May 14, 2024

Ignoring AI tools? Your employees are being left behind.

Leaders, it's time to get in the game!

When you think of a benefits package for employees, typical things come to mind—401(k) plans, health insurance, parental leave, and equity.

But there are less flashy, but equally important, workplace benefits. Chief among them is on-the-job training in current technology, which in 2024 likely means Generative AI.

According to the 2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report from Microsoft and LinkedIn, ignoring these upskilling opportunities could lead to a serious brain drain.

If you’re someone who thinks that GenAI is a passing novelty, or primarily a way for college students to turn in lazy research papers—you’re going to want to keep reading.

AI is vital! But...figure it out yourself

There’s a wealth of info to glean from this report, which surveyed 31,000 workers across 31 countries.

But one big misalignment jumped out:

  • While more and more workers of all generations are depending on GenAI tools to perform their jobs, on-the-job training lags far behind: “Only 39% of people globally who use AI at work have gotten AI training from their company, ” and “45% of US executives are not currently investing in AI tools or products for employees.”
  • Despite this lack of on-the-job AI training, the people running companies are adamant about how important AI skills are in 2024. (Hmmmm.) “66% of leaders say they wouldn’t hire someone without AI skills” and “71% say they’d rather hire a less experienced candidate with AI skills than a more experienced candidate without them.”

This leads to a scenario which the Microsoft/LinkedIn report humorously defines as BYOAI: employees feeling compelled to use AI tools, sometimes secretly, and without proper upskilling and training.

GenAI isn’t solely about efficiency and business impact

The report makes it clear that while interest in GenAI solutions is there, leadership can be overly cautious if they’re not sure how to track success in objective terms. (59% of leaders, for instance, “worry about quantifying the productivity gains of AI.”)

That said, the importance of GenAI tools and training in the workplace becomes clearer if we think beyond narrowly defined productivity gains and consider employee satisfaction.

Consider this nugget from the report:

“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. And it’s paying off: 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%).”

We probably don’t need endless survey data to tell us that motivated, happy workers tend to stick around.

And remember, even though many people continue to think of “GenAI” solely as ChatGPT and other LLMs: The scope and range of these tools is truly breathtaking, and very diverse.

Within the Stagwell Marketing Cloud family, for instance, GenAI is helping to streamline focus group reporting, eliminate the need for A/B testing and creative asset waste, and pair your PR pitch with the journalists who are most likely to cover it—among many other use cases.

What can you do to keep pace?

The Microsoft/LinkedIn report, which is obviously a tad biased in this regard, suggests online training resources like LinkedIn Learning and the Copilot Scenario Library.

Of course, there’s a wide range of free online resources out there that offer intuitive training for all sorts of GenAI business tools.

Create an in-house resource list, and keep it updated. Encourage employees to take advantage of these training modules, and to do so on the clock—it should be a part of their work day, not something they feel compelled to pursue independently in the evenings or weekends.

Also keep in mind that common GenAI tools, like ChatGPT or MidJourney, have both free and premium versions. If you’re serious about your workforce adopting these tools, you should be serious about budgeting in modest subscription costs.

And invest in impactful GenAI solutions across the board, even if you haven’t fully ironed out how to track the ROI of this new tech.

A recent Gartner CMO survey underscores how marketing budgets continue to shrink, with paid advertising taking a larger slice of that small pie (while investment in martech solutions dwindles).

That kind of thinking is shortsighted, and also not in line with how marketing professionals envision the long-term potentials of GenAI.

“CMOs are living in an ‘era of less’,” said Ewan McIntyre, VP Analyst and the Chief of Research for the Gartner Marketing Practice. “In the four years preceding the pandemic, average marketing budgets were 11% of overall revenue. In the four years since, they’ve dropped to an anemic 8.2%.”

“Despite financial challenges, the majority of CMOs believe AI may save the day,” said McIntyre. “Sixty-four percent of CMOs say they lack the budget to execute their 2024 strategy, but GenAI offers the opportunity to grow the marketing function’s impact far beyond its budgetary constraints.”

In short: If you’re proselytizing about “AI being the future” while failing to invest in GenAI training or tools, you’re doing everyone a disservice.

Elspeth Rollert

Elspeth Rollert is the CEO of Stagwell Marketing Cloud.

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