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How to prepare for generative AI and the future of work

Tony Holmes explains how generative AI will transform the workplace and provides tips to prepare employees and use AI for collaboration and innovation.

Feb 20, 2024 • 5 Minute Read

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  • Public Sector
  • Data
  • AI & Machine Learning
  • Learning & Development

Generative AI is poised to change the future of work. In this article, I explain how it will impact workforce development, what orgs can do to prepare their employees, and how AI can unlock improved collaboration and innovation.

Table of contents

Adapting to generative AI in the workplace

GenAI isn’t the first historical technological shift. I like to use a comparison between GenAI and the advent of the desktop PC and office suites as quite a fascinating parallel. 

The introduction of desktop PCs revolutionized how we work, making tools like word processors and spreadsheets indispensable. In that era, everyone was panicking. They thought word processors would make Executive Assistants obsolete because people would write and create their own documents. Obviously, this didn’t happen. It simply changed the dynamics of the role. 

People also thought desktop publishing apps would make graphic designers obsolete. All that happened was they became more productive.

In a similar way, GenAI is poised to redefine our workplace toolkit. However, it's not just another tech tool for a specific niche. It’s a fundamental shift in how we approach problems, devise solutions, and execute tasks. 

The key difference between GenAI and earlier tech advancements is the scale and speed of this transformation. GenAI's integration into the workforce is not merely about learning a new software application—it's about adapting to a technology that can learn, adapt, and, in many ways, think alongside us.

How GenAI will transform the average employee's workday

Imagine having a helper that's versed in virtually every aspect of your focus area, one that learns and grows with you. GenAI will be like that, but on an as yet unseen scale. For the average employee, this means they can use AI to automate routine tasks, analyze complex data in real time, and propose creative solutions. As a result, they can focus on the strategic, creative, and interpersonal aspects of their roles. 

The workday becomes more about steering the ship armed with insights and recommendations from a highly intelligent, data-driven AI co-pilot. Beyond that, GenAI is set to transform our productivity and workday like a superhuman personal assistant, helping us better plan our day, learn new information, and so much more.

Generative AI and job displacement: Should we be worried?

Job displacement is a valid concern, and history has shown us that technological advancements do lead to shifts in the job market. However, GenAI, much like any transformative technology, brings a plethora of opportunities for workforce development. I don’t think that the picture is quite as bleak as some are painting. 

There’s a recent working paper from MIT that analyzes the potential for job displacement across different roles. Some interesting stats from the report include:

  • Even though 36% of jobs have at least one task that could technically be automated by computer vision AI, this is a small fraction of most jobs’ overall duties.

  • When looking at the share of total worker compensation, only 1.6% comes from technically automatable computer vision tasks.

  • Of that 1.6%, the research finds it would only be economically beneficial for companies to actually develop AI systems to automate 0.4% of compensation.

  • The main reason most automation is not economical is the high upfront fixed costs of developing customized AI systems. Benefits typically do not outweigh costs except at large scales currently.

While substantial automation is possible, I think what we’re much more likely to see, at least in the short to medium term, is that the diffusion and displacement will be more gradual in pace.

The key to mitigation is to focus on upskilling and reskilling broadly. Just as proficiency in word processing and spreadsheets became essential in the days of desktop computers, AI literacy will become a fundamental skill. 

GenAI will not only create new roles but also enhance existing ones, making jobs more impactful and fulfilling. It's much more about working alongside GenAI and using its capabilities to elevate our roles and what we already do.

How to prepare employees for generative AI with upskilling

Just as almost everyone in the workplace today benefits from using a computer, GenAI has the potential to enhance the work of every employee, from administrative staff to senior executives.

Start by demystifying GenAI for all employees. Make its principles, potential applications, and ethical considerations accessible to everyone. Training programs should not be confined to tech teams but extended across the board, ensuring that each department understands how GenAI can be applied to their specific contexts, both today and in the future. 

This inclusive approach to upskilling and cross-skilling underscores the message that GenAI is not a niche tool for a select few but a transformative technology that offers advantages across the spectrum of workplace roles. 

Emphasizing hands-on experience, encouraging experimentation, and fostering a culture of continuous learning will be key in making GenAI an integral part of everyone's toolkit and driving collective innovation and productivity.

How GenAI will shape the future of workplace collaboration and innovation

GenAI is set to be a game-changer for productivity, collaboration, and innovation. Here are a few ways I anticipate positive change. 

  • Democratizing innovation: By allowing anyone to generate ideas, content, and prototypes, generative AI can massively expand who participates in the innovation process. Innovation won't be limited to specialized roles.

  • Augmenting brainstorming: Using prompts and queries, generative AI gives teams an "idea co-pilot" to effortlessly riff on creative concepts and possibilities during brainstorming or design sessions.

  • Automating routine collaboration tasks: GenAI could hugely accelerate document creation, information lookup, scheduling, note-taking, and other routine collaboration work, liberating teams to focus on higher value strategic tasks.

The end result will likely be teams that use AI to augment collaboration and unlock innovation—a vision of the future where human creativity and emotional intelligence meets vastly accelerated execution. Rather than replace human jobs, generative AI may in fact realize people’s untapped career directions and personal strengths.

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Tony Holmes

Tony H.

Tony Holmes is the practice lead for public sector solutions architects at Pluralsight and partners with organizations every day to ensure their cybersecurity workforce has the skills it needs to ensure mission success.

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