The impact of artificial intelligence in the workplace

By Robert Half on 24 August 2023
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

In the workplace, new technologies are being embraced for the benefits they bring, particularly if they can save an organisation’s time and money.

The revolution started with automation, and machines, robots and computers have efficiently enhanced the work of employees to complete routine tasks in many industries.

The latest frontier is generative artificial intelligence. While it provides exciting prospects, the impact of artificial intelligence in the workplace also can be unknown.

The World Economic Forum reports more than 75% of companies globally are looking to adopt technologies such as AI in the next five years. While 25% of organisations expect the increasing use of AI to lead to some job losses in specific fields, 50% of them expect it will create jobs.

The Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2023 reveals employers want to harness the power of AI by training their workers in how to use it, not replace them with it. The report reveals training in these technologies is the third-highest skills priority listed by employers in the next five years, and is cited as the top priority for 42% of them.

“Employers understand the rapid pace of technological change and do not want to be left behind. They realise the advantages and efficiencies AI can bring to their business and know that their workers can use it to their advantage. While there is a growing demand for workers who already hold these skills, employers know it is an emerging field and are willing to facilitate the upskilling of staff. So, they are looking for workers who have a positive attitude and want to work with AI, not fear it,” says David Jones, Senior Managing Director APAC, Robert Half.

With more than 25 years of experience in the recruitment industry, David is a leading industry figure, having given numerous interviews and presented at many recruitment events and conferences across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Europe, Asia and the US. His insights into the continuously evolving employment market, in finance, accounting and technology especially, make him a valuable spokesperson and thought leader on current employment trends affecting the market. 

The ways workers are already using artificial intelligence

From the smallest task such as integrating a weekly meeting into a calendar with one click of the mouse, to more large-scale use such as security systems that filter spam and block hackers, already AI is changing the workplace.

The use of artificial intelligence in the workplace largely revolves around saving employees time - particularly around data processing and mundane or routine tasks - so they can dedicate their work day to other, more highly-valued activities and decision-making.

AI also is improving the way workers operate and minimising errors, whether it be automatically correcting spelling and grammar mistakes in reports or emails to calculating complex formulas in spreadsheets.

AI is also stepping in when employees are not available. Chatbots have become commonplace on any website, for example, acting as customer service representatives at all hours of the day and night by answering basic or common questions.

Now, AI is moving beyond being able to complete simple process-based tasks to conduct more creative tasks. Programs such as ChatGPT can create text in any form of any length – be it an email or a report – based on a few small inputs. Image creators such as Craiyon turns text input into an image, such as a logo or a photograph. Audio creators can replicate a person’s voice, such as turning text into speech.

“Many tasks previously thought to be human-centric are increasingly being completed by technology. Creative tasks such as brainstorming new ideas or problem-solving can be undertaken by AI, which analyses data from a plethora of sources to provide suggestions and innovations that employees had not previously considered. However, employees still are needed to decide which innovations that are suggested by AI are applicable or may be successful in their individual circumstances, and to implement them within their organisation. AI is completing more tasks, but is not taking the place of people completely,” says Jones.

Are employees embracing AI?

A Microsoft study finds 76% of people in Hong Kong do not have enough time or energy to get their work done, and 83% of would assign as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workloads, compared to the global average of 70%. Another 80% of Hong Kong workers would be comfortable using AI not just for administrative tasks but also for analytical and creative work, compared to 75% globally. They cite improved efficiency and effectiveness, ending information overload, and unleashing creativity as key positives from using artificial intelligence in the workplace.

While 69% of respondents in Hong Kong say they are worried AI will replace their jobs, business leaders globally are inclined to disagree. Leaders are twice as likely to say that AI will boost productivity in the workplace (31%) than will enable them to cut headcount (16%).

“People in Hong Kong are among the most receptive in the world to the role that artificial intelligence can play in supporting their work, and are keen to harness the benefits of AI. However, workers are only receptive to it when it comes to certain tasks. When it comes to replacing hard or boring tasks - saving them time to focus on more valuable work - workers are happy to use AI,” says Jones.

“Much of the fear around artificial intelligence lies in it being misused, such as sourcing information and images that are incorrect and presenting it as truth. When it comes to evaluating their performance, monitoring their work, or human resource management, employees are unwilling to let AI take the reins.”

AI and the evolving employment market

“Automation and artificial intelligence is becoming more adept at completing the mundane tasks of many workers in the financial services sector, in particular, which on the surface may cause concern among those employed in Hong Kong’s largest employing industry. However, the workforce is constantly evolving and new jobs are emerging in new ways. Traditional financial institutions and fintechs alike increasingly are looking for highly specialised IT staff to work in areas ranging from cyber security, data science and machine learning, for example, providing new employment opportunities, while those who can save time communicating with others during their work days by using AI can put their energy into more valuable tasks,” says Jones.

Research by Goldman Sachs finds most roles will only be partially affected by automation, and displaced workers (if any) will find new jobs that are created through AI. It estimates AI adoption can increase annual productivity growth by an average of 1.4 percentage points globally – and in Hong Kong, it could be a world leader at an average of 1.6 percentage points annually.

Recruitment leads the way in AI uptake – a Hong Kong case study

In many instances, the recruitment industry has been at the forefront of AI implementation and acceptance.

It has proved to be a valuable tool to screen candidates. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) can filter through thousands of job applications, ensuring only those that meet certain criteria are selected for further consideration. As it saves hirers a lot of time in having to compile shortlists, they have more time to research and interview suitable candidates. ATS has also helped in overcoming unconscious bias, whether it is age, gender, or racial discrimination, which benefits the community and ensures the best talent is selected.

Even passive candidates can be approached for roles, with AI being used to identify potential employees with the right skills and experience based on LinkedIn profiles or industry information. Recruiters can spend more time networking, liaising with employers on their needs or working with candidates to improve their employability.

AI is changing the Hong Kong workplace as well as how employees operate for the better and its capabilities are improving daily. Organisations are already evolving with it and continuing to do so will only increase productivity and efficiency gains.

For a more in-depth summary of AI and ChatGPT’s history, its uses and what comes next read this article from Protiviti, our consulting division.

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