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AI at Work: Friend and Foe

  • New Study from BCG Reveals that Employees’ Confidence in AI and GenAI Is Growing, but Half of Regular Users Believe Their Job May Disappear in the Next Decade
  • Global Survey of More Than 13,000 Workers Highlights That GenAI Is Saving Users at Least Five Hours per Week, Allowing Them to Move Beyond Productivity and Do More Work and Smarter Work
  • Respondents from Global South Markets Are Consistently More Bullish and Less Anxious About GenAI Than Their Counterparts from the Global North
  • Adoption of the Technology Has Increased Significantly over the Past Year, Particularly with Frontline Employees, 43% of Whom Report Using GenAI Regularly at Work

BOSTON—The sentiments of employees around the world about AI and GenAI are evolving significantly, but cautious optimism endures, with 42% reporting confidence about the technologies’ impact on their work, compared to 26% at around this time last year. However, anxiety about the technologies is also on the rise, by 5 percentage points, and 49% of regular users believe their job may disappear in the next ten years due to the development of AI and GenAI, a view shared by only 24% of workers who do not use them.

These are among the findings of a new report being published today by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Titled AI at Work: Friend and Foe, the study follows the firm’s inaugural AI at Work survey from last year and is based on a global survey of more than 13,000 employees in 15 countries and regions conducted by BCG X, BCG’s tech build and design division. The survey’s respondents range from executive suite leaders to frontline employees who do not hold managerial positions, although most respondents work in office-based roles.

The survey was conducted at a critical phase in the maturation of GenAI, as companies move beyond pilots and start to integrate the technology into the fabric of their organizations. Nearly two-thirds of leaders (64%) say they are starting to implement GenAI tools to reshape their organizations. Engagement with the technology has increased over the last year, particularly with frontline employees—more than twice as many report using the tool regularly as did in 2023, and 43% of them do so for work.

“Our survey exposes the double-edged nature of GenAI. Familiarity correlates with both comfort and fear. GenAI is a revolutionary technology, so these opposing reactions should not be surprising,” said Sylvain Duranton, a managing director and senior partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report. “By recognizing the complex ways in which humans understand and interact with GenAI, leaders can reshape their organizations to maximize the strengths and value of both their human and machine workers.”

Although companies have made strides in training their employees since last year’s survey, there remains quite a bit of potential for further growth, as only 30% of managers and 28% of frontline employees have already been trained in how AI will change their jobs, compared with half of leaders.

The study also reveals that 58% of respondents who use GenAI for work report that using the tool is saving them at least five hours per week, and these respondents say they are using this freed-up time to perform more tasks (41%) or new tasks (39%), experiment with GenAI (38%), or work on strategic tasks (38%).

“We are entering a new era for GenAI which is less about optimism and curiosity and more about confidence and value realization. Adoption has increased and individuals are starting to see the benefits, said Vinciane Beauchene, a managing director and partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report. “Companies are also starting to realize that getting the value out of their investment will require them to think beyond productivity and take a more holistic and proactive approach to redirect the time saved to the most valuable and joyful activities, to reskill their employees to do so, and to reshape their organizations and operating models as a consequence.”

Geographically, the survey reveals that respondents from Global South countries such as Brazil, India, Nigeria, South Africa, and those in the Middle East were more consistently bullish and less anxious than respondents in mature markets about GenAI. The Global South also has a higher proportion of regular users of GenAI at work among its leaders, managers, and frontline employees than the Global North does. Managers and frontline employees from the Global South were more likely than their peers in the Global North to have received GenAI training in the past year. In the time freed up by using GenAI, Global South respondents were more likely to experiment with the tool, engage in professional development, and focus on the quality of their work.

The authors provide a set of five key recommendations for organizations as they continue their ongoing transformations built around GenAI:

  • Establish a transformation-first mindset
  • Manage all your transformations
  • Build training muscle at scale
  • Emphasize how GenAI can increase value creation and employee joy
  • Anticipate the evolution of roles, skills, operating model, data, and governance

“Understandable human reactions to these technologies can pose challenges to companies as they continue on their GenAI journeys,” said Jeff Walters, a managing director and senior partner at BCG and a coauthor of the report. “But as we noted in last year’s report—and it still holds true this year—these are more change management challenges than technology challenges. And now is the time for organizations to double-down on their commitment to transformation built around GenAI.”

Download the publication here.

Media Contact:
Eric Gregoire--gregoire.eric@bcg.com

About BCG X

BCG X is the tech build and design unit of BCG.

Turbocharging BCG’s deep industry and functional expertise, BCG X brings together advanced tech knowledge and ambitious entrepreneurship to help organizations enable innovation at scale. With nearly 3,000 technologists, scientists, programmers, engineers, and human-centered designers located across 80+ cities, BCG X builds and designs platforms and software to address the world’s most important challenges and opportunities. Teaming across our practices, and in close collaboration with our clients, our end-to-end global team unlocks new possibilities. Together we’re creating the bold and disruptive products, services, and businesses of tomorrow.

About Boston Consulting Group

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