‘Workplace AI revolution not happening quite yet’: survey

1 in 3 employers say it's 'very difficult' to find employees with the required skills

‘Workplace AI revolution not happening quite yet’: survey

Only 36% of employers in the UK have invested in AI-enabled technologies in the past five years, making it unlikely for an AI workplace revolution to take place in the country anytime soon, according to a new report.

The report from the Digital Futures at Work Research Centre found that the most popular types of new digital technologies adopted by so-called "digital adopters" include cloud computing (79%) and the internet of things (59%).

"Digital technologies were mostly applied in the organisation of production or service delivery, and quality control and monitoring," the report said. "Non-adopters typically identified their area of business activity, wider business risks and the nature of skills demanded as the key reasons for non-investment."

For those who haven't invested on AI-enabled tech, Employers’ Digital Practices at Work Survey: First Findings, which surveyed 2001 employers, found that only 10% plan to do so in the next two years.

Digital skills problem around AI

There is also a gap in investment involving digital skills training, according to the report.

"The most common response for nearly six-tenths of employers (58%) was that none of their employees had received formal digital skills training in the past 12 months," the report said.

Less than 10% of employers are also expecting the need to invest in digital skills training in the coming years, despite 75% finding it difficult to recruit people with the right skills.

"A third (34%) of employers claimed they found it very difficult to find employees with the required skills as opposed to only seven per cent who found it very difficult to retain employees," the report said.

The competition for AI-skilled staff appears to be getting heated elsewhere, with 91% of employers saying in a recent survey that they're looking for employees with experience on AI chatbot ChatGPT.

‘Wakeup call’ for policymakers, business leaders

These problems indicate that an AI workplace revolution is unlikely to be underway in the UK, according to experts.

While many parts of the world are worried that AI could make millions of roles redundant, the UK is looking at a different problem.

"Our findings suggest there is a need to focus on a different policy challenge," said lead researcher Professor Mark Stuart, Pro Dean for Research and Innovation at Leeds University Business School, as quoted by the university.

"Policymakers will need to address both low employer investment in digital technologies and low investment in digital skills, if the UK economy is to realise the potential benefits of digital transformation."

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development (CIPD), added that the report should be a "wakeup call" for policymakers, business leaders, and stakeholders.

Cheese said the UK's under-investment in skills could risk the capability of organisations to respond to changes and raises the concern of people being left behind.

"Now is the time to act. To engage across organisations, to experiment and innovate, and to think strategically and responsibly about the opportunities, and threats, from this digital revolution.”

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