Microsoft says AI can resolve major workplace issues

Despite evidence bosses are already planning to replace their workers with artificial intelligence, Microsoft is insisting the technology will make workers better instead of obsolete, claiming that an alliance between A.I. and workers is already taking root in the business world.


Losing your job to a computer has become a real concern in recent months, as useful A.I. systems like ChatGPT have proved to be adept at a number of tasks. Jobs that involve repetitive tasks or administrative support might be at the highest risk of disruption, but it turns out only 49% of workers are worried about losing their jobs to A.I., according to a survey by Microsoft published Tuesday. 

That might seem high, but a higher share of employees—70%—said they were prepared to delegate all the busywork they could to A.I.

Microsoft surveyed 31,000 workers in 31 countries across a variety of industry and office settings for the report. The company has been making a big splash in A.I. since announcing a $10 billion investment in ChatGPT creator OpenAI in January, and the giant is going head to head with Google in the generative A.I. market. In March, Microsoft released an A.I.-powered version of its search engine, Bing, and has launched a series of A.I. tools designed to optimize its suite of office applications.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has framed A.I. as the good kind of disruptor, saying the technology will lead to more job creation and satisfaction. The company’s new report appears to justify Nadella’s claims, outlining the ways A.I. could reshape business as well as three insights for business leaders to prepare: taking care of non-productive parts of the workday, rescuing workers from extreme burnout, and requiring employees to acquire a deeper knowledge of how to work alongside A.I.  

“This new generation of AI will remove the drudgery of work and unleash creativity,” Nadella said in a statement. “There’s an enormous opportunity for AI-powered tools to help alleviate digital debt, build AI aptitude, and empower employees.”

Microsoft’s AI assistant dream

For months, Microsoft has championed A.I. as a “copilot” that can assist employees in the workplace, and its new report suggests companies are indeed exploring how to integrate A.I. as an in-office assistant.

The report’s first major takeaway was that A.I. can help companies clear away their “digital debt,” the accumulation of information, emails, and meeting invites that are hampering productivity. Around two thirds of survey respondents said they were struggling to find uninterrupted time and energy to do the most important parts of their jobs while at work, and were more likely to report their creativity suffering as a result. 

Meetings and other administrative tasks have piled up in the age of remote work, and some companies have recently cracked down on calendar invites taking up too much of their employees’ time, such as Shopify, which in January eliminated 76,500 hours worth of fixed company events. Microsoft argued A.I. could improve this aspect of work by turning every meeting and missed bit of information into a “digital artifact” that employees could return to when they want and, with A.I.’s assistance, identify the most important parts.

Reducing the amount of busywork in a day would also help alleviate the burnout epidemic that has ripped through American employees during the pandemic, Microsoft said in its second key finding. The report found that over 70% of workers were willing to tap A.I. to help with administrative, analytical, and even creative tasks, while 76% said A.I. could help “enhance creativity” by helping come up with new ideas. 

The report called it an “A.I.-employee alliance” that would help create more value for businesses while creating more fulfilling careers for workers.

A.I. is still a risk to workers

But to fully embrace the benefits of A.I., more employees will need to gain “A.I. aptitude,” the report said, in its third takeaway. More than 80% of business leaders said their employees required new skills to use A.I., which in addition to knowing how to write strong prompts for generative systems like ChatGPT, also include emotional intelligence, editing skills, and the ability to detect bias.

The report pointed out that the number of U.S. job postings on LinkedIn that mention GPT have risen 79% over the past year, as knowledge of how to interact with A.I. becomes an in-demand skill for employers. An April study by ResumeBuilder found that around 90% of companies hiring at the time were looking for candidates with experience using ChatGPT.

The third insight highlights how even if A.I. doesn’t steal your job, another candidate who is an expert in using A.I. could. 

Around 20% of U.S. jobs will likely see 50% or more of their tasks impacted in the near future, according to a March study by ChatGPT creator OpenAI. But A.I. will affect at least 10% of tasks for as many as 80% of the workforce, the study found, underlining the importance of acquiring skills in working alongside A.I. for the majority of workers.

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