To understand the potential for automation by job role, Valoir asked workers what share of their day they spent on 13 different work tasks, such as reading and responding to e-mails, managing calendars and scheduling, talking on the phone and attending meetings, entering data and coding, research and writing, and creative thinking and brainstorming.
Here are the top 13 work tasks and time spent, as shown below:
Valoir found that the greatest opportunity for automation was in IT roles, with a potential for 48% automation, followed by finance, operations, customer service, human resources, and marketing. If employees in these roles were to fully take advantage of AI's potential for automation, they could automate, on average, 40% of their work day, effectively enabling a three-day work week.
Valoir research indicates that realizing AI's potential for automation will depend on a number of factors, including:
Company policies and culture: Organizations' official policies on the use of AI will matter, but so will culture. Companies will need to balance the potential for increased productivity of employees with the risks of potential misuse or unintended adverse outcomes. Cultures supporting a high degree of autonomy and personal responsibility are likely to benefit more from automation.
Technology and data readiness: To fully take advantage of AI's potential, companies will need connected and reliable sources of data, and safeguards in place to ensure the security, privacy, and ethical use of data when AI is involved.
Human factors: Employees' technology aptitude, willingness to experiment, and job confidence will impact their ability to use AI effectively.
The share of workers who have experimented with AI by job role shows that IT is leading the way (90%). Although employees in IT led the pack, they were followed by employees in human resources (HR), finance, and marketing, More than half of all workers have experimented with generative AI.
Valoir also shared the adoption of work automation by industry, noting that use of automation in business to scale productivity is not new.
Advances in low-code and no-code tools and adoption of robotic process automation during the past few years have enabled many workers to automate a significant portion of work practices already.
Valoir found that the average employee has automated 20% of previously manual tasks in the past two years, with aerospace, manufacturing, life sciences, and healthcare adopting the greatest level of automation. So, how much of the future workforce is susceptible to automation or being replaced by AI?
When it came to industries, employees in the financial services, high tech, and education sectors saw the greatest opportunity for co-worker replacement, while those in consumer goods, aerospace, and media saw the least opportunity. The research found different forecasts to this question based on geography and company size.
In terms of job roles, employees saw the greatest opportunity for co-workers' replacement by AI in human resources, IT, and finance, where a significant portion of daily work tasks are ripe for intelligent automation in areas such as data entry and analysis, coding, and revising of reports and documents. Interestingly, workers believe the least opportunity for job replacement is in customer service.
Concerns about AI were highlighted in the research. Valoir found that one in four workers are very worried that their job will be replaced by AI in the next year; those most concerned about being replaced are workers in the 26-to-41 age group, and those in finance and IT roles.
The research concluded with the following recommendations:
Leaders will need to navigate the difficult conversations of technology and job replacement, culture and employee-employer relationships, and the value of autonomy (versus replaceability) within the organization.
IT will need to ensure that the expertise, data hygiene, governance, and guiderails are in place to enable employees and processes to get maximum value from AI and automation. IT will also need to rethink its development and staffing strategies to redesign work within its own department.
HR will need to work with legal and executive leadership to define new strategies and policies for the ethical use of data, new training plans for job replacement and upskilling, and updated employee experiences that ensure thoughtful use of AI at the departmental and individual level.
Employees will need to re-evaluate their current roles and skills, and take advantage of opportunities to leverage AI as a digital assistant, or risk being replaced.
To become a customer-focused company, your employee and customer experiences must be powered by AI. IT leaders agree: 84% believe that generative AI will help them better serve customers, and organizations are thus accelerating their AI adoption. Generative AI has emerged as a significant tool to enhance employee productivity and efficiency, enhance customer interactions, and help all parts of the organization to perform jobs better and faster.
Reliable and trusted customer data to build a harmonized customer profile.
Pre-built, custom, or public AI models -- ideally a combination of these -- to feed your data into, so insights can be leveraged into automated actions.
A single platform with security and governance built-in to enable both innovation and increased customer trust.
I believe you are less likely to be replaced by AI and smart machines, and more likely to be replaced by someone who is better trained, more proficient, and comfortable with using AI and automation to get their job done faster and better.
At least in the near-term (next 5 to 10 years), this is a more likely outcome. In a decentralized, digital-first, knowledge-sharing economy, AI is electricity for business and people; you will be in the dark, if you ignore AI. Companies should deliberately invest in training their employees to adopt AI technologies to improve their quality of work and boost their ability to delight customers.