Knowledge Workers Embrace AI AI gaining traction at work, rewarding early adopters, survey finds

May 29, 2024
Reading time
2 min read
Knowledge Workers Embrace AI: AI gaining traction at work, rewarding early adopters, survey finds

AI could offer paths to promotion and relief from busywork for many knowledge workers.

What’s new: 75 percent of knowledge workers worldwide use AI even if they need to supply their own tools, according to survey conducted by Microsoft and Linkedin. 

How it works: The authors questioned 3,800 workers in 31 countries throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia, asking whether and how they used consumer-grade generative systems like Microsoft Copilot and OpenAI ChatGPT. Majorities of all age groups used AI at work, including 85 percent of respondents 28 or younger and 73 percent of those 58 or older. 

  • Of those who said they used AI at work, 46 percent had started within the past six months, and 78 percent had started without mandates from employers or managers. More than 80 percent said AI tools helped them save time, focus on the most important work, be more creative, and enjoy work more.
  • One motivation for using AI was to keep up with basic tasks such as replying to emails and summarizing meetings. In a separate survey, Microsoft found that, over six months, Copilot users spent more time working in creative applications than managing work communications and created or edited 10 percent more documents in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.
  • The survey identified a group that had used AI several times a week and saved at least 30 minutes daily. These users were 68 percent more likely than average to experiment with different ways to use AI and 66 percent more likely to redesign their workflows. Such users were 53 percent more likely to have received encouragement and training in AI from their employer. 
  • Some employees saw AI as a double-edged sword. 53 percent worried that it made them replaceable. 52 percent of AI users were reluctant to admit using AI for important tasks. Yet 69 percent said that AI could help them get promoted more quickly, and 76 percent said they needed AI skills to stay competitive in the job market.
  • 66 percent of executives at the vice president level or above said they wouldn’t hire an applicant who didn’t know how to use basic generative AI tools. Junior and less-experienced candidates were more likely to get hired and receive increased responsibility if they had AI skills. Hiring managers reported updating job descriptions and requirements appropriately.

Behind the news: The survey results agree with those of other studies of AI’s impact on the workplace. In January, the International Monetary Fund projected that AI would affect 40 percent of all jobs worldwide (either complementing or replacing them), including 60 percent of jobs in countries like the UK and U.S. that have greater percentages of knowledge workers. A 2023 research paper argued that white-collar occupations were most likely to be affected by generative AI, in contrast to previous waves of automation that primarily affected blue-collar jobs. Automation driven by AI increased overall employment, evidence gathered by the European Central Bank shows.

Why it matters: AI is transforming work from the bottom up. Executives and managers want employees who know how to use the technology, but only 39 percent of the people who already do so received training from their employers. Company-wide encouragement to experiment with and take advantage of AI leads to the best outcomes.

We’re thinking: Knowing how to use AI tools is a plus in the current job market. Knowing how to build applications using AI opens another world of doors.


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