Employees remain worried about AI’s potential threat to their jobs—but in a different form

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Public Relations

When generative AI first gained momentum on the business scene about this time last year, the fear was rather widespread that the wunderkind tech would be displacing employees and taking over their jobs. As the year went on, leaders started assuring their employees that this wouldn’t happen, as the human component of the process was too valuable. And those fears began to subside—or did they?

New research from global learning tech firm D2L exploring how U.S. employees are using generative AI in the workplace—and how they see it impacting their careers into the future—reveals that those fears are very much alive, but in a different form: the overarching fear now is that workers who are highly skilled in generative AI will displace them, not the AI itself. This is particularly true among Gen Z workers, more than half (52 percent) of which said they felt worried about being replaced by someone with better generative AI skills in a new survey—slightly more than their Millennial peers (45 percent) and all generations as a whole (43 percent).

Generative AI’s proliferation in focus

Sixty percent of 3,000 full-time and part-time employees surveyed in the U.S. said they want to use generative AI tools more frequently at work over the next year. Many respondents said they are already using AI both outside of work and on the job. Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) said they’re already using generative AI tools at least once a week at work—with around the same proportion (52 percent) saying they use these tools outside the workplace—but more than a third (37 percent) said they never do.  

The survey also revealed that, even as more American workers want to use generative AI at work overall, younger workers are more apprehensive about its potential impact to their jobs.

Key findings include: 

  • Close to half of workers (43 percent) of all generations worry that another employee with better generative AI skills could replace them in their role in the next year.  
  • Least concerned are Gen X workers. Only 33 percent of respondents of that generation said they thought they could be replaced in the next year by someone with better AI skills. 
  • Just over half of all workers (56 percent) agree that an employee who uses generative AI tools to do their work more effectively should receive a higher salary. 

Younger workers were also more likely to say they planned to take multiple professional development courses over the next year. Around a quarter of both Gen Z (26 percent) and Millennial (24 percent) respondents said they planned to enroll in anywhere from six to 10 courses over the next 12 months. By contrast, only 12 percent of Gen X respondents said the same.  

“What this new data suggests is that there’s an opportunity for employers to help workers better prepare themselves for the future and to give people the confidence that they can continue to make a meaningful contribution in their roles,” said Dr. Sasha Thackaberry, VP of Wave at D2L, in a news release. “Skills development—whether it’s on using generative AI more efficiently, or simply upskilling to stay ahead of change—is crucial for workers to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of work.”

Click here to read more about the findings.

In January 2024, D2L surveyed 3,000 full-time and part-time employees in the U.S. about their use of generative AI tools and their feelings about professional development courses. Respondents were divided evenly between Gen Z, millennial and Gen X employees. The survey was conducted via an online survey platform and respondents were recruited through a third-party market research vendor.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter