Rising Use Of Artificial Intelligence Is Fueling Anxiety In Business - Kathy Caprino

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Careers, Challenges, Inspiration for Change, Support for Change Rising Use Of Artificial Intelligence Is Fueling Anxiety In Business Written by: Kathy Caprino

The expanding use of artificial intelligence in business today has many people experiencing greater fear and anxiety over their futures. Recent research has shown that mental health of employees has been impacted, with the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America Survey revealing that close to 2 out of every 5 workers (38%) worry that AI might make some or all of their job duties obsolete in the future.

To learn more about this topic, I caught up this month with Dan DiasioEY’s Global Artificial Intelligence (AI) Consulting Leader. In this role, he supports clients with AI-enabled business transformation by supporting the strategic direction, identification, design, deployment of Trusted-AI and modern data platforms. He works across industries to narrow the divide of between digital immigrants and digital natives to transform weaknesses into competitive advantage.

EY’s recent AI Anxiety in Business Survey is based on findings from 1,000 employed US workers at least somewhat familiar AI about their perception of and experience with AI-backed technologies.

Here’s what Diasio shared:

Kathy Caprino: Dan, what prompted EY to move forward to conduct the “AI Anxiety in Business” Survey?

Dan Diasio: Generative AI (GenAI) was one of the hottest topics in 2023 with major breakthroughs throughout the business world. However, we’ve seen that as leaders move to adopt, there was a disconnect of excitement between the leaders and the users of AI systems. Most technology projects fail, and this is with user adoption. AI is not immune from this challenge.

It’s important for us to understand the full picture when it comes to AI integration, from regulation and tactical implementation to attitudes and feelings employees have about the perceived threat technology poses. Understanding this, we felt there was a real need to dig deeper into what aspects of AI and related technologies are keeping leaders and employees up at night.

Our survey uncovers the effects of AI and its current usage in the workplace, as well as how its rapid adoption is fueling anxieties across the workforce. It offers business leaders crucial insights on potential barriers and how to help employers overcome them. This information is not only valuable to us at EY for our own usage, but can help us provide better counsel to our clients on how they should be approaching AI adoption with humans at the center.

Caprino: From the findings, what surprised you the most as a leader in AI?

Diasio: AI anxiety hasn’t derailed excitement about technology’s potential, but workers want regulation with integration. Based on our research, 78% of employees say the government needs to play a bigger role in regulating AI. Given how polarizing politics are today, the fact that employees want to see more AI regulation– by AI developers and the government–was surprising.

Interestingly, employees who trust AI (80%) are more likely than those who don’t (71%) to say the government needs to play a bigger role in regulating AI technology.

Caprino: Were there any key differences based on age of respondent, in the types of responses received?

Diasio: Yes – the apparent lack of trust Gen Z workers have relative to their Millennial and Gen X counterparts was very interesting. Despite being the first true digital natives to enter the workforce, Gen Z employees are not the most likely to be using AI at work and significantly less convinced of its benefits. For example, just 72% of Gen Z believe AI will make them more efficient compared to 85% of Millennials and 89% of Gen X. We’re finding that Gen Z are the most likely generation to treat AI capabilities with a healthy dose of skepticism. However, the youngest generation represents the future of the workforce, and it is crucial for business leaders to engage Gen Z amid AI integration.

Caprino: What steps can leaders take to overcome employee AI anxiety and concerns amid adoption?

Diasio: While most employees trust AI technologies, almost as many have concerns. AI is a new tool for most employees, and with headlines swirling around its potential for negative consequences such as job displacement, workers can understandably be anxious about fully embracing the technology. According to our research, ‘FOBO’ – the fear of becoming obsolete – is plaguing the workforce, with a staggering 75% of employees concerned AI will make certain jobs obsolete. Potentially more alarmingly, about two-thirds (65%) say they are anxious about AI replacing their job.

However, human-centered design is crucial to unlocking AI throughout organizations, so for business leaders, communication, transparency and education are vital to decreasing worker AI anxiety and fully unlocking the potential of AI.

Key steps and initiatives include:


Workers indicated that they not only expect training programs but are actively concerned that the current programs offered are not adequate enough. Our survey saw that 80% of respondents said more training/upskilling would make them more comfortable using AI at work, suggesting that these educational workshops are a key to lowering anxiety levels. However, nearly as many (73%) have concerns that there won’t be sufficient training or upskilling opportunities, meaning that leaders can’t just go through the motions with AI training, and the training instead needs to be strategic.


To make employees more comfortable using AI, leaders need to share more information about responsible/ethical AI best practices, as well as receive more communication promoting the responsible/ethical use of AI. Employees said if senior leadership promoted using AI responsibly and ethically (77%), they would be more comfortable using AI at work.


At the end of the day, employees want to be informed about the process and have their opinions heard. 77% of employees felt they would be more comfortable with AI adoption at work if all levels of an organization were involved in the adoption process.

Caprino: How do you anticipate AI will continue to evolve over the next year? What trends do you anticipate for 2024?

Diasio: This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a surge of excitement around an emerging technology’s potential, but businesses shouldn’t dismiss the hype around AI – this is a revolutionary tool and harnessing its potential should be a top priority in 2024 and beyond.

What’s unique about the GenAI (generative AI) hype cycle is the constant and rapid increase of maturity and usage that has followed its explosive introduction into the market, and there’s no sign of this rapid evolution slowing down.

2023 marked a year of discovery for most organizations and understanding AI, with businesses experimenting with AI-backed solutions across a variety of functions. In 2024, we anticipate the theme to be all about scale.

GenAI will be deployed and integrated more strategically and with a focus on transforming the flow of work (rather than adding a new tool). Additionally, we anticipate that organizations will move beyond out-of-the-box capabilities and seek to implement AI that is right sized (and priced) for their needs, integrating other types of AI (like causal AI) that are specifically fit for performing actions.

In today’s challenging macroeconomic environment amid ongoing economic uncertainty, leaders will also likely feel pressure to showcase the ROI on AI investments, which we expect to further drive the focus from experimentation to scaling a proven concept.

Caprino: We are now just over a year since ChatGPT’s explosive introduction into the market. How can businesses shift from experimentation to execution while keeping in mind the risks associated with new technologies?

Diasio: GenAI is a fundamentally different technology than those that preceded it. It is probabilistic, which means that it often does not consistently give the same answers, which makes it difficult to test. Furthermore, just as abilities emerged as companies added more data to models, so do new risks emerge.

Every company embarking on the AI journey should have a strong AI Governance and Risk Management Program. These should be run by a combination of Business Leaders and Risk Management professions that are trained in how AI works. Business leaders should think of themselves as trustees and custodians of their organization’s technological ecosystem and embed responsible practices in AI – including data protection, compliance with evolving regulatory obligations, and appropriate principles and codes of practice – to maintain trust and mitigate risks.

If well-designed and implemented, regulatory mechanisms can help promote safe and trusted AI systems. For emerging technologies like AI, this will involve designing regulatory mechanisms with a capacity to evolve over time.

Ethical implications of AI are also paramount and a top concern from workers today. Our survey revealed 71% of employees are concerned about the ethical/moral considerations of using AI. Businesses can embrace transparency to mitigate the human risk surrounding ethical concerns.

In our research, the majority of employees say they would view an organization more positively if it:


  • Offered AI responsibility/ethics training for employees (80%)
  • Created an AI responsibility/ethical task force (77%)
  • Had a trusted third-party review of AI built by that organization (76%)


Caprino: Finally, how can businesses help prepare their employees for what’s to come on the AI front and build the workforce of the future? And with the current proliferation of new generative AI tools, how can organizations and employees manage the learning curve?

Diasio: Ultimately, GenAI is here to stay. We’re telling our clients to think about the impact of AI the same way that the internet changed all industries. New innovations are inevitable and empowering individuals by putting humans and technology together will be the key to success. Companies do not need more tools, they need to reimagine their workflows – and it’s only the people conducting these workflows that can make this happen.

Employees are crucial in the successful integration of new technologies, so leaders must prioritize alleviating the fears that employees have.

Successful implementation will require thoughtful communication and meaningful upskilling programs that allow employees to feel seen and heard, while also ensuring they’re more comfortable with how and when to use the technology.

For more information, visit EY’s AI Anxiety in Business Survey.

Kathy Caprino is a career and leadership coach, author of The Most Powerful You, and trainer helping clients build success and impact.

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