Microsoft Work Trends Report Concludes: 'Every Employee Needs AI Aptitude'

Microsoft's Work Trend Index says: AI is on the brink of introducing a approach to work.

"Can AI Revolutionize the Work Landscape?"

That is the central question posed by the Microsoft's 2023 Work Trend Index: Annual Report, which emphasizes that, "The rapid evolution of work is surpassing our capacity to keep pace. AI is on the brink of introducing an entirely novel approach to work."

One can also substitute "work" with "AI" in the initial sentence, given that the introduction of ChatGPT and the ascent of large language models (LLMs) in advanced machine learning have triggered a profound transformation, with individuals striving to stay abreast of one groundbreaking AI advancement after another.

In accordance with Microsoft's work trends report dominated by AI, adapting to the new work environment necessitates acquiring proficiency in AI-related skills, as Microsoft puts it: ""Every employee needs AI aptitude."

The report goes on to state, "The shift to AI as a co-pilot necessitates a wholly fresh work methodology and a newfound AI proficiency. Collaborating with AI, employing natural language, will become as integral to our work as the internet and personal computers."

According to the survey-based report, 82 percent of leaders anticipate that their employees will require fresh skills to adapt to the proliferation of AI. The report identifies analytical judgment, adaptability, and emotional intelligence as the most critical skills necessary to collaborate with AI. The following is a breakdown of responses from survey participants who were asked the question, "Some believe that artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to usher in a new era of technological advancements. Which of the following skills do you believe will be most essential for your employees to acquire in order to evolve with these potential changes?"

"Skills like critical thinking and analytical judgment, complex problem solving, and creativity and originality are new core competencies -- and not just for technical roles or AI experts," the report said. "Leaders we surveyed said it's essential that employees learn when to leverage AI, how to write great prompts, how to evaluate creative work, and how to check for bias. As AI reshapes work, human-AI collaboration will be the next transformational work pattern -- and the ability to work iteratively with AI will be a key skill for every employee."

Here's how Microsoft defines those top skills:

  • Analytical judgement: Determine when to leverage an AI capability instead of a human capability.
  • Flexibility: Rapidly adjust to AI's integration in the workflow.
  • Emotional intelligence: Determine when to leverage a human capability instead of an AI capability.
  • Creative evaluation: Evaluate content produced by AI.
  • Intellectual curiosity: Ask AI the right questions.
  • Bias detection and handling: Evaluate AI fairness in decision-making.
  • AI delegation (prompts): Direct AI with the right prompts.
  • The reference to writing great prompts is especially telling about the rapid pace of AI advancements. A year ago, the discipline of "prompt engineering" was barely a thing. Now, it's commanding salaries up to $335,000 per year and daily searches have reached three figures.

Other highlights of the report include:

Digital debt is costing us innovation: "We're all carrying digital debt: the inflow of data, emails, meetings, and notifications has outpaced humans' ability to process it all. And the pace of work is only intensifying. Everything feels important, so we spend our workdays trying to get out of the red. Nearly 2 in 3 people (64 percent) say they struggle with having the time and energy to do their job -- and those people are 3.5x more likely to also struggle with innovation and strategic thinking. And nearly 2 in 3 leaders (60 percent) are already feeling the effects, saying that a lack of innovation or breakthrough ideas on their teams is a concern."

There's a new AI-employee alliance: "Amid concerns of AI replacing jobs, the data revealed an unexpected insight: employees are more eager for AI to lift the weight of work than they are afraid of job loss to AI. While 49 percent of people say they're worried AI will replace their jobs, even more -- 70 percent -- would delegate as much work as possible to AI to lessen their workloads."

"AI is poised to lift the weight of work -- and has great potential to free people from digital debt and fuel innovation," said the report in conclusion. "And for both overwhelmed employees and leaders looking to bolster productivity, that promise is overdue. But AI won't simply 'fix' work -- it will create a whole new way of working. Leaders will need to help employees learn to work responsibly alongside AI to reap the rewards of the AI-employee alliance: more value creation for businesses and a brighter, more fulfilling future of work for everyone."

The report is based on a survey conducted by an independent research firm that polled 31,000 full-time employed or self-employed workers across 31 markets between Feb. 1, 2023, and March 14, 2023. Full methodology is listed at the bottom of the report.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.