How AI changing the way we work is good news for employees

AI will free us from digital debt and fuel innovation, Microsoft Asia's GM Modern Work says
AI represents a whole new way of working, freeing us from digital debt and fuelling innovation – and employees want it, a new Microsoft report finds

As with any developments in technology, the advancement of artificial intelligence has created the fear that people will be replaced by machines.

Almost one-third of respondents in PwC’s 2022 global workforce survey said they were worried about the prospect of their role being replaced by technology within three years.

The fire of fear was stoked further when Goldman Sachs published a report in March showing that AI could replace the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs. Gasp. 

But is AI anxiety overstated?

Eric Schmidt, Google’s former Chief Executive, believes so. Speaking at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council recently, Eric said all the demographics point to a future shortage of humans for jobs, “literally too many jobs and not enough people for at least the next 30 years”.

More crucially though, business leaders believe next-generation AI can boost productivity (and creativity) rather than cut headcount.

That’s according to recent research from Microsoft’s third annual Work Trend Index, the the compilation of a study of 31,000 people across industries in 31 countries, including 14 APAC markets, as well as trillions of signals from emails, meetings, and chats across Microsoft 365, plus labour trends on LinkedIn.

Lifting the weight of work and inspiring innovation

The report explains how, with the pace of work accelerating faster than humans can keep up, innovation is being impacted. But next-generation AI can change that.

If leaders adopt AI responsibly, the new generation of AI will remove the drudgery of work and unleash creativity, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in the report. “There’s an enormous opportunity for AI-powered tools to help alleviate digital debt, build AI aptitude, and empower employees.”

Digital debt? It’s the data, emails, and chats that we engage with in such volume that it’s outpacing our ability to process it all.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of people in the Asia-Pacific region say they don’t have enough time and energy to get their work done, and of those, they are three times more likely to say they struggle with being innovative. Of the time spent in Microsoft 365, for example, the average person spends 57% communicating and only 43% creating, and the number one productivity disruption is inefficient meetings.

With next-gen AI, there is an opportunity to make existing communications more productive.

“AI represents a whole new way of working, as it moves from autopilot to copilot, freeing us from digital debt and fuelling innovation,” says Vinod Muralidharan, General Manager Modern Work, Microsoft Asia

Digital debt means employees are less innovative, Microsoft Index finds

Building an AI-centric skillset

Employees are optimistic, with the promise of relief from so much digital debt outweighing the fears they have of machines taking over their jobs.

While more than half (58%) of respondents in Asia Pacific say they are worried AI will replace their jobs, a much bigger percentage (78%) say they would delegate as much work as possible to AI, in order to lessen their workloads. In fact, three in four people in Asia would be comfortable using AI, not only for repetitive admin tasks, but also more analytical and creative work. 

And leaders are confident that AI won't bring slashing of jobs, with bosses in Asia 1.9x more likely to say that AI would be most valuable in their workplace by boosting productivity rather than cutting headcount. 

With AI as a co-pilot inherent to the future of work, leaders will need to ensure employees, not just AI experts, have the tools and skills to gain new core competencies in AI and to do more with less. After all, a staggering 85% of leaders in the APAC region anticipate employees will need new skills in the AI era, and nearly three-quarters (71%) of people say they currently don't have the right capabilities to get their work done.

    AI can increase productivity and unleash creativity

    Singapore – fastest-growing market in APAC for AI talent

    While AI upskilling for employees needs work everywhere, data points towards Singapore becoming a leading hub for AI talent and innovation in the APAC region. 

    LinkedIn data shows that the share of AI talent between 2016 and 2022 grew by a staggering 565%, outpacing countries such as Australia (527%), India (487%) and Japan (334%). Not just that, but the growth in AI talent hiring in Singapore also outpaced the growth in overall hiring by 14% last year. 

    "AI has ushered in a new era in the world of work, and in Singapore, we are excited of its possibilities with AI talent and hiring fast-rising," says Frank Koo, Head of Asia, Talent and Learning Solutions at LinkedIn. 

    Among the fastest-growing AI job roles in Singapore, Algorithm Engineer, Data Analyst, Data Science Specialist and ML Engineer, take top spot, while an increasing number of professionals in the Lion City are equipping themselves with AI skills to keep up with the pace of change in the skills landscape. The five fastest-growing AI skills in Singapore in 2022 are all those hinting at the emergence of generative AI.

    "As AI continues to evolve and grow in importance, it is imperative that professionals build up their AI skills wallet to boost work productivity and creativity, and that businesses adopt AI capabilities to achieve better business outcomes," says Frank.

    "By taking a skills-first approach, we have an opportunity to enable and empower a paradigm shift to AI as the co-pilot in the new way of work. We will continue to put generative AI into the hands of our members and business partners to help everyone more easily connect to economic opportunity," 

    Frank Koo, Head of Asia, Talent and Learning Solutions, LinkedIn

    How Microsoft's new capabilities can help businesses support employees

    AI-driven tools such as Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Viva, and the all-new Microsoft 365 Copilot will play an increasingly vital role in unlocking productivity and unleashing creativity at scale. To empower businesses further, Microsoft is also introducing the Microsoft 365 Copilot Early Access Program. In addition, the following new capabilities will be added to Microsoft 365 Copilot and Microsoft Viva:

    • Copilot in Outlook will offer coaching tips and suggestions on clarity, sentiment, and tone to help users write more effective emails and communicate more confidently
       
    • Copilot in Viva Learning will use a natural language chat interface to help users create a personalised learning journey including designing upskilling paths, discovering relevant learning resources and scheduling time for assigned trainings
       
    • Copilot in Whiteboard will make Microsoft Teams meetings and brainstorms more creative and effective. Using natural language, you can ask Copilot to generate ideas, organise ideas into themes, create designs that bring ideas to life, and summarise Whiteboard content
       
    • Copilot in OneNote will use prompts to draft plans, generate ideas, create lists and organise information to help customers find what they need easily.
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