86% of employees say they need training on AI changes

24 August 2023 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read

Frontline employees remain unconvinced by the hype surrounding AI, with a new study finding that less than half of them are optimistic about the technology. This apprehension seems to come from the fact just 14% of frontline staff have received training to address how AI will change their jobs – leading a large majority of workers to agree AI-specific regulations should be put in place to protect their rights within their national markets.

A recent study from KPMG illustrated how, as much as bosses want to suggest AI isn’t going to lead to mass redundancies, its deployment looks specifically angled to making life more miserable for many workers. While claiming AI was not going to steal “many” jobs, KPMG’s researchers also admitted generative AI technology would primarily impact creative roles like authors, translators, graphic designers, along with IT support technicians and legal professionals. Meanwhile, workers whose roles were “significantly impacted” (or replaced) by generative AI would be able to seek employment in the retail, customer services, hospitality, construction, and manufacturing sectors – which will experience ‘minimal impact’ from the technology.

Oddly enough, workers seem to find little comfort in the idea that they could be forced out of ‘creative’ lines of work for the service sector. Even as their bosses become increasingly enamoured with the idea, frontline staff are reluctant to climb aboard a hype-train they expect will lead to their labour becoming part of a much-heralded ‘realignment’ in tomorrow’s economy.

86% of employees say they need training on AI changes

According to new research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), frontline workers are narrowly more optimistic than concerned about AI. In the former camp are 42% of workers polled by the consultancy, while 39% are wary of what may be in store thanks to the technology.

This stands in stark contrast to the responses of managers and leaders. A 54% majority of managers are optimistic about AI, while that grows to 62% of leaders. But both of those camps are also unlikely to make themselves redundant because their work can be done by a computer.

To that end, an overwhelming majority of leaders are already ‘regularly’ using generative AI in their work. An 80% majority said as much, while 46% of managers said the same. Only 20% of frontline staff said this was the case, however, and 60% remain non-users outright.

86% of employees say they need training on AI changes

Possibly feeding the sense of dread some frontline staff regard AI with, many are also finding that employers are far from forthcoming with training. Usually, when bosses are looking for their staff to begin working alongside a new piece of technology or with a new methodology, they would probably look to help their workforce get to grips with it in advance. But while 86% of employees say they will need help gaining skills to work with AI technologies, just 14% of frontline employees have received training to address the ways AI might change their jobs.

The resulting fears around the future implementation of AI might be fuelling calls for government intervention. A 79% portion of respondents told BCG that specific regulations were necessary for AI’s adoption. In some cases, this was higher, though. In the UK, 81% of respondents said there was a need to legislate on the matter, while in India this rose to a high of 89%.

Speaking on the concerns, Steven Mills, chief AI ethics officer at BCG and coauthor of the report, said, “The level of concern among employees about the responsible use of AI is striking. Generative AI burst on the scene so abruptly in 2022 that many companies are still playing catch up, however responsible AI should be a priority for all leaders. Companies won’t achieve the full potential of GenAI if the majority of their employees continue to doubt their employer is using AI responsibly. Responsible AI doesn’t just mitigate risk, it can also increase innovation and productivity, and generate value and competitive advantage for organisations.”