AI in 2024: Five trends workers need to know

The influence of artificial intelligence stands to make an even bigger impact this year in areas including hiring bias, inclusivity, regulation and more.

As much as 2023 marked a turning point for artificial intelligence, AI is poised to make an even bigger impact in 2024. Yet this time, workers are ready.

Now that generative AI has been on employees’ radars for more than a year, they’re not only better positioned to understand its place in the contemporary work landscape, but also equipped to embrace the changes and possibility that comes with it.

It’s time to put that advantage to use. To get ahead, workers should know what’s coming in the AI space, including these five trends that are poised to impact the year.

1. AI will encourage widespread inclusivity

Artificial intelligence is likely to become a powerful tool for workers with disabilities – and those advances could drive change for all people.   

First, many machine-learning tools developed to benefit disabled workers could become increasingly available, believes Victor Santiago Pineda, director of the Inclusive Cities Lab at UC Berkeley, US. Think, for instance, algorithm-based speech-to-text and text-to-speech tools that provide additional information to visually- and hearing-impaired users, respectively.

“AI-powered assistive technologies have the potential to break down barriers and empower individuals with disabilities, fostering a sense of independence and inclusion,” he says.

He believes the mainstream adoption of tools meant to assist disabled people can also benefit everyone. For example, as large language models continue to refine real-time, multilingual closed captioning, all people will have access to a wider and more diverse range of information.

2. AI will make hiring – and layoff – processes more equitable

Human-resource professionals are already prepared to use artificial intelligence in the hiring process to create a more equitable hiring landscape, but the current technology is far from perfect. In response, academics and industry experts are working to reduce algorithmic bias on electronic hiring platforms and other HR tools through AI. 

Some experts are already prioritising these goals. The Hire Aspirations Institute, led by Cynthia Dwork, professor of computer science at the Harvard John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is focused on identifying bias in screening tools and the professionals who use them.Tools to help workers with disabilities may proliferate, and these advances stand to help all workers (Credit: Alamy)

Tools to help workers with disabilities may proliferate, and these advances stand to help all workers (Credit: Alamy)

Beyond the hiring process, some companies, including the global consultancy firm Deloitte, are using artificial intelligence technology to retain talent. The firm is currently experimenting with using AI data to more effectively reallocate budgets, move workers to more in-demand positions and, in turn, stave off layoffs. This could particularly help marginalised groups, who are often the targets of corporate cuts.

However, many experts and HR professionals agree that although AI development will be helpful in creating a more diverse candidate funnel, it may not be able to solve all issues, including human bias in hiring. However, a heightened awareness of hiring inequity may help HR professionals understand their own implicit judgements and how to move past them.

3. Workplaces will use AI to centre diversity in hiring and training 

Beyond levelling the playing field for applications, evolving AI tools may also help to ensure traditionally marginalised people are not starting a new job on the back foot.

To begin, the development of AI may push regulators to increasingly focus on funding worker inclusion practices in the public and private sectors. In its recent Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission prioritised overcoming workplace discrimination in an increasingly AI assisted world. In the EU, the newly passed AI act requires that HR data and processes at firms must meet established standards for workers’ rights, or face corporate fines.

Investment in inclusive technology such as language-learning models designed by diverse teams, for instance, stands to help employers create personalised educational programs tailored to a wide set of employee experiences. This has the potential to help workers from all backgrounds get the same start.

Importantly, these kinds of changes stand to impact how hiring platforms are designed. Addressing bias in the development of algorithms can head off exclusionary practices from the start of the hiring process, instead of working to make up for mistakes and blind spots after they show themselves. Experts say this could make a real difference, as they point to the importance of creating inclusive teams at the development stage of AI technology to help all workers have an equal chance to advance.

4. Employees want to work with AI, and employers will invest in upskilling

While some experts say concerns about AI replacing some roles are valid, they also have simultaneously predicted that it won’t eliminate all human jobs. Instead, workers will evolve to co-exist with this emerging technology, and the employees who are willing to learn and adapt to AI will see the greatest benefits.Getting diverse groups into the development of AI from the outset can head off exclusionary practices (Credit: Alamy)

Getting diverse groups into the development of AI from the outset can head off exclusionary practices (Credit: Alamy)

For many, this will require re-training in specific areas and employer-sponsored learning opportunities. A 2023 survey conducted by Jobs for the Future’s Center for Artificial Intelligence & the Future of Work (JFF) showed the majority of respondents believe they will need new skills to compete in an AI-driven workforce. Younger workers are particularly feeling the pressure: 66% of Gen Z and millennial respondents said they felt the need to hone and update their skillsets to maintain a competitive edge.

Companies may increasingly rise to the occasion, offering better resources for upskilling, through programmes such as in-office workshops, partnerships with academic institutions, mentoring schemes and trials that expose workers to multiple parts of the business. Experts at the JFF report that companies that invest stand to drive employee success and also have a business edge in the wider competitive landscape. 

5. AI regulation will continue to struggle to keep pace with the technology 

AI will come with benefits, but implementation of these advancements won’t necessarily be smooth sailing.

As AI has come into mainstream usage, some technology leaders are calling for a push to define its boundaries. Regulators are tasked with expanding the technology, while also protecting the rights – and occupations – of a diverse human workforce. In the meantime, as AI becomes commonplace in many industries, experts say that a successful framework for regulation will require global collaboration from corporations, governments and academic researchers.

As the rapid advances in AI technology threaten to outpace efforts to create a flexible and comprehensive framework for its use, workers may be left concerned about job protections, privacy in the workplace and industry shifts. These concerns have real-life consequences – according to the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Workplace in America survey, respondents who were worried about AI affecting their jobs reported greater amounts of stress, anxiety and professional burnout, than those who embraced the technology.   

The biggest takeaway: AI in the workplace is here to stay. Across nearly all facets of the workplace, employees will see a rapid evolution in how the tech affects their professional lives in the year to come, and businesses will have to adapt as swiftly as their workers.

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