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Wave of AI-Upskilling among independent workers

Discover the latest findings from MBO Partners, revealing a surge in AI upskilling among independent workers. With 37% already integrating Gen AI into their daily tasks and 59% leveraging AI across diverse applications, independent workers emerge as pivotal AI talent sought after by 73% of employers.

In response to the growing demand for AI-skilled talent, a recent study* suggests that employers should turn to independent workers for essential AI expertise. The study highlights that 37% of independent workers are currently incorporating Gen AI into their daily tasks, with a significant 59% using it across various applications. Despite being relatively new, a surprising 74% of independents are already familiar with AI and are planning to enhance their AI adoption and skills. The study reveals a doubling down on AI among independents, with the share of users projected to reach 73% by 2025.

According to a Dec 2023 workforce study from Amazon, hiring AI-skilled talent is a priority among 73% of employers—but three out of four who consider it a priority can’t find the AI talent they need. Artificial intelligence is already transforming the workplace—from how businesses operate to how work gets done. With substantial potential to improve operational efficiency, worker productivity, and decision-making, employers said they would be willing to pay higher wages to employees with AI skills and expertise.

“As AI becomes table stakes, any enterprise that doesn’t incorporate AI effectively into the business will drastically shrink its competitive footprint,” said Miles Everson, CEO of MBO Partners. “The encouraging aspect is the expansive and burgeoning pool of skilled independents who are not just keeping pace but leading the curve in AI knowledge. On the flip side, independents who fail to position themselves favorably relative to AI will have a more challenging time securing engagements with enterprise clients.”

Key findings from MBO’s Exploring New Frontiers: How Independent Workers View and Use Generative AI in 2024 and Beyond reveal:

When it Comes to AI, Independents are Fearless, Proactive, and Future-Ready

When it comes to embracing AI, independent workers emerge as the fearless, proactive leaders. Only 8% of independents foresee their work facing immediate replacement by AI or ChatGPT in the next five years—a significantly lower percentage compared to the 13% reported by traditional workers. Taking a forward-thinking approach, independents are proactively leveling up on AI skills to deliver increased customer value and reduce the risk of replacement.

MBO’s study found that 74% of independent workers showcase familiarity with Gen AI, with 37% already integrating it into their daily tasks. Among this group, 59% leverage Gen AI across diverse applications, enabling them to delegate routine tasks and freeing up valuable time for more intricate, value-driven aspects of their work. This trend underscores the emergence of a substantial pool of experienced, on-demand AI talent within independent workers. As this cohort continues to grow, enterprises have a unique opportunity to harness deep AI-augmented skill sets.

Independents use AI as a Small Business Accelerator

As small business accelerators, Gen AI is proving to be a transformative tool for independent workers seeking heightened productivity and efficiency. A significant 51% of independents integrating Gen AI into their daily tasks attest to its high utility, with 26% finding it extremely useful and an additional 25% marking it as very useful. Impressively, only 15% deem Gen AI not useful. One on one interviews echo these sentiments, with independent workers consistently highlighting how Gen AI contributes to increased productivity and time savings. Across the board, these workers report substantial productivity improvements ranging from 15% to 30%, aligning seamlessly with broader studies showcasing Gen AI’s positive impact on overall business efficiency.

In fact, forget hiring extra hands. With the right prompt, generative AI can accomplish tasks in minutes (or seconds) that require hours (or days) for humans to accomplish. The study revealed that independents are using AI for research assistance (39%), a marketing partner (27%) or even an IT administrator (9%). All of these roles are additive rather than sublative, and workers are becoming increasingly adept at using AI as a colleague.

The AI Revolution Among Independents is Just Beginning

While the independent worker shift towards Gen AI is in its early stages, AI holds big promises for the independent workforce. Looking into 2024 and beyond, the time has come to determine how AI sits in relation to employees and contingent labor.

More specialized Gen AI tools and vertical market applications are also quickly becoming available.  Most of these Gen AI tools are either free add-ins to existing software applications (Microsoft Office co-pilots, for example), or low cost. Because of this, they are easily accessible to independent workers. This points to a doubling of Gen AI adoption, reaching 73% among independent workers within the next two years. Only 24% of independent workers currently abstain from Gen AI, and almost all current users (97%) plan to continue usage.

*www.mbopartners.com/state-of-independence/ai-in-the-future-of-work

 

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