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AI to influence workplace in next few years - read all about it.

Jim Carrey as Lloyd Christmas in Dumb & Dumber the 1994 Peter Farrelly movie.

The 2024 Work Trend Index by Microsoft and LinkedIn delves into the increasing importance of AI skills in the workplace, how AI impacts businesses and employees, and the role organizations play in encouraging AI adoption. It also offers a glimpse into the future of work in the AI era, where success will hinge on the ability to collaborate with and utilize AI.

Spoiler alert - the report concludes pretty much that if you don't get your arms around AI, you'll be yesterdays news, consigned to the scrap heap of utility faster than a baby-boomer. Maybe you'll be as surprised as Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) was the first time he realized that we'd been to the moon.

The 2024 Work Trend Index insists that AI skills are the new workplace gold. No surprise, what do you expect? But as skeptical as I can sometimes be, it's hard to argue with this conclusion. Anyhow - read on as we have reproduced a copy of the report summary:

The desire for AI skills is not just a passing fad; it's a reflection of the transformative impact AI is having on businesses across industries. From automating routine tasks to analyzing vast amounts of data, AI is enabling organizations to operate more efficiently, make better decisions, and innovate faster. As a result, the ability to understand, implement, and optimize AI solutions is becoming a critical competitive advantage.

However, the advantage with AI skills is not just about proficiency with tools; it's also about mindset. More than half (52%) of AI users at work are reluctant to admit they are using it for their most important tasks, and a similar proportion (53%) worry that using AI for important work makes them look replaceable. These fears are understandable when employees are not receiving AI guidance from their leaders; in fact, only 39% of people globally who use AI at work have gotten AI training from their company. If leaders want AI-skilled talent, they need to create a working environment that encourages experimentation and learning with enterprise safe AI tools. Managers and employees alike need to embrace a mindset where AI is seen as a collaborator, not a competitor.

For example, as a manager, I encourage my teams to incorporate AI into their work. I systematically ask them, "Did you use an AI tool to check your writing or help brainstorm new ideas?" If they haven't, I request they do so before we debrief. To facilitate this, I even cover their subscriptions to AI tools like ChatGPT or Copilot. I tell them that using AI is a sign of smartness, not of weakness.

I believe that managers should advocate for this approach. Employees should think of utilizing AI like any other everyday work technology such as Excel for calculations. You never hear someone say that Excel performed the calculations; they will always say that they have done it. In the same way, when we use AI to improve a report, it is not AI that did the report, it is us, with the support of AI. AI usage should become a standard practice, as natural as using other technical tools that have become common in the workplace.

AI is a tool that augments and enhances their capabilities, not one that replaces them. This means recognizing that the value of human skills - creativity, critical thinking, emotional intelligence - is not diminished, but elevated in an AI-driven workplace. Those who are embracing AI first are seeing that edge. AI power users are familiar to extremely familiar with AI, using it at work at least several times a week and saving more than 30 minutes a day. Power users say AI makes their overwhelming workload more manageable (92%), boosts their creativity (92%), and helps them focus on the most important work (93%)—and it helps them feel more motivated (91%) and enjoy work more (91%).

Organizations have a critical role to play in fostering this mindset shift. By providing training and support for AI adoption, creating a culture of experimentation and learning, and recognizing and rewarding the unique contributions of human skills, they can help employees navigate this transition with confidence. At the same time, individuals have a responsibility to proactively develop their AI skills and to approach AI as an opportunity for growth and development.

The message is clear: in the AI era, your success will be determined not just by your traditional skills and experience, but by your ability to work with and leverage AI. In the near future, you will not be replaced by AI, but by a person using AI better than you. The rise of AI in the workplace represents a paradigm shift that requires a collective readjustment - in our skills, our mindsets, and our understanding of what it means to succeed and find fulfillment at work. By approaching this shift with openness, adaptability, and a commitment to lifelong learning, we can harness the power of AI to create a workplace that is not just more productive, but more human. The future of work is here, and it's an exciting one for those ready to embrace it.

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