The rise of generative AI in the workplace has concerned many professionals about the security of their jobs. Despite those concerns, a new study shows that executives are optimistic about the change and are confident that human roles will remain front and center of the workforce.
The study, conducted by Economist Impact and commissioned by Google Workspace, surveyed 900 executives across four regions and seven industries between the months of April and May 2023 to get their thoughts on the new era of flexible work, including emerging technologies such as generative AI.
Of the 900 executives surveyed, 86% agreed that AI can eliminate mundane tasks and, as a result, contribute to increased innovation and creativity.
Furthermore, 84% of the executives surveyed believe that AI can grant more flexibility to workers with manual jobs, such as frontline workers.
For example, jobs that currently require in-person employees, such as operating a factory line, may evolve into remote roles, since workers would be able to remotely operate and oversee AI-supported robots and sensor equipment required to complete a task.
In this use case, generative AI wouldn't replace the workers' roles, but rather, shift the roles' tasks to something less physically demanding, and more flexible.
As a result, 86% of the executives surveyed believe that humans will stay at the center of the workplace, with AI playing a supporting role, and 84% believe that job quality will improve as a by-product.
"I would say that humans remain in the center, and AI tools become a quality check and productivity boost," said Ben Armstrong, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Industrial Performance Center.
However, a future like the one described in the use case above would require more than simply investments in technology.
A successful shift in roles of that nature would require proper workforce re-skilling and training to prepare these workers to leverage the power of AI and other emerging technologies.
"The need for skill development will continue to increase with the growing presence of AI," Anita Woolley, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Tepper School of Business said. "Organizations will need employees with special skills to make full use of the AI capabilities that can facilitate flexible work."
Even in a scenario that involves reskilling, workers would retain their jobs and play an essential role in the successful implementation of AI.