The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) has taken the world by storm, transforming every sector in which it has been applied. Having become mainstream through ChatGPT, the technology has been massively accepted and adopted, spreading like wildfire, much as the internet’s adoption in the 90s.
It took the World Wide Web seven years to reach 100m users — it took ChatGPT less than two months.
From accelerating tasks to automating others, generative AI has massively impacted both work and workers. While impressing companies and employers by how fast it operates and how diligently it can accomplish tasks, generative AI has also been a source of anxiety for employees who fear that the technology might rob them of their jobs.
In other words, “AI injects both magic and mayhem into the future of work,” according to Forrester Research in a recent report on the impact of generative AI in jobs. While generative AI will cause an evolution in work and what we know it to be, it is yet to be seen whether it will replace human workers or empower them in their roles.
The Impact of AI on Work: Replacement
According to the report, Forrester Research has monitored AI’s impact on jobs globally for nearly ten years. The company has gathered from this research that 36% of global workers employed full or part-time fear losing their jobs to automation in the next ten years.
However, the company reports that generative AI has most certainly been more disruptive than the rest of AI in this period due to how instantly it produces results. The intensity of the disruption is already causing job disruption in areas such as writing and graphic design, which have begun seeing changes.
The rise has also been accompanied by many predictions, including one by Goldman Sachs, concluding that generative AI could expose 300 million full-time jobs to automation.
Another academic research by the University of Pennsylvania and OpenAI found that “around 80% of the US workforce could have at least 10% of their work tasks affected by the introduction of LLMs, while approximately 19% of workers may see at least 50% of their tasks impacted.”
In its research, however, Forrester predicts that automation and AI will replace 4.9% of US jobs by 2030. This means that 0.6% of workers in the US might lose their jobs annually. Of this percentage of jobs lost to automation, generative AI specifically will account for 30% of the losses.
In terms of the number of jobs, Forrester Research forecasts that generative AI will replace 90,000 jobs in 2023, growing to 2.4 million by 2030. These jobs will mainly consist of roles that are easy to automate and have high generative AI influence. These include technical writers, social science research assistants, proofreaders, and copywriters.
The Impact of AI on Work: Influence
On the other hand, the research company found that generative AI will influence more jobs than it will replace. More precisely, Forrester predicts that by 2030, generative AI will influence more than 11 million jobs in the US, 4.5 times the number of jobs it replaces in the same period.
By influence, Forrester means that generative AI will play a part in “reshaping, retraining, and upskilling existing workers to incorporate generative AI tools into the daily workflow.” Jobs influenced by this technology will be those that are harder to automate, including editors, writers, authors, poets, lyricists, and creative writers, says Forrester.
Regarding the influence level, education is said to play a significant part. Based on the report, generative AI is predicted to influence workers with bachelor’s degrees and higher qualifications more than those with high school diplomas.
Workers with only a high school diploma, about 36 million, will see a 2.7% influence level on their jobs, whereas about 64 million workers with degrees will experience a 16% to 21% influence.
Occupations with lower educational requirements, like transportation and warehousing, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing, are expected to see very little influence on their work from generative AI.
Generative AI’s influence is predicted to increase with income, where jobs with annual salaries of less than $60,000 will see half the levels of generative AI influence than jobs paid $90,000 or more.
However, higher-earning professions, including many high-income managerial jobs, fall on the other side of the inverted U-shaped curve in that they see waning influence from generative AI. This is mainly because their jobs depend on AI-proof skills like human judgment, empathy, and leadership.
To cope with the replacements, a report by the McKinsey Global Institute shows that 12 million workers will have to transition to new roles by 2030. Many workers are expected to shift from customer service, office support, and food services to more healthcare, STEM, and managerial positions.
As a result of this shift, the economy is expected to re-weight toward higher-wage jobs. Workers in lower-wage jobs are up to 14 times more likely to need to change occupations than those in highest-wage positions, and most will need additional skills to do so successfully. Women are 1.5 times more likely to need to move into new occupations than men.
In addition to replacing automatable roles and complimenting others, AI has also been predicted to cause the rise of new roles. According to a report on the Future of Work by the World Economic Forum (WEF), AI will cause the emergence of 69 million new roles globally.
The emerging roles that the WEF has highlighted since 2014 include Data Analysts/ Scientists, AI and Machine Learning Specialists, and Digital Transformation Specialists. Aside from these, the tech industry has witnessed the rise of prompt engineers, AI auditors, human-machine interaction designers, and AI ethicists, among others.
Building a Future With AI
Given the unpredictability of generative AI, seeing as it functions almost like a black box — it provides output given an input (although explainable AI is looking to change this), in addition to how young the technology still is, it is difficult to plan for every eventuality.
However, it is possible to build a strategic plan that better prepares a company for the future landscape. This not only helps the company keep up-to-date with the technology while leveraging it for better results, but it also helps employees work with the technology to be more productive and efficient.
According to Forrester Research, to survive and thrive in the generative AI era, a company needs to:
Invest in The Robotics Quotient (RQ)
The RQ is a metric that gauges how well people and organizations can adapt to, believe in, and use automation and AI to produce commercial success. This requires training staff, establishing new standards, fostering optimistic attitudes, and being open about AI’s role in an organization’s ambitions for the future of work.
Forrester believes that high RQ organizations will most successfully integrate generative AI to drive value. This will help the companies and employees not be phased out by AI but empowered by it instead.
Build Around Augmentation
Based on the reports, generative AI is predicted to influence more jobs than it will replace over the next decade. As such, companies should structure their strategy around integrating generative AI into the daily workflow.
Instead of restricting access to generative AI tools, companies should encourage them and prioritize more human-proof tasks like interacting with clients. For instance, asking Microsoft Excel’s Copilot to create a pivot table or calculate a correlation removes an arduous task, but it doesn’t replace the employee.
Instead, it augments their skill set and reduces the time to complete a specific task, creating more room for more vital tasks.
Identify High-Influence Roles
One way of getting ahead of the curve in integrating generative AI into the company is by identifying roles predicted to be highly impacted by AI and incorporating AI early. Forrester recommends equipping workers in jobs with high generative AI influence with early pilot tools.
By doing so, the company will have an early start to the technology, possibly gaining a competitive edge. This will also give the company enough time to test the technology and determine where it best applies in its use cases.
Considering the rate of advancement of technology, hiring the right skills for generative AI will be an evolving proposition. For example, prompt engineering is currently a hot skill. It endeavors to elicit the best possible answers from a generative AI system.
However, prompt engineering might decline in importance in favor of “problem formulation” as generative AI systems become more adept at understanding human intent or even begin to create their prompts.
Therefore, companies and recruitment managers should be forward-thinking about generative AI and hire people with broader qualifications in the area to avoid being phased out by the developments.