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September 18, 2023

GenAI and the Future of Work: ‘Magic and Mayhem’

(Marko Aliaksandr/Shutterstock)

The “hyperadoption” of generative AI will eliminate 2.4 million jobs by the end of the decade but will reshape more than 11 million, according to a new report from Forrester, which predicts “magic and mayhem” due to the technology.

Forrester’s August 30 report on the job impact of GenAI paints a paradoxical picture of the technology, which has surged into the mainstream following the release of ChatGPT 10 months ago.

On the one hand, GenAI has seen hyperadoption because of the seemingly magical results it can create, Forrester analysts write. But the flipside of this magic is the mayhem that GenAI will reap on the job market, it says.

“Will your workplace find itself disrupted the way schools and universities have been in the past six months?” the Forrester analysts write.

The report cites a survey from February that reported that one in four companies has already replaced a worker with ChatGPT. Then there is Goldman Sachs, which predicts that GenAI could lift the world’s economic output by 7% (around $7 trillion) while simultaneously “expos[ing] the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation.”

“Exaggerated forecasts, heart-wrenching anecdotes, general panic — it can be hard to see the scope of the fire amid all this smoke,” the Forrester analysts write. “Only through analysis grounded in the most robust data can we understand the impact generative AI will have on jobs.”

GenAI will impact 4.5 times as many jobs than it will outright replace, Forrester says

According to Forrester, automation and AI combined will replace 4.9% of jobs by 2030, with 30% of those lost jobs, or about 2.4 million, due specifically to GenAI. However, while GenAI automates away some jobs, it will also change how 11 million jobs are done, a 4.5x difference, the analysts point out.

“Jobs that are easier to automate that also have high generative AI influence, such as technical writers, social science research assistants, proofreaders, and copywriters, are more likely to be lost,” the analysts write. “Harder-to-automate jobs with high generative AI influence, such as editors, writers, authors and poets, lyricists, and creative writers, are more likely to influence how jobs are conducted (via augmentation) rather than replace them.”

Office and administrative jobs will be hit the hardest, they write, with mid-level jobs paying mid-level wages suffering the most, Forrester writes. Higher-level jobs paying better will be more resistant to GenAI. Managerial positions largely will be spared from GenAI, they write, “as their jobs depend on AI-proof skills like human judgment, empathy, and leadership.”

So, what can business leaders do to prepare for the magic and the mayhem of GenAI? The Forrester analysts have a few recommendations. One of those includes investing in “RQ,” or the robotics quotient, which measures the ability of individuals to adapt to AI and automation. Making augmentation a center part of your strategy is another recommendation.

Forrester analysts also recommend business leaders take a proactive approach to GenAI by analyzing which jobs will benefit the most from it, and then equipping your workers with appropriate tools. And of course, there’s the need to invest in GenAI development skills, since you’ll want folks on staff who are able to work with these new technologies.

Nobody knows for sure how the GenAI ballgame will end, or even what the third inning will look like. But there’s one thing for certain: it’s going to be competitive and exciting, and the unexpected is almost guaranteed to happen.

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