Is the workplace AI revolution underway? Study suggests the answer is ‘not yet’

Machine Learning

Despite predictions that the world of work is about to be transformed by the popularity of generative AI tools, new research suggests companies are not moving quickly to adopt these new technologies.

The hype around artificial intelligence (AI) and its potential to transform the world of work has so far peaked through 2023.

But while AI has been steadily adopted by companies across industries over the last few decades, new research shows that the predicted AI revolution has yet to begin in the workplace.

Researchers have found that only about a third of UK businesses have invested in AI and machine learning technology so far, according to findings released on Tuesday.

Professor Mark Stewart, Prodean Research and Innovation, said: “With a mixture of hope, speculation and hype, the introduction of new AI-powered digital technologies will rapidly transform the UK labor market, boosting productivity and growth. It is accelerating the runaway story of.” A PhD from the University of Leeds Business School was the principal investigator for this study.

“These hopes are often concerned about job impacts and even existential threats,” he added.

“However, our findings suggest that we need to focus on a different policy agenda: the AI ​​revolution in the workplace has yet to happen. To do so, policymakers will need to address both low employer investment in digital technology and low investment in digital skills.”

The study was conducted between November 2021 and June 2022, and since then generative AI tools like ChatGPT and Midjourney have been adopted by millions of users worldwide. A second investigation is currently underway.

Less investment in new technology and digital skills

A survey found that only 36% of UK employers have invested in AI and machine learning so far. Only 10% of companies that have not yet invested plan to invest in the next two years.

A Digital Future at Work Research Center (Digit) study led by researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Sussex and Cambridge points to a growing skills problem in the UK. said the study authors.

Despite nearly three-quarters of employers surveyed finding hiring particularly challenging, less than 10% feel they will need to invest in digital skills training over the next few years. rice field.

Nearly 60% of employers said none of their employees had received formal digital skills training in the past year.

“At a time when AI is shifting digitization into a higher gear, it is important to move beyond the hype and have arguments based on evidence rather than fear and anecdotes,” said Stein Brocke, senior economist at the Organization for Economic Cooperation. said. – Operations and Development (OECD).

Researchers warn that the UK is at risk of widening the gap between those that have invested in new AI-powered technologies and those that have not.

Increased efficiency, productivity and quality of products and services were the main reasons for companies to invest in AI-enabled technologies such as industrial robots, chatbots, smart assistants and cloud computing.

For companies not investing in technology, the main reason was that it was irrelevant to the nature of business activities, risks, and skills required of employees.

What companies are investing in AI?

Researchers found that the size of an organization was a big factor in whether they invested in AI technology.

Nearly 50% of companies with 100 or more employees were classified as “digital adopters,” while one in three companies with fewer than 50 employees were classified as “digital adopters.”

Correlations were also found for industry. About two-thirds of employers in the government and telecommunications sector invested in digital technology, compared to only 22% in the accommodation and food services sector and 30% in the education sector.

recent papers A paper published in the International Journal of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Technology Management found that AI adoption is associated with increased corporate revenue, but only at high levels of adoption.

At low introduction levels, researchers found no performance benefit.

“We also found a positive relationship between higher levels of AI adoption and increased revenue for companies investing in complementary technologies such as database systems and cloud computing,” the authors say. said.

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