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AI FOMO - a reality check on AI adoption from Freshworks global study

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan July 8, 2024
Forty percent of workers use AI in their day-to-day roles...or do they?


So here’s a thing - four in ten employees believe they use AI at work, but they aren’t actually sure about that or to what extent! Not that this is preventing a lot of them from claiming to be AI experts. In fact, three quarters of IT people think that, as well as nearly two-thirds (65%) of marketing professionals and just over half (52%) of finance and accounting.

That’s among the conclusions of the 2024 Global AI Workplace Report from Freshworks. Based on data from 7,000 respondents around the globe, pulled from multiple business functions, a number of the findings make for some interesting reading.

For example, given the ongoing AI hype cycle, more than a third of respondents (37%) suggest that their organizations are suffering from AI FOMO - fear of missing out - which may not be considered the most pragmatic reason for adoption of any new technology. But that said, some 46% of those surveyed are certainly bought into the AI story, agreeing that any organization that is not using AI is already behind its competitors and likely to fail in the future.

It’s the same basic story when it comes to perceptions of AI’s impact on career progression among respondents. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of those polled believe that employees who use AI have a head-start over those who don’t use the tech in their day-to-day work life. There are inevitable generational differences at play here. That’s the view of 68% of Millennials. 60% of Gen Z workers, 58% of Gen X and 47% of Boomers.

There are also regional variations. Some 70% of employees in India and the United Arab Emirates reckon that “nearly every new position within their department” is looking for some level of AI experience. In contrast, less than a third of US and UK workers - 33% and 32% respectively - are of the same mind.

Across job functions, 85% of IT professionals say they use AI at least once a week, followed by 80% of marketing people. HR follows on 69%, 67% of accountants and finance officers and 66% of sales. Despite the emphasis that’s been placed on customer service as a major use case for new AI tech, only 57% of workers in this role are currently using AI weekly.

Gen AI 

That’s AI overall. Narrowed down to the current wave of generative AI, only 41% of marketing people use Chat GPT, followed by 39% of IT professionals, 34% of sales and 31% of HR respondents. Again, customer service comes out lower than might be expected given the hype and noise in the market, with less than a quarter (23%) of respondents in this space currently using Chat GPT. 

As to how organizations can measure the impact of AI in the workplace, the five main performance metrics are:

  • Productivity increases (52%).

  • Better quality of work (47%).

  • Improved customer engagement (34%).

  • Revenue increases (33%).

  • Employee satisfaction improvement (32%).

According to the Freshworks report:

Surveyed employees…estimate that AI is already cutting their workloads by three hours and 47 minutes in a typical workweek by summarizing reports, suggesting next steps, handling repetitive tasks, and other efficiencies. By freeing up nearly 24 business days—or just over one month of work per year—employees can take on higher-value work that delivers greater engagement. Organizations are similarly developing AI performance metrics: Nearly all (95%) senior leaders (managers and above) say their departments are measuring the business impact AI brings to their organization, namely looking at productivity improvements (52%), quality of work (47%), and customer engagement (34%).

That said, over a third (37%) of respondents admit that that don’t actually have good metrics for how to measure that claimed productivity impact. The study notes:

Even in cases where productivity is quantifiable, nearly half (48%) of senior leaders say they aren’t yet considering productivity as a metric for AI’s business impact. Those leaders nonetheless believe that the best is yet to come, with 80% saying AI software will provide enough business impact to prove its worth within two years.

My take

An interesting set of numbers that paints what sounds like a pretty realistic AI worldview. As we keep saying,  there’s an urgent need for real world practical exemplars of AI - and particularly gen AI - in action.

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