Editor’s Question: How do you think the world of work will develop in 2024?

Editor’s Question: How do you think the world of work will develop in 2024?

The world of work is always changing. What does 2024 have in store? Four experts offer their views, starting with Serkan Ibrahim, VP of Europe, Kore.ai, below.

The world around us is changing. And fast. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Generative AI (GenAI), the way we work is going through a dramatic shift. 

ChatGPT has brought mainstream awareness to conversational chatbots this year, and both organisations and their employees are becoming aware of the benefits that increased automation could bring for greater productivity and efficiency.

The current state of play

We recently surveyed 1,000 UK-based office workers and found that almost a quarter are spending half of their working day (three to four hours) on non-productive, manual tasks that could easily be automated. That’s the equivalent to 16 hours a week and 137 days a year.

Clearly, with a lack of advanced AI-based technologies in the workplace, productivity and employee well-being is being compromised.

Meanwhile, there exists a growing demand for tools for automation and enhancing demand from employees. We found that only 12% of those surveyed are fearful that AI will make their role redundant, with over a fifth (22%) of UK workers stating that they would love to have their own personal AI digital assistant at work to get back some of their time for a better work/life balance.

Imagine the time that employees would have back if these tasks were taken off their to-do lists – a four-day working week could be a much more realistic prospect!

So how will this evolve in 2024?

With workers being held back by labour-intensive ‘microtasks’, in 2024, advanced LLMs and GenAI models, like Conversational AI (CAI) powered Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) – will better support employees and give them time back to concentrate on more strategic or creative work. 

State-of-the-art CAI platforms build domain-specific customised LLMs that are pre-trained and can orchestrate conversations in accordance with an enterprise’s data, business rules and user context to produce the best outcomes.

And it’s through IVAs that simple to complex tasks can now be automated, including writing emails, customising marketing content or asking it how to code. As well as enabling more knowledge-intensive activities like better search, providing summarised answers and offering advice. 

GenAI-powered cognitive search is another area that holds immense potential in transforming several enterprise and consumer functions such as product discovery, sales, marketing and customer experience too. 

In particular, industries that need to offer exceptional customer experiences like financial services, telecom and retail need to take note.

The way forward 

AI cannot be ignored, it’s here to stay and those organisations that invest, will reap the benefits. According to a study from McKinsey Global Institute, by 2030 a combination of GenAI and AI tools might do 30% of the work hours that people do now.

What will truly revolutionise work in 2024 is business-grade automation solutions with responsible AI at the heart, that offer employees personalised experiences that provide support, exclusive to the businesses and user’s needs. And with the on-going talent war, this has never been more paramount. Bring on the evolution of digital personal assistants to make us all more productive!

Quentin Debavelaere, General Manager, Malt UK:

The economic environment is now calmer than in previous years, leading to a better balance in the supply/demand of the job market. While it’s become slightly easier to recruit, companies face financial constraints with less funding available. As a result, we start to see some companies less accommodating to every worker’s demand (return to the office policy is a case in point). There is more inertia on the employee side, so there may be a disconnect between companies and employees before everyone adjusts to the new reality.

Equally, the trend towards remote work, especially in tech and software engineering, which we saw during COVID-19 began to fall. Now, we are seeing a movement back to the office to a new equilibrium at three to four days in the office. The office remains essential to building company culture and facilitating information flow. Nevertheless, societal imbalances exist, particularly for working parents who face increased professional demands without much progress on parental leave and childcare support. Therefore, I would argue against a strong shift in company policy, like returning to the office five days a week. Flexibility is here to stay, and companies may end up losing their most talented employees (those who know they can still find a job easily elsewhere).

It’s equally important for employees to understand that when asked to come into the office, it’s not to exert control but rather to build company culture, help new joiners and facilitate the flow of information. Often, employees can become familiar with the company faster, ask questions directly, hear discussions in open spaces and enjoy the creative atmosphere. Hence, we must balance pertinent work matters and create a new office space that supports such a collaborative environment. These are the core reasons why bringing employees back into offices is crucial, not to mention the minor joys like having drinks or lunch together, all of which contribute to team bonding.

Even under the current economic turbulence, we keep seeing a global shift towards freelancing in Europe. It’s no different in the UK, even after two years of compression following the implementation of IR35. In 2024, freelancing will continue to grow as a career choice for the highly skilled, not necessarily to increase their income but to gain flexibility and work on specific projects. The appeal of freelancing is even more critical when there is a demand-supply gap in particular industries, such as Machine Learning and data science.

However, the rise of ‘moonlighters’ may be new: people who maintain regular employment while freelancing to supplement their income to cover additional expenses, often called ‘moonlighters’. Due to the economic climate, it is easier for them to work extra hours in the evenings or on weekends.

Margo Waldorf, Founder of the Change Awards:

Invest in cultivating the change mindset

One of the most common trends we observe now, which will continue, is an overwhelming focus on large-scale change initiatives and transformations, where investment in technologies is the main driver behind the change. With all the possible applications of AI and other emerging technologies not yet fully grasped, enterprises focus on enhanced productivity and the commercial benefits it brings.

The hopes are high for digitalised business processes that promise increased individual efficiency and productivity. Yet, technology decisions cannot be made in silos or imposed on the workforce.

Adoption to change is not optional.

It is hardly surprising that change adoption and employee resilience become key topics at all levels of the organisational management hierarchy. The ability of the organisation to be as agile as possible, resolve problems and continuously adapt to change is once again at the forefront of management thinking, as is ensuring that technology embraces the human aspect of change.

In the age of transformation, successful continuous organisational evolution warrants provision for internal change management capability to access experienced resources at the time of need. Change management expertise is being sought at the early stages of portfolio planning. A change management office or a hub working with the project management office to continuously support organisational performance aspirations is becoming a trend.

Fixed skills, fixed cost, budgeted fixed resources and change-enhancing capability provide a welcome offset against change fatigue whilst delivering aspirational agility and employee resilience. We will continue to see further development of change management capability internally, creating a sustained commercial advantage for entities wanting to improve their performance.

Changing mindsets: further recognition to change management efforts

Change management efforts, beset by several internal challenges, are again tested in organisations’ ever-evolving environment. The digitalisation and the need for continuous organisational agility push the boundaries of the change approach and test the skills of the professionals. That is why it is nice to see further recognition of the discipline, as it is showcased at the Change Awards. Successful case studies demonstrate and encourage additional contributions to developing the field drawn from practical examples, enabling best practices.

Stay ahead – invest in the change mindset

As for the development of the world of work in 2024 – this will evolve along with the evolving nature and the complexity of the environments in which organisations operate. The future is bright, for this critical mindset-changing discipline is here to stay and further the enterprise’s ambition to implement strategic initiatives successfully. Welcome to the age of bilateral cooperation and partnership between the organisation and its employees. My biggest takeaway is to seek and invest in the development of the change mindset, as only then will you be able to be ahead of the game.

Jimmy Barens, SVP of Solutions Engineering, Yext:

While AI has been a buzzword long before 2023, this was the year it truly came of age. ChatGPT, Bard and Microsoft Copilot are all just a few examples of how AI is taking over how we work and live our lives, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. AI is poised to revolutionise business operations by optimising processes and maximising returns on investment and 2023 was the year workers started to realise that promise.

But as this technology continues to become an increasingly integral part of business operations, and companies begin to properly understand its workplace applications, 2024 will be the year that modern business embraces AI in mass. So, what can we expect from workplace AI in 2024?

Introduction of co-pilots

One of the biggest breakthroughs into the world of work in 2024 is the arrival of AI co-pilots. The co-pilots are designed to assist users with tasks and enhance their experience of working across all tasks. Sixty-six percent of UK knowledge workers surveyed by Economist Impact and Dropbox said they regularly employ automation tools, which increasingly include AI, in their work. Highlighting that the reliance on AI is increasingly growing. But where do businesses stand on this?

Here, it is essential for business leaders to recognise that the transition to an AI and human workforce will require a significant shift in the way companies operate. One that requires C-Suite leaders to consider how to tap into AI while preparing their workforce for an AI-driven future that will aid, not hinder the progression of their careers.

Addressing the use of AI in 2024

Addressing the use of AI in 2024 requires companies to take a proactive stance in understanding and selecting the right AI for their needs. It’s crucial to empower leaders, management and the workforce on how to extract the most benefits by creating multidisciplinary task forces dedicated to AI.

These task forces ensure a continuous dialogue about AI’s evolving role within the company and address challenges that may arise during this transformative process. This proactive approach equips employees with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in a workplace where AI is an integral part.

Creating space for AI in the workforce

With multidisciplinary committees, there will also be a space for leaders to fill. This space will look at championing the use of new technology in day-to-day work. A ‘Head of AI’ position will need to be created, and it is not an opportunistic trend, but rather a needed position due to the significant impact and transformation global economies will undergo due to the direct effects of AI in the workplace.

But these roles should not merely be appointed in order to steer AI investment or oversee implementation from a product or strategy sense, but to take on the responsibility of equipping employees with the necessary skills to use AI in their own roles.

The critical objective for AI leaders will be to remain at the forefront of their respective industries amidst the disruptive influence of AI or, at the very least, avoid being left behind, while upskilling their workforce with how to employ AI.

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