Making AI work for Britain
techUK has spotlighted nine actions for the UK government to support people and businesses to take advantage of AI in the workplace.
The future of work will be AI-enabled. In the workplace, working with or alongside technology like AI will feel as normal as using email; in some organisations it already is. Businesses and workers will need to adapt to an increasingly AI-powered economy and almost half of workers will need to retrain in the next decade.
Whilst discussions around the impact of AI on work often focus on machines replacing humans, the reality is that humans will increasingly work alongside machines and AI in the future workplace. New developments in generative AI and its integration into software tools is enabling people to interact with and use advanced AI in an intuitive, user-friendly way. The combined power of humans and AI will drive productivity and free up time for workers to exercise their human skills, creativity, and expertise to deliver more value as technology increasingly helps people do their work.
As the technology proliferates, AI will displace some jobs, augment others, and create new ones. However, the long-term impact of AI on jobs is hard to forecast, and it is not yet clear which job roles or tasks will be displaced. This report does not make explicit predictions about the impact on specific job roles.
What is clear is that as AI and rapid developments in technology transform work, they will change the types of jobs comprising the labour market with it, meaning the skills need of the future is uncertain and evolving. Many of the jobs of the future are yet to be invented.
To adapt to changing demands, supporting workers to access lifelong learning opportunities will be imperative. These opportunities will need to embrace flexible training and short modular courses that are best placed to aid worker transitions and encourage continuous learning in a changing market, drawing upon existing industry training and courses.
The time is now to make AI work for Britain.
The UK is a world leader in AI and is ranked highly in ‘AI readiness’. The potential benefits in terms of productivity growth are huge. But we must ensure that all parts of society and all parts of the country are able to prosper in this new AI-enabled world.
In this report, techUK highlights cases of how AI can and is supporting people at work, boosting the quality of products and services, and improving business processes across the economy. Despite a mixed adoption picture, there is a clear indication of how AI can transform work in every business, enabling and reducing the frictions of flexible work, and driving innovation in fields and functions as diverse as human resources, customer service, marketing and sales, finance, healthcare, and sustainability.
The UK desperately needs this productivity growth. As the UK population ages and the working age population declines, increasing the productivity of the working age population will be a critical challenge.
Government needs to strengthen its actions to support digital adoption by firms.
Many businesses still need help and encouragement to make their organisations fit for the digital age. The use of AI is more prevalent in some sectors and regions than others. Larger businesses are more likely to be using the technology than smaller ones, some of which do not even use basic digital tools, which are an essential stepping stone to the adoption and productive use of AI.
Indeed, the case studies in this report illustrate how the integration of generative AI into everyday digital tools is set to accelerate the use of the technology across all parts of the digital economy.
To encourage AI adoption, government must put the right incentives in place to encourage digital transformation, such as providing investment support for digital adoption and maintaining a pro-innovation regulatory environment.
Fostering public trust in AI and getting the regulatory environment right will be crucial to support adoption and innovation.
Research by the Alan Turing Institute found that the UK public has broadly positive views of most AI use cases, but many are concerned about relying too heavily on technology over professional judgements, and 47% are concerned about the difficulty in knowing who is responsible for mistakes when using this technology.
Delivering on the benefits of AI means ensuring that its design, development, and deployment is responsible and ultimately productive. Both businesses and governments have a duty to ensure that AI systems do not perpetuate bias, nor mitigate people’s freedoms and protections at work.
In the immediate term, businesses and workers need clarity on how existing law applies to workplace AI, including how existing legislation provides protections for workers, to ensure these protections are realised in practice and there is sufficient certainty to encourage responsible AI adoption across the economy.
While in the longer term responding to developments in AI at work will require a collaborative approach that brings together all stakeholders, including industry, government, trade unions, civil society, and regulators, to maintain a regulatory environment that encourages workplace innovation whilst protecting workers’ rights.
Good management practices can help harness the innovative potential of AI in workplaces across the economy.
Transforming workplaces and work processes in different roles, functions, and sectors through the use of AI will be variable process. AI innovations to support people in their jobs and improve work will look different across different types of businesses. But it will be those businesses with good management practices in place that will be best positioned to deploy the technology in a way that benefits both them and their workers.
Not only is there a strong relationship between good management practices and productivity, but there is also research that shows that businesses get value when workers do. Moreover, evidence suggests that businesses who leverage the knowledge of workers on the ground and empower their voices are more likely to develop more effective and innovative solutions to common problems and barriers to productivity.
A renewed focus on skills is needed to drive AI uptake and minimise disruption.
As AI transforms the economy at pace, a lack of relevant skills across the economy risks creating a new digital divide between the AI-haves and AI-have-nots. Digital skills are no longer just necessary for the IT sector, as a joint Microsoft-LinkedIn Skills White Paper shows: professions traditionally not considered to be digital increasingly require digital skills. For instance, 78% of sales jobs and 66% of arts and design jobs require at least one digital or technical skill.
The UK has taken some steps to support people to acquire digital skills, but rapid developments in AI underpin an urgent need to turbocharge efforts to drive investment in digital skills, embrace flexible courses, and foster a culture of lifelong learning – leveraging training courses and solutions from across industry and the wider training ecosystem.
techUK's UK tech plan
Our UK tech plan outlines how the next Government can utilise technology to create a better future for people, society, the economy and the planet. Download the plan, and find a summary of the key themes and recommendations, by clicking below.
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