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RESEARCH REPORT

Work, workforce, workers

Reinvented in the age of generative AI

10-minute read

January 16, 2024

In brief

  • Generative AI is likely the most significant change to work since the agricultural and industrial revolutions.

  • Reinventors are breaking out of silos and building trust among their people by actively involving them in redesigning their work and roles.

  • We’re bringing data to the reality we see every day—companies that take a people-centric approach could create $10.3 trillion in economic value.

Work reinvented, workforce reshaped, workers prepared

Gen AI is already showing broad potential to redesign processes across the entire value chain.

The gen AI revolution is different than anything that’s come before it. Anyone can use it to automate or augment basic tasks, but gen AI is already showing much broader potential to reinvent processes across the entire value chain. To scale this groundbreaking technology responsibly so that work improves for everyone, leaders need to lead and learn in new ways. This means setting and guiding a vision for how to reinvent work, reshape the workforce and prepare workers for a gen AI world, while building a resilient culture to navigate continuous waves of change.

Gen AI is poised to provide the most significant economic uplift and change to work since the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and will lead to a reinvention of work with more human-centric work processes. Gen AI is democratizing business process redesign, giving everyone—from assembly workers to customer service agents to lab scientists—the power to reshape their own workflows. In fact, our research shows that gen AI offers a trio of opportunities: it can accelerate economic value and drive business growth while also fostering more creative and meaningful work for people.

Gen AI offers a trio of opportunities: it can accelerate economic value and drive business growth while also fostering more creative and meaningful work for people

However, although 95% of workers we surveyed see value in working with gen AI, they don’t trust organizations to ensure positive outcomes for everyone. And two-thirds of CxOs we surveyed confess that they are ill-equipped to lead this change. Misaligned perceptions between leaders and workers erode trust. But there’s a way to close the trust gap and accelerate gen AI integration: Look at and emulate how leading companies are leveraging gen AI in ways that are better for business and better for people.

Three-quarters of leading companies, which we call Reinventors, are actively involving workers to shape the change and redesign their work and roles. In fact, when it comes to their people, one in four Reinventors are 2x more likely to anticipate productivity gains of 20% or more in the next three years. They understand that gen AI isn't about replacing people with technology but elevating work and enhancing peoples’ experiences so they feel Net Better Off at work. This approach offers a clear path to closing the trust gap and getting people comfortable and ready to be working with gen AI. Leaders who lead and learn in new ways, focusing on reinventing work, reshaping the workforce, and preparing workers for future challenges, will unlock gen AI's full potential for the economy, organizations and people.

“Gen AI heralds the most significant disruption to organizations—and, in my case, to the newsroom—in the last 25 years. Approached responsibly, it could help the most important and respected media companies provide an even better and more accurate service and product going forward. It’s the people, not technology, who understand the purpose of the company and what it’s trying to achieve.”
—William Lewis, Chief Executive Officer and Publisher, The Washington Post

The gen AI state of play

We’re now in the generative age, where machines predict with high accuracy, generate creative content and make suggestions.

Generative AI foundation models: Diagnostic, Predictive, Generative
Generative AI foundation models: Diagnostic, Predictive, Generative

These are very early days for gen AI, with most companies still in the planning and experimental stages. But we’re already seeing rapid changes in several areas:

  • Driving reinvention: At 81% of companies, gen AI is seen as one of the main levers for reinvention.
  • Magnitude of impact: Our modeling shows that 44% of working hours in the US are in scope for automation or augmentation.

  • Regulatory response: Increasingly, countries and regions recognize the need to urgently establish regulatory frameworks, including robust IP protection and usage agreements, for rapidly evolving AI technology.
  • CxO sentiment: 86% of CxOs around the globe believe gen AI will be transformative for their company and industry, with 100% anticipating changes to their workforce.
  • Employee sentiment: 95% of workers see value in working with gen AI, with 82% already having some understanding of the technology.

Given the progress and trends already witnessed, and perhaps even as a result, there are conflicting views about the risks, benefits and tradeoffs involved with using gen AI at scale. We see this as an issue that must be unpacked and understood to realize the full, positive potential of gen AI.

“At Mizuho, we’re focused on the future and thinking more broadly about how our industry can transform by having gen AI in the market and within our workforce. Managing this change effectively is extremely important—especially communicating with employees. People are wondering about the impacts and leaders need to take a highly personalized approach. Talk with each individual about their experiences, skills and potential expanded opportunities.”
—Makoto Umemiya, Deputy President & Senior Executive Officer and Group Chief Digital Officer, Mizuho Financial Group

Conflicting views erode trust

Trust is required for people to effectively adopt and embrace gen AI. Our research indicates that this extends beyond (but also includes) trust in the tool itself, meaning that people need to trust that the organization will integrate gen AI in ways that protect and prepare workers. But importantly, our research reveals a trust gap between workers and leaders.

32%

of leaders see talent scarcity, due to skill gaps or unawareness, as a major barrier in utilizing gen AI, and 36% attribute workers’ reluctance to embrace gen AI to a lack of technology understanding.

82%

of workers believe they grasp the technology, and 94% are confident they can develop the needed skills.

CxO and worker perception gaps
CxO and worker perception gaps

Understanding and navigating the trust gaps—not merely observing them—is crucial for business and societal leaders working to deploy gen AI responsibly. By proactively resolving these challenges, we don’t just acknowledge them; we turn them into opportunities to get ahead in the generative age.

The trifecta of opportunities: economy, business, people

Harnessing the trifecta of opportunities to accelerate economic value, drive business growth and create more meaningful work for people should be the goal. For each opportunity, the incentive only grows when people are the navigators along the path to achieving gen AI’s full potential. This age of gen AI will revolutionize work and workflows across the entire value chain, and our research is bringing into clearer view the upside of integrating gen AI responsibly.

Economic upside

Our modeling reveals insights from three economic growth scenarios, each based on the pace of gen AI adoption and innovation. Among them, the global scenario where organizations adopt responsible, people-centric approaches to gen AI at scale stands out, potentially creating an additional $10.3 trillion in economic value by 2038.

Companies can unlock value by adopting responsible, people-centric approaches to Gen AI
Companies can unlock value by adopting responsible, people-centric approaches to Gen AI

Business upside

Most CxOs believe gen AI will ultimately increase their company’s market share, with 17% of them predicting that gen AI will increase their market share by 10% or more. Our modeling suggests that companies planning to reinvent work by integrating gen AI more deeply across functions and business processes at scale expect to overtake the revenue growth of even today’s leading companies in the next five years. Technology alone will not drive gen AI-enabled growth; prioritizing people alongside data and tech can lead to productivity gains of up to 11%, while sidelining the human factor slashes that gain to a mere 4%.

People upside

Gen AI presents the opportunity to prepare individuals to transition from being focused on one or two areas of expertise (with supporting skills), to mastering multiple interconnected capabilities at once. Such a shift presents an opportunity to create a more agile and adaptive organization through, for example, tailored learning pathways aligned to each worker’s needs and aspirations. But this will only be achieved if there is a culture of transparency and trust. Our latest research shows that leaving people Net Better Off is a clear pathway to closing the trust gap and getting people ready and comfortable with gen AI. Net Better Off workers had a 19-percentage point greater incidence of "strongly agree" responses regarding their comfort with the technology—particularly in terms of how they can apply it to their work.

Workers already experiencing a greater degree of support from their organizations are better prepared to envision and realize the value of Gen AI
Workers already experiencing a greater degree of support from their organizations are better prepared to envision and realize the value of Gen AI

Generative AI GPS: Accelerators to realize gen AI’s full potential

Success in this age of gen AI relies heavily on leaders who are willing to learn continuously and deeply (particularly when it comes to the technology), lead with compassion and humility and create the conditions so that their people feel Net Better Off at work. Think of it this way: Enzo Ferrari didn’t build incredible cars thanks to reimagined approaches to design and engineering; he was successful because he was a driver. So, for leaders to be effective in the gen AI age, when being tech-enabled and people-powered has never been more important, they too need to drive.

Learn and lead in new ways
Learn and lead in new ways

Accelerator 1: Lead and learn in new ways

To be effective and build trust in the gen AI-enabled future, leaders need to show up, lead differently and challenge old mindsets to learn new things. 65% of executives we surveyed admit they lack the technology expertise required for the gen AI-led transformation, so it’s important that leaders immerse themselves in the technology, effectively changing how they learn by embedding learning into the flow of work. As leaders learn, they’ll be able to scale gen AI more effectively and lead responsibly as they reinvent work and reshape the workforce. This, in turn, helps to earn the trust of workers as they are prepared for a future in which they—and the business—will be better off.

“We believe AI is more than just a tool; it’s a powerful catalyst for enhancing the guests and associate experience. At Marriott International, we’ve intentionally had a holistic, cross-disciplined approach. This isn’t a single department’s initiative; it’s a team effort championed by our Chief Revenue Officer, Chief Customer Officer, and myself—and fueled by the collective energy of everyone at the company.”
—Ty Breland, Chief Human Resources Officer, Marriott

A learning roadmap for leaders in a gen AI-enabled world

  • Digital fluency (including cloud, data, security)
  • Generative AI fundamentals (including LLMs, architectures, responsible AI principles)
  • Ask the right questions

Understand

  • Status of your digital core and readiness for gen AI
  • Modular approach to achieving value
  • How to scale
  • Industry and adjacent industry gen AI landscape
  • Partner landscape

Be able to

  • Create a multi-year plan
  • Prioritize investments
  • Leverage tech ecosystem
  • Understand competitive impact
  • Avoid missteps by implementing Responsible AI

Understand

  • Opportunities for business process reinvention
  • How to use gen AI tools in the flow of work

Be able to

  • Reshape and reallocate your workforce
  • Rewire your organization for true cross functional collaboration

Understand

  • How people learn
  • Skills at the core of the talent lifecycle
  • The company’s employee value proposition
  • The art and science of change management

Be able to

  • Oversee effective reskilling programs and embrace work learn fusion
  • Build talent strategy informed by gen AI impact
  • Develop effective change management competencies and tools
  • Evaluate change impacts to ensure employees are Net Better Off
  • Enterprise AI governance
  • Regulatory, ethical and societal implications
  • Risk mitigation

Accelerator 2: Reinvent work

Rethinking entire workflows provides a clear view of where gen AI can be most impactful, aligning it with business goals for better efficiency and innovation across the enterprise and truly collapsing silos in a lasting, meaningful way. From there, it’s possible to re-focus on how the work needs to change to better serve customers, support your people and achieve business outcomes. New talent models will also be needed to foster a culture where people are shaping their work and how it flows through the organization; as processes change, so does the work. Ensuring that skills and adaptability—of both humans and machines—keep pace with changes across the value chain is crucial.

Below: An illustrative example of a consumer goods workflow, reinvented using gen AI

How gen AI can optimize particular business activities
How gen AI can optimize particular business activities

“[It’s] almost an Ops review if you will, integrated across functions, taking a holistic look at the technology, the work, the experiments and what you want to accomplish together year one, year two, year three. So, when we scenario plan around the work and roles, we have a broader organization view, which enables us to help our people be ready for the next thing.”
—Francine Katsoudas, EVP and Chief People, Policy & Purpose Officer, Cisco

Accelerator 3: Reshape the workforce

Mastering gen AI is not a one-time event—learning must be dynamic. And as use of this technology grows, organizations should further leverage tools and technologies like skill mapping and ontology to facilitate smooth transitions from declining to emerging roles. As work and roles shift, capacity is increased, which frees up time and talent for transitions and/or new role creation that best aligns with strategic customer and business outcomes. This increased capacity is the unlock for the productivity and market share gains CxOs predict will stem from gen AI.

Below: An illustrative example of how work and roles can be reallocated in a gen AI future, freeing additional capacity

How gen AI can increase capacity
How gen AI can increase capacity

“Our employees on this journey with us are helping us shape this whole new way of work. We are very determined to partner with them on what this looks like because I think it has the potential to really improve their experience and quality of work.”
—Leanne Wood, Chief Human Resources Officer, Vodafone

Accelerator 4: Prepare workers

As organizations integrate gen AI more deeply, they’ll need comprehensive learning initiatives and a strong teach-to-learn culture that presents learning in a three-dimensional way: individual, organizational and the machine itself. After all, humans need to teach the machines (a new skill in and of itself), as both people and the machines need to get better at their jobs over time to maximize the benefits of gen AI. Approaching learning like this involves people at every step so that change is happening with them, not to them. And when individuals are actively listened to, organizations foster agency, transparency and trust. The result will be more engaged, productive people who trust the organization and feel Net Better Off.

“When it comes to gen AI learning and development, we are meeting people where they are and using terminology that is familiar to them. We want people to be interested and excited, and we also want to convey that gen AI learning can happen at their own pace. If they engage, then I know we have their buy-in and openness to learning.”
—Rose Marie E. Glazer, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Interim Chief Human Resources & Diversity Officer, American International Group

Prospects ahead: The best outcomes are ours to shape

Gen AI is changing everything at an unprecedented pace—ChatGPT took a few hours at most to capture the world’s attention and was quickly embraced by enterprises and everyday people alike. Countless new developments and use cases with the technology emerge every day. No recent technological innovation has transformed so much, including itself, so quickly.

That’s why time is of the essence. As we navigate the journey ahead, it's critical to build trust and transparency, ensuring the full potential of gen AI is felt across the economy, business and people. Ultimately, the best outcomes are within our power to shape.

By leading and learning in new ways, we have the power to lift organizations, people and society, while building the organizational resilience needed to navigate what’s next on the horizon.

WRITTEN BY

Ellyn Shook

Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer

Paul Daugherty

Chief Technology & Innovation Officer