Indeed’s Chief Economist Svenja Gudell and Vice President of Data Science Donal McMahon say GenAI will actually enhance knowledge workers’ productivity, not take their jobs. Here’s how to calm job security fears and set employees up for success in the age of GenAI.

Key takeaways 

  • Research shows employers are more willing to use GenAI than their employees, who continue to express trepidation about how it may impact their roles.
  • Gudell and McMahon compare today’s GenAI evolution to the effect of automation on labour workers and discuss how new technology will likely help, not hurt, knowledge workers.
  • Leaders should embrace GenAI experimentation and guide their employees on how to use it to add value to their roles, among other strategies to assuage workers’ AI anxiety.

The rapid advancement in generative AI has been “the largest technological shift” to impact knowledge workers in recent memory, exposing many to job insecurity for the first time, says Indeed Chief Economist Svenja Gudell. After more than a year of GenAI filtering into the workplace, do knowledge workers still have cause for concern?

Recent reports from Indeed’s economic research arm, Hiring Lab, indicate that while GenAI will fundamentally change how we work, it isn’t capable of completely taking over people’s jobs. Yet a study from human resources (HR) software company Workday found an “AI trust gap” between employers and employees, with 62% of leaders ready to embrace AI compared to a less enthusiastic 52% of workers. Similarly, one in four employees are not confident their companies will put worker interests above their own when implementing AI.

So how can employers alleviate persisting AI anxiety?

In an interview with Indeed Leadership Hub, Gudell and Indeed Vice President of Data Science Donal McMahon future-cast GenAI’s impact on the workforce based on lessons from the evolution of traditional AI over the past decade. Here’s how to use this knowledge to help your employees not only succeed, but thrive.

In what way should we think differently about GenAI than other forms of AI?

Svenja Gudell: We've interacted with AI for decades. For example, the movie and music recommendations offered on popular streaming apps are powered by AI algorithms. But generative AI, as its name suggests, is a subset of AI that generates content. What’s new is that its ability to generate text, pictures, and sounds is fairly lifelike.

Donal McMahon: That’s the fundamental shift with GenAI — it is a conversation where the AI is learning more and more to deliver better results over time. It’s showing a greater understanding of us than what would be achieved through traditional AI.

Has GenAI impacted the labour market in different ways than AI has previously?

Gudell: If you look at the rise of automation, you'd likely see labour-based jobs being most impacted. Automation or AI didn’t impact knowledge workers all that heavily.

Now that has been turned upside down; the jobs least likely to be impacted by automation are the ones most likely to be impacted by GenAI. If you work in marketing, HR, or software development, you’ll potentially be significantly impacted. Whereas if you work as a driver, caretaker, or any role that requires in-person participation, you're less likely to be impacted.

McMahon: The pool of knowledge workers is growing due to the wider accessibility of AI tools. That can be scary for knowledge workers competing for jobs, but generative AI is also creating new jobs in areas like software development and engineering. The technology can open opportunities to people who, before now, didn’t have access to the education and high-powered tools it puts at our fingertips.

Will GenAI make many jobs obsolete that were considered “safe bets” in the past?

McMahon: I don’t think any job has ever really been a “safe bet.” Consider the industrial revolution or the advent of the Internet — industries and their jobs have always changed over time, but the rate of change is greater now than ever before. GenAI is a tool to help us accomplish more, individually and as a society, but there’s still a need for human creativity and the ability to understand each other, build trust, and make better judgments. It is an evolution rather than an elimination.

Gudell: When we think of the doom-and-gloom scenario of AI making jobs obsolete, it’s because we’re recalling manual labour jobs impacted by automation. In the past, if your profession involved repeatable, manual processes, you were likely to lose your job to machine automation, and there was very little you could do about it. I think there are differences with the advent of GenAI as it’s more likely to impact specific skills within a job, rather than replace the job entirely. 

We explored this concept in Hiring Lab’s research on GenAI at work. Using Indeed’s database of 55 million jobs in the US and skills taxonomy of 2,600-plus skills, we determined a job’s level of exposure based on GenAI’s competency in the main skills it requires. 

We found GenAI is more likely to remain only decent (at best) at performing most tasks and currently does more skills poorly than it does well. As a result, it’s likely to augment many jobs to varying degrees, but it isn’t capable of fully performing the overwhelming majority of roles out there. In fact, we found GenAI was able to perform the majority of tasks in only 20% of jobs. 

Rather than feeling powerless to new technology entering your workplace, you can use it to learn new skills and become more productive and desirable as a worker. It can impact you but hopefully also help you along the way. And employers should support their teams in learning how to do that.

Looking into your “crystal ball,” can you describe what the labour market and hiring might look like in five or 10 years once GenAI has become more commonplace?

McMahon: Looking at the patterns already emerging within Indeed’s data, I believe we will hire faster with GenAI. When Indeed matches candidates to jobs, it can improve its understanding of the job seeker and employer to create better job matches more quickly than ever.

Better job matching will go beyond the resume, which doesn’t reflect a candidate’s full skills, experiences, and value they can bring to a role. Similarly, a job description doesn't capture everything a worker needs to be successful in that job. As AI evolves to better match jobs based on ability and support skills-first hiring, resumes could become obsolete.

Gudell: GenAI may force us to adjust how we work more than AI or automation has in the past, creating a more dynamic workforce. We need to learn how to effectively incorporate these tools into our everyday jobs — and GenAI can even help figure out how.

But I think we may be too optimistic about how soon we’ll start seeing its impact. This technology is still in its infancy; I expect large leaps in what GenAI and AI can do over the next 30 years.

Is there anything employers and HR professionals should do today to prepare for the anticipated growth of GenAI technologies?

Gudell: I don't think GenAI will completely take jobs away, but people who know how to use it will take jobs from people who don't. So it's really important for employers to provide AI upskilling.

As it’s still so new, I encourage everyone to embrace experimentation, both individually and at scale. It doesn’t have to be formal, but it does require guardrails. GenAI in its current form is pretty expensive, so don’t feel pressure to use the latest tool. Figure out what works within your existing workflow.

McMahon: Leaders should lead by example; stay educated on GenAI development and convey a positive outlook on how it will impact their employees so they can follow suit.

For any company or business, identifying and retaining transformational employees is key to success. Managers should have conversations with their workers about how to use this technology in a way that adds distinct value to their role. That open discussion can build trust and mutual understanding about AI implementation within your organization.

Most importantly, when incorporating AI, never lose sight of the unique human value you and your employees bring, especially to the HR space.

Gudell: At the end of the day, GenAI is very human-centric in a sense. It can’t just work by itself because it needs someone to prompt it — it needs a human touch.