Microsoft: ‘Employees are more open to AI than you think’

There are only so many minutes in a day–1,440 to be exact–and for many employees around the world, they just aren’t enough. The speed and volume of work has increased dramatically, resulting in an influx of data, constant communication, and information overload. The pace of change is faster, but even now, people cannot run to work. In fact, they can barely keep up. And it’s starting to take a toll.

According to our latest Job Trend Index, two-thirds of employees report that they do not have enough time or energy to do their jobs. Those same employees are 3.5 times more likely to struggle with innovation and strategic thinking.

The prevailing narrative around artificial intelligence is that people are afraid of having their jobs taken away. And there is some truth to that–49% of the people we surveyed have that fear. But that’s only part of the story. Due to today’s heavy workload, more employees (70%) say they are willing to accept AI as a way to offload as much of their work as possible. They know what is in store for them, and the promise of comfort outweighs the threat.

The need is now worse than ever. But what makes this moment unique is the technology itself. AI now puts people at the center and provides an experience that almost feels like magic.

AI has been part of our lives for years, powering everything from search engines to autocorrect suggestions. Until now, it has mostly been running in the background, on autopilot. But the future will put it together with the user, as a copilot.

With AI as a copilot, humans are always in control, making decisions about when and how to use AI-generated content. And that control is key to dispelling fears and accepting AI at work. Employees know that there are many aspects of work that AI cannot do: It cannot give a presentation, navigate internal processes, or create a relationship with the customer. But what it can do is play a supporting role: creating the first draft, analyzing the data, and summarizing the feedback.

That kind of head start is exactly what employees need today. Although most people told us they want to use AI for administrative tasks (76%), they also see value in bringing AI support to analytical (79%), and even creative work. (73%). From automating repetitive tasks to helping employees avoid the dreaded blank slate, AI is giving the gift of time: freeing people to focus on the highest-value work , the job only they can do. Where AI really shines is in augmenting human ingenuity, rather than replacing it.

Fortunately, this is an area where employees and managers completely agree. Our data shows that managers are looking to empower their people with AI. In fact, they are twice as interested in using AI to increase productivity than in cutting headcount.

Retaining employees is the first part of the equation. To truly transform work, we also need tools to harness the power of AI in a business setting.

Up to this point, the AI ​​is almost toy-like in its abilities. We’ve relegated assistive AI devices to serve as our kitchen timers and play our favorite podcasts. It’s not for lack of trying. But these technologies lack the capacity to deliver a higher value proposition. Until now.

A few weeks ago, we introduced the world to Microsoft 365 Copilot–a new experience that combines the power of big language models, like ChatGPT, with your business data to bring AI to work in a safe, secure, and relevant way.

I’ve had the pleasure of having the opportunity to use Copilot for the past few weeks. Although skeptical at first, I quickly realized the great potential of this technology. From drafting emails to analyzing and summarizing key takeaways from a live meeting, it allows me to focus on the areas of my work that really move the needle. It’s not perfect, but even when Copilot makes mistakes, it is BENEFICIAL wrong–always better than starting at square one. It also requires a new way of working, but that’s a trade I’m willing to make if it means I never have to wade through long email threads again.

Today is not the end of our AI journey. In fact, this is just the beginning. And we’re committed to working with our customers, listening to their feedback, learning as we go and adjusting Copilot along the way. We feel a deep sense of responsibility to get this right.

Just as the introduction of the printing press did not put writers out of business, the promise of AI is not about eliminating jobs or reducing the number of people. It’s about unleashing human capacity, enabling employees to direct their energy to the work that matters most, the work that’s most motivating and rewarding. That’s what our employees are hungry for, and it’s a future of work we can all look forward to.

Jared Spataro is the CVP for modern work and business applications at Microsoft.

The opinions expressed in commentary pieces are solely the views of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of luck.

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