Meike Escherich
Meike Escherich (Associate Research Director, European Future of Work)

Adoption of Generative AI by European organizations is growing and will continue to grow in 2023 and beyond. According to IDC’s 2023 Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey, Wave 5, 20% of European organizations have already made significant investments in Generative AI, while an additional 58% say they are closely looking at the business opportunities the technology has to offer.

Our data from the above survey highlights three areas in which automation and especially Generative AI is already making an impact on European businesses and their workforce:

  • GenAI for Skill Shortage Offsetting: As of June 2023, 78% of European companies report that they have deployed or are at least piloting automation technologies to offset labor shortages.
  • GenAI as Labor Replacement: 28% of European leaders have already discussed replacing employee positions with automation; 78% plan to replace up to 20% of their workforce with “digital colleagues”.
  • GenAI for Employee Augmentation: For those using automation to augment workers (not replace them), generative AI assistants such as ChatGPT, Bard and Copilot paired with data analytics and Project Management tools will be key to improving employee productivity.

Implementing AI driven technology solutions drives operational efficiencies only if they involve the workforce. Employees’ fear of losing jobs to automation is justified because the level of trust between workers and employers on job status has been eroded by companies’ readiness to lay off staff. Therefore, the use of Generative AI within the organization requires education and communication across the organization on what it is, how it will be used, and what its benefits are.

Building trust within your workforce starts with honesty. In most cases, automation will result in job losses, be clear about that. However – organizations that make the most of GenAI limit the number of employees they let go and instead refocus the affected employees into more useful and strategic work.

Many become users of Gen AI who understand the intricacies of newly automated tasks. They can not only capture ways to make automated work more effective but also implement insights to make better and faster decisions and choices. In summary: the implementation of Gen AI will drive work transformation at an exponential pace.

Source: IDC's Global Future Enterprise Resiliency and Spending Survey, Wave 5 — June 2023 (n = 340 European respondents)

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To successfully manage the cultural impact GenAI will have on your workforce, the following concerns need to be addressed with diligence and ethical integrity:

  1. GenAI Governance. The greater the depth and breadth of the AI solution, the more important it is to have a governance structure. Test that uses of Gen AI are working correctly, output is dependable and permissible, and the strategy/roadmap is resilient, transparent, and secure. The better the governance model the more employees can trust using their company’s automation tools.
  2. Change in Employee Roles. An organization’s work model will be affected after the implementation of specific Gen AI use cases. Where possible, employees doing repetitive work should now be shifted to doing more meaningful work. This will mean a reduction in staff, but also an increased need for trained staff supporting new business processes through Gen AI
  3. Training and Reskilling. The technology expertise required to implement AI tools must be considered in the earliest planning stages. The staff replaced by automation should re-focus on value-added work. This often requires internal upskilling or reskilling to perform more strategic tasks within the organization.

Workforce automation has grown in importance for organizations seeking greater flexibility while providing more meaningful work for employees, reducing costs, providing predictable processes for low value-add tasks, and increasing ROI. Generative AI especially is by no means a magic tool, but it can make a difference when implemented properly.

Taking the time to test out assumptions, pilot relevant use cases, and developing a mid to ling term plan is worth the time. The outcome is a more efficient, effective workplace and engaged workforce.

To fully realize the potential of GenAI, companies need to invest in frameworks which guide talent development and innovative business models that will create value for their customers, as well as their workforce.

Source: IDC 2023
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