Microsoft: AI Is a Business Imperative, but The Hard Work Is Just Beginning

Microsoft and LinkedIn released the 2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report with AI taking center stage, both for its adoption and the challenges that lie ahead....
Microsoft: AI Is a Business Imperative, but The Hard Work Is Just Beginning
Written by Matt Milano
  • Microsoft and LinkedIn released the 2024 Work Trend Index Annual Report with AI taking center stage, both for its adoption and the challenges that lie ahead.

    According to the report, 2024 marks a major turning point for AI, with 75% of global knowledge workers relying on the tech. The volume and pace of work, in particular, has driven knowledge workers to embrace AI, even providing their own access to AI in lieu of their company providing it.

    “We’re at the forefront of integrating AI to not just work faster, but to work smarter,” said Karim R. Lakhani, Chair, Digital Data Design Institute at Harvard, and Dorothy & Michael Hintze Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. “It’s our responsibility as organizational leaders to ensure that this technology elevates our teams’ creativity and aligns with our ethical values.”

    At least part of the reason why employees are charging ahead with AI adoption is because organizations are still trying figure out the best path forward.

    While leaders agree AI is a business imperative, many believe their organization lacks a plan and vision to go from individual impact to applying AI to drive the bottom line. The pressure to show immediate ROI is making leaders inert, even in the face of AI inevitability.

    Microsoft says AI has reached “the hard part of any tech disruption,” where a technology begins to mature and contribute to business’ transformation.

    We’ve come to the hard part of any tech disruption: moving past experimentation to business transformation. Just as we saw with the advent of the internet or the PC, business transformation comes with broad adoption. Organizations that apply AI to drive growth, manage costs, and deliver greater value to customers will pull ahead.

    At the same time, the labor market is set to shift again—with AI playing a major role. Despite fears of job loss, leaders report a talent shortage for key roles. And as more employees eye a career move, managers say AI aptitude could rival experience. For many employees, AI will raise the bar but break the career ceiling.

    Microsoft and LinkedIn surveyed 31,000 people in 31 countries to see how AI was impacting their jobs. The results were telling.

    • Users say AI helps them save time (90%), focus on their most important work (85%), be more creative (84%), and enjoy their work more (83%).
    • The heaviest Teams users (the top 5%) summarized 8 hours of meetings using Copilot in the month of March, the equivalent of an entire workday.
    • 79% of leaders agree their company needs to adopt AI to stay competitive, but 59% worry about quantifying the productivity gains of AI.
    • This uncertainty is stalling vision: 60% of leaders worry their organization’s leadership lacks a plan and vision to implement AI.

    Microsoft says the lack of guidance is leading to a new trend: Bring Your Own AI.

    • 78% of AI users are bringing their own AI tools to work (BYOAI)—it’s even more common at small and medium-sized companies (80%).
    • And it’s not just Gen Z—BYOAI cuts across all generations.
    • 52% of people who use AI at work are reluctant to admit to using it for their most important tasks.
    • 53% of people who use AI at work worry that using it on important work tasks makes them look replaceable.

    A major driver in BYOAI is the pace of work and challenges employees are facing keeping up.

    • 68% of people say they struggle with the pace and volume of work, and 46% feel burned out.
    • Email overload persists—85% of emails are read in under 15 seconds, and the typical person has to read about 4 emails for every 1 they send.3
    • Meetings and after-hours work are holding steady at their post-pandemic highs, and the workday still skews toward communication: in the Microsoft 365 apps, users spend 60% of their time on emails, chats, and meetings, and only 40% in creation apps like Word and PowerPoint.

    “These findings align perfectly with how our brains manage the trade-offs between routine task execution and innovation—different kinds of thinking supported by two distinct but interacting neural networks in the brain. When we’re constantly switching, we don’t work as well,” said Michael Platt, neuroscientist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “AI can help liberate workers from menial work and enable innovation and creativity to flourish.”

    The entire report can be found here and provides valuable insights on the state of work in 2024.

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