Professional transformation in the age of AI: risks, opportunities and ways forward

Our way of working is constantly being transformed by megatrends. However, AI differs from other technologies in that it encompasses, in principle, all occupational fields. So how can the negative and positive predictions about the impact of AI on the labor market be examined? And how can we adapt to the far-reaching application of AI? ...

Similar to the invention of the computer and the internet, artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming our working lives. However, AI differs from other world-changing technologies in its scope, which basically covers more or less all professional fields, its enormous speed of development and the wide variety of tasks it can take on (OECD, 2023).
The impact of AI is controversial – while 63% of participants in the OECD survey (2023) feel more satisfied in their work thanks to the use of AI, 60% are worried that they could lose their jobs due to AI. In this blog post, we want to shed light on both the negative and positive predictions about the impact of AI on the labor market and talk about how to deal with them.
Berufliche Transformation in Zeiten der KI
Until now, low-skilled jobs have been particularly easy to replace with AI. This is because AI can perform standardized and repetitive tasks much faster and more efficiently than humans. However, recent studies in the field of AI also show that the technology is making progress in performing more complex cognitive tasks, such as problem solving, logical thinking, data processing and other activities that normally require academic training. It is remarkable how quickly artificial intelligence is advancing. Whereas six years ago it was capable of playing simple computer games, today AI can defeat humans in complex strategy games such as Diplomacy. In the medium term, even highly skilled workers will be exposed to AI-related risks. (OECD, 2023).
The elimination of various job profiles is seen as the greatest risk of the widespread use of AI. However, this will not happen overnight. Instead, a gradual change in tasks, roles and qualifications can be assumed. This could result in a more demanding working environment in which more performance is expected from employees, which could subsequently affect well-being and job satisfaction (Broecke, 2023).
However, despite the progress made, there are still tasks that AI cannot handle successfully. These include, for example, management tasks or social interactions. Furthermore, there is no evidence to date that the use of AI actually has a negative impact on the labor market. The results of several studies have found no statistically significant decline in the number of employees as a result of AI. However, it should be noted that there is not yet much data to draw on, as the use of AI in companies is still relatively low (OECD, 2023). The reasons for this tend to be high implementation costs and a lack of required AI skills. According to a survey by McKinsey (2023), only 21% of the companies surveyed have so far developed guidelines for the internal use of AI and are therefore ready for further use. It therefore still takes time to be able to research possible negative effects of AI more intensively (Broecke, 2023).
Berufliche Transformation in Zeiten der KI
As already mentioned, one of the biggest barriers to the introduction of the technology is the lack of AI skills. In the OECD survey (2023), every other company surveyed confirmed this. Although AI can replace several human skills, new skills are required to maintain and use the technology. This requires basic knowledge of digital and data science as well as specific AI skills. As the topic of AI is not yet widely integrated into the education system, vocational training plays a major role in this area. Companies could provide a great deal of support here and ensure on-the-job training for employees (OECD, 2023).
At WARGITSCH Transformation Engineers, the use of AI is actively promoted and training on the topic of AI was provided for all employees to increase its effectiveness. The trainers presented a selection of AI applications that can be used in day-to-day consulting and raised awareness of the legal and ethical risks. The transformation engineers then had the opportunity to deepen their new knowledge through practical exercises. Ideally, additional training in AI should also be supported by formal measures to equip people with the necessary skills for the future (OECD, 2023). As emphasized in the study by McKinsey (2023), many jobs will most likely not be abolished, but reshaped by AI. Continuing education and training will play an important role in preventing job losses.
Apart from risks, AI also brings many positive aspects. According to the OEDC survey (2023), AI can take over tedious and dangerous tasks, creating a safer working environment. Thanks to AI taking over repetitive tasks, employees feel much more productive and can use the time gained for more creative and complex tasks (Broecke, 2023). AI is also creating new tasks and jobs that can already be seen on the labor market, for example in the fields of statistics and software engineering (Green, 2023).
Berufliche Transformation in Zeiten der KI
In summary, the impact of AI on the labor market can be grouped into three main effects (Green 2023):
  • Displacement Effect: AI will take over some tasks from humans
  • Productivity Effect: AI will increase the demand for labor due to increased productivity
  • Reinstatement Effect: AI will change tasks and create new tasks and jobs
Training and continuous professional development are decisive factors in preventing the negative effects and exploiting and benefiting from the positive potential of AI.

Sources:

  • Broecke, Stijn (2023): “Artificial intelligence and the labour market: Introduction.” In: OECD Employment Outlook 2023.
  • Green, Andrew (2023): “Artificial intelligence and jobs: No signs of slowing labour demand (yet).” In: OECD Employment Outlook 2023.
  • McKinsey (2023): “The state of AI in 2023: Generative AI’s breakout year.”
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