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AI at Work: It’s Here and It’s Working, Whether You Know It or Not

20 February 2024

While 63% of employees say AI would increase job satisfaction and engagement, 54% have no idea how their company is using it

Don’t call it a takeover, AI’s been here for years. A new global study from HR, payroll, and workforce management software provider UKG reveals that many people use AI daily both at home and at work, and it’s already making millions of jobs easier — employees just don’t know it. This disconnect underscores the need for greater transparency from companies using AI and more insight into the benefits of prioritising AI at work to help build trust with employees, increase productivity, and improve business outcomes.

UKG surveyed more than 4,000 employees in 10 countries, including C-suite executives and people managers, about their real and perceived use of AI. According to the study:

  • 78& of C-suite leaders say their organisation is using AI today.
  • Executives estimate 56% of their workforce is directly using AI to automate or augment job tasks.
  • Only 42% of employees globally think they’re using AI-powered devices in their day-to-day work.

Outside of work, just 44% of employees globally believe they interact with AI in their personal lives, even though at least 90% say they’ve used at least one of the following: maps and navigation (66%), predictive product/entertainment suggestions, such as in Netflix and Spotify (50%), text editors or autocorrect (47%), virtual home assistants, such as Alexa and Google Assistant (46%), or intelligent chatbots (31%).

Employees Want to Embrace — Not Run From — AI

Despite prevailing Hollywood depictions of AI systems taking over humans, more and more employees say they’re open to using AI at work — with some critical caveats. The UKG study found that 3 out of 4 employees would be more accepting/excited about AI if their company was more transparent about the direct ways AI could improve their workflow (78%), and how their organisation is using AI (75%). Greater transparency around AI at work paves the way for increased trust among employees and companies, a key component of building a great workplace culture.

“AI is here, and it’s already providing some amazing benefits for the workforce — from automating tedious tasks to answering common questions to helping crunch millions of data points in mere seconds. However, 54% of people say they have ‘no idea’ how their company is using AI, and that lack of transparency is a real problem,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner at the firm Workplace Intelligence, which partnered with UKG for the study. “Organisations must be more upfront about how they’re using AI in the workplace, if they want a competitive advantage and want to earn, and keep, the trust of their employees.”

As for those employees willing to embrace AI at work, they say it would increase their:

  • Engagement/job satisfaction (63%);
  • Willingness to go above and beyond (55%);
  • Overall happiness (54%);
  • Desire to stay with their company long term (49%); and
  • Trust in their company/leadership (48%).

[Read more about the benefits of employees using AI in the workplace, in this blog post: “Why Your People Are Key to An Effective AI Strategy.”]

Executives Recognise Advantages of AI at Work

Companies and employees already embracing AI in the workplace recognise the difference maker it can be. Approximately 3 out of 4 people using AI at work say it: 

  • Makes them more efficient and productive at work;
  • Makes it possible for them to spend more time on meaningful tasks; and
  • Increases the quality or accuracy of their work.

Moreover, 71% of C-suite leaders say increasing/advancing their use of AI is either a high or medium priority for their organisation, citing the competitive advantage AI can bring. In fact, 62% of executives say they are at least slightly concerned that their company isn’t moving fast enough with AI.

There’s little question in executives’ minds that AI is good for business and for people, but they’re split on who it’s better for:

  • 51% of the C-suite says employees have benefited the most (e.g., routine work tasks or other elements of their jobs are simplified); and
  • 49% of the C-suite says companies have benefited the most (e.g., financial returns have increased as a result of AI use).

“Many businesses are finally realising what great workplaces have known for a long time now: AI, when used ethically, responsibly, and transparently, has the potential to be everyone’s favourite co-worker,” said Hugo Sarrazin, chief product and technology officer at UKG. “AI is nothing new — we’ve been using AI at UKG since 2015 to help businesses achieve better outcomes. What is new is the transformational potential of generative AI to reshape employee experiences and provide timely, insightful feedback and recommendations with context that empower companies to create a great place to work for all people.”

Where Does AI See Itself in Five Years?

Executives at companies using AI today estimate that 70% of their total workforce will use AI to automate or augment some of their job tasks by 2028, according to the UKG study. Even executives at companies not using AI today estimate that 20% of their workforce will use AI to automate or augment some of their job tasks within the next five years.