AI Early Adopters Are Your Biggest Asset – Don’t Let Them Leave You Behind

Employers shouldn't let early artificial intelligence adopters fall by the wayside, as their AI skills could enable them to be more productive in the workplace

artificial intelligence, AI, employers, workforce, job hunters

Artificial intelligence (AI) has ushered in an era of disruptive innovation, potentially transforming industries. It’s also reshaping the job market, encouraging many to seek new positions and skills, according to a recent survey by the Oliver Wyman Forum of almost 8,800 employees in nine countries. This trend suggests employers need to offer more reskilling initiatives and be more transparent about their job needs to retain and nurture employees, some of whom are already searching for new roles due to AI. 

AI Disruption is Driving Job Seeking

Employees are not waiting for AI to impact their jobs or careers. More than 40% of white-collar workers say they are either actively or passively looking for new positions. Around a third of the job seekers say they are looking for new work due to AI disruption. The white-collar industries with the highest reported rates of job seeking as a result of AI disruption are media/telecom (16%), transportation (16%), and education (15%).

Blue-collar job seekers also are motivated by AI disruption. Nearly 44% of all blue-collar workers say they are looking for work, and close to a third of those job seekers report doing so due to AI disruption. Blue-collar employees in hospitality (16%), retail (12%), and manufacturing (15%) report the highest proportions of employees actively exploring new opportunities due to the impact of AI. 

While white-collar and blue-collar employees appear to follow similar patterns of job seeking because of AI disruption, these trends manifest differently across generations. Gen Zers and millennials are 179% more likely to be in the job market due to AI disruption than Gen X and baby boomers (20% versus 7%). Amongst job seekers, Gen Zers are 19% more likely than other generations to report seeking new jobs in other fields (62% versus 52%), while baby boomers are 41% more likely than other generations to report job seeking within the same field (83% versus 59%). 

AI Driven Job Seekers Embrace Early Adoption

One factor that could be pushing employees to find new jobs is that they may be looking to enhance their AI skill set. AI-driven job seekers are more likely to be early adopters, showing a passion for technology and an appetite for learning more about it. “My company uses pretty antiquated systems... That doesn’t mean that I, as an individual, am not going to keep up [with AI],” said a 38-year-old man employed in the US agriculture industry.

These job seekers are 70% more likely than all employees to report using generative AI at work (39% versus 23%), displaying a proactive embrace of technological advancements. Part of their motivation to seek a job could be attributed to the fact that in comparison to all employed workers, they are 75% more likely to believe that AI will make their current job redundant (28% versus 16%). However, they also may be seeing opportunity on the horizon as they are 48% more likely than all employed workers to believe that AI will create new job opportunities in their field of work (27% versus 13%).

These AI-driven job seekers tend to use AI outside of the workplace as well; they are 76% more likely than all employees to use AI for personal projects (30% versus 17%). Within the workplace, these employees have more faith in the effectiveness of AI as they are 17% more likely than all workers to believe that AI could make their job easier (95% versus 81%). Despite their interest in AI, however, they are 44% more likely than all employees to express frustration with the lack of sufficient AI training and education provided by their employers (26% versus 18%), showing a desire for additional upskilling.

Job Seekers Want Opportunities to Reskill

Employees also might be looking for jobs that are less likely to be automated. While concerns about AI automation vary across industries, most employees believe that AI will eliminate more jobs than it will create. White-collar workers in professional services are 154% more likely to report believing that AI will decrease jobs rather than create new opportunities (61% versus 24%), but that figure is only 20% for white-collar tech workers (49% versus 41%). Although the level of concern varies between industries, these automation concerns are present across the board. Employees in several industries may fear job redundancy at the hands of AI, and as a result, could be looking for better AI training to enhance their productivity and equip them to pivot into roles that are more focused on leveraging their expertise. For employees to feel prepared for AI adoption in the workplace, training and reskilling should be prioritized.

Reskilling also could transform job tasks and elevate productivity significantly. According to the World Economic Forum, software engineers equipped with AI tools like Codex can double their coding speed, and economists leveraging large language models can enhance productivity by 10-20%. Employers must recognize the potential for greater efficiency and innovation through AI powered skill sets. If AI adoption can automate tasks and free up employee resources, it could provide benefits for employees and employers alike. Designing opportunities for AI collaboration across colleagues and getting employee input on AI usage could accelerate the development and consumption of the AI training materials that these early adopters are seeking. 

Employers' Role in Retaining AI Early Adopters

As the job market continues to evolve, retaining AI early adopters becomes paramount for companies looking to maximize AI's full potential. These adopters are likely to be valuable as their knowledge of AI could enable them to be more productive in the workplace. AI job seekers are more likely to feel unsatisfied by the current AI training provided by their employer, presenting an opportunity for companies to improve this training and retain more employees. These job seekers are 33% more likely than all employees to report that employers could provide learning and development opportunities to help them feel more comfortable with AI (40% versus 30%). Employers who invest in AI training and foster open communication are better positioned to attract, keep, and benefit from these invaluable AI enthusiasts. 

As AI continues to disrupt the workforce, employers should prioritize technology literacy and AI related education as critical reskilling. In particular, AI could augment blue-collar employees’ skills, helping them advance their careers and potentially move into white-collar positions. Additionally, transparency about automation and its future in the workplace could foster a better understanding between employers and employees. This will help bridge the disparity between the proportion of companies that expect job growth due to AI (50%) and the proportion of employees that share this positive outlook (16-30%).

Embracing AI disruption as an opportunity for growth and innovation could pave the way for a mutually beneficial employer-employee relationship. Employees who are more likely to be knowledgeable about AI are also those who are more likely to be looking to leave due to AI disruption. As a result, AI education and proactive communication should be priorities for companies that want to retain these AI early-adopters.

Ashwin Desai and Ariana Mao contributed to this article.