Future Work

"Dabbling with AI at Work Won’t Cut It": The State of AI at Work

A new study by Asana and Anthropic highlights why and how organizations should take AI seriously, and provides practical next steps.
Last updated on
June 13, 2024 5:00 PM
5
min read
futurework-state-of-ai-at-work
Daan van Rossum
Daan van Rossum
Founder & CEO, FlexOS
I founded FlexOS because I believe in a happier future of work. I write and host "Future Work," I'm a 2024 LinkedIn Top Voice, and was featured in the NYT, HBR, Economist, CNBC, Insider, and FastCo.

As we've discussed over the past months, especially those of you in the Lead with AI community, Artificial intelligence is no longer a futuristic concept.

It's here and transforming the workplace. And now we have the numbers to prove it.

"The State of AI at Work," a new study by Asana and Anthropic, reveals many crucial insights.

What stood out to me the most is how much opportunity there still is for us, individually and as companies, to leapfrog others by adopting AI now.

The report also provides practical ideas for how to level up your organization for AI.

Let's dive in.

Key Findings: The State of AI at Work

For one, according to the report, AI adoption is exploding.

Over 52% of knowledge workers now use AI weekly, a 44% increase in just nine months. These numbers are lower than those of Microsoft's recent research, although their data also included people who use AI infrequently.

In the U.S., 57% use AI tools at work weekly, up from 46%. In the U.K., adoption jumped from 29% to 48%. These numbers show a clear trend: AI rapidly becomes integral to our work lives, but distribution is unequal.

Significant productivity gains are evident.

Daily AI users report an 89% productivity boost, weekly users see a 73% increase, and monthly users see only a 39% increase.

As we saw in the Microsoft data, the more frequently AI is used, the greater the benefits. Once again, this creates risks of gaps between employees.

This is why AI professor Ethan Mollick has repeatedly said: "always invite AI to the table," and the report agrees:

"Dabbling with AI at work won’t cut it—to reap the full transformative benefits of AI requires fully integrating it into daily workflows. It’s like going to the gym: you can’t expect real results if you only show up once a month."

The data confirms this, showing that the more use cases people have for AI, the more productivity gains they realize.

Beyond the top use cases for everyone (email generation, information summarization, content generation), the report also shares common use cases of how AI is transforming various industries:

  • In tech, AI generates clear documentation and enhances user experience.
  • In financial services, it automates complex processes like loan underwriting.
  • In professional services, AI mines data for competitive insights.

Each sector finds unique ways to leverage AI’s capabilities, driven by applications of the technology on an individual and team level, like we saw in the Moderna case study.

The Five Stages of AI Maturity and How to Level Up

Despite rapid adoption, AI literacy remains low. A staggering 64% of workers are unfamiliar with AI tools.

Worse, only 31% of companies have a formal AI strategy. This gap highlights the urgent need for AI education and strategic planning. (Check out the third cohort of Lead with AI, which kicks off in three weeks.)

Just as the study's author, Rebecca Hinds, told me on the Future Work podcast last year, dangerous divides exist between executives and individual contributors regarding AI enthusiasm, adoption, and perceived benefits.

The study urges us to move from ad-hoc AI adoption to a clear, strategic approach, where aligning AI initiatives across all levels is crucial for success.

The journey to AI maturity involves five stages: Skepticism, Activation, Experimentation, Scaling, and Maturity. Each stage requires tailored strategies and investments.

To level up, embracing the five "Cs" of AI adoption is essential:

  • Comprehension: Invest in AI education and training.
  • Concerns: Prioritize safety and reliability.
  • Collaboration: Foster a partnership mindset.
  • Context: Develop robust AI policies.
  • Calibration: Consistently measure AI’s impact and value.

Essential Actions for Leaders

As the report shows, boosting AI literacy and training is paramount:

  • 82% say their organizations have not provided training on using generative AI tools
  • 96% say their organizations have not developed a generative AI certification program

Incorporate AI education into onboarding and continuous learning. Employees need ongoing support to stay abreast of AI advancements.

(We have limited availability but do offer select private, customized cohorts of Lead with AI for executive teams. You could also let your team join the next public cohort in July.)

The other great recommendation from the report is to better define AI roles, as 33% of employees fear being replaced by AI. As WSJ technologist Dr. Alexandra Samuel told me in our recent interview:

"Reassure employees that AI is a tool to enhance their roles, not replace them." – Dr. Alexandra Samuel.

Only 9% of knowledge workers view AI as a teammate. However, "those who do are more likely to adopt AI, express optimism about it, and experience productivity gains than those who see AI solely as a tool."

This aligns with one of the major points I emphasize in the course: AI is not just software; it's a new collaborator that requires defining how to work together.

These recommendations, along with better data and tools, strategic AI integration, and closing AI gaps, will help you get ahead.

As Asana’s Rebecca Hinds shared with me for this newsletter:

“There's a striking contrast in how employees perceive AI at Stage 5 companies compared to those at Stage 1. In mature AI environments, employees are far more inclined to see AI as a collaborator rather than just a tool. They fundamentally reframe their perspective, focusing less on what AI can do for them and more on what they can achieve together with AI. This mindset shift is crucial for unlocking AI's full potential to drive meaningful outcomes.” – Rebecca Hinds, Head of The Work Innovation Lab, Asana

Conclusion: Act Now or Fall Behind

The AI tipping point is here, but most organizations are still in the earliest stages of adoption. 

Those who act decisively to harness AI's potential will leapfrog others as the technology develops exponentially.

By having a strategic adoption plan and training everyone on your team to work with AI as new colleagues, you'll create a strong competitive advantage for years to come.

As Rebecca’s colleague, Anna James, added for this newsletter:

"Understanding your organization’s current AI maturity is the first step toward transformation. I encourage all leaders to assess where they are on our AI maturity curve. Are you at the Stage 1 Skepticism stage? Or at the Stage 5 AI Maturity stage? Somewhere in between? Having this self-awareness will help you target more strategic action."—Anna James, Work Innovation Analytics Lead, Asana 

I'll see you again next week.

Don't forget I'm always here to answer any questions!

Daan

As we've discussed over the past months, especially those of you in the Lead with AI community, Artificial intelligence is no longer a futuristic concept.

It's here and transforming the workplace. And now we have the numbers to prove it.

"The State of AI at Work," a new study by Asana and Anthropic, reveals many crucial insights.

What stood out to me the most is how much opportunity there still is for us, individually and as companies, to leapfrog others by adopting AI now.

The report also provides practical ideas for how to level up your organization for AI.

Let's dive in.

Key Findings: The State of AI at Work

For one, according to the report, AI adoption is exploding.

Over 52% of knowledge workers now use AI weekly, a 44% increase in just nine months. These numbers are lower than those of Microsoft's recent research, although their data also included people who use AI infrequently.

In the U.S., 57% use AI tools at work weekly, up from 46%. In the U.K., adoption jumped from 29% to 48%. These numbers show a clear trend: AI rapidly becomes integral to our work lives, but distribution is unequal.

Significant productivity gains are evident.

Daily AI users report an 89% productivity boost, weekly users see a 73% increase, and monthly users see only a 39% increase.

As we saw in the Microsoft data, the more frequently AI is used, the greater the benefits. Once again, this creates risks of gaps between employees.

This is why AI professor Ethan Mollick has repeatedly said: "always invite AI to the table," and the report agrees:

"Dabbling with AI at work won’t cut it—to reap the full transformative benefits of AI requires fully integrating it into daily workflows. It’s like going to the gym: you can’t expect real results if you only show up once a month."

The data confirms this, showing that the more use cases people have for AI, the more productivity gains they realize.

Beyond the top use cases for everyone (email generation, information summarization, content generation), the report also shares common use cases of how AI is transforming various industries:

  • In tech, AI generates clear documentation and enhances user experience.
  • In financial services, it automates complex processes like loan underwriting.
  • In professional services, AI mines data for competitive insights.

Each sector finds unique ways to leverage AI’s capabilities, driven by applications of the technology on an individual and team level, like we saw in the Moderna case study.

The Five Stages of AI Maturity and How to Level Up

Despite rapid adoption, AI literacy remains low. A staggering 64% of workers are unfamiliar with AI tools.

Worse, only 31% of companies have a formal AI strategy. This gap highlights the urgent need for AI education and strategic planning. (Check out the third cohort of Lead with AI, which kicks off in three weeks.)

Just as the study's author, Rebecca Hinds, told me on the Future Work podcast last year, dangerous divides exist between executives and individual contributors regarding AI enthusiasm, adoption, and perceived benefits.

The study urges us to move from ad-hoc AI adoption to a clear, strategic approach, where aligning AI initiatives across all levels is crucial for success.

The journey to AI maturity involves five stages: Skepticism, Activation, Experimentation, Scaling, and Maturity. Each stage requires tailored strategies and investments.

To level up, embracing the five "Cs" of AI adoption is essential:

  • Comprehension: Invest in AI education and training.
  • Concerns: Prioritize safety and reliability.
  • Collaboration: Foster a partnership mindset.
  • Context: Develop robust AI policies.
  • Calibration: Consistently measure AI’s impact and value.

Essential Actions for Leaders

As the report shows, boosting AI literacy and training is paramount:

  • 82% say their organizations have not provided training on using generative AI tools
  • 96% say their organizations have not developed a generative AI certification program

Incorporate AI education into onboarding and continuous learning. Employees need ongoing support to stay abreast of AI advancements.

(We have limited availability but do offer select private, customized cohorts of Lead with AI for executive teams. You could also let your team join the next public cohort in July.)

The other great recommendation from the report is to better define AI roles, as 33% of employees fear being replaced by AI. As WSJ technologist Dr. Alexandra Samuel told me in our recent interview:

"Reassure employees that AI is a tool to enhance their roles, not replace them." – Dr. Alexandra Samuel.

Only 9% of knowledge workers view AI as a teammate. However, "those who do are more likely to adopt AI, express optimism about it, and experience productivity gains than those who see AI solely as a tool."

This aligns with one of the major points I emphasize in the course: AI is not just software; it's a new collaborator that requires defining how to work together.

These recommendations, along with better data and tools, strategic AI integration, and closing AI gaps, will help you get ahead.

As Asana’s Rebecca Hinds shared with me for this newsletter:

“There's a striking contrast in how employees perceive AI at Stage 5 companies compared to those at Stage 1. In mature AI environments, employees are far more inclined to see AI as a collaborator rather than just a tool. They fundamentally reframe their perspective, focusing less on what AI can do for them and more on what they can achieve together with AI. This mindset shift is crucial for unlocking AI's full potential to drive meaningful outcomes.” – Rebecca Hinds, Head of The Work Innovation Lab, Asana

Conclusion: Act Now or Fall Behind

The AI tipping point is here, but most organizations are still in the earliest stages of adoption. 

Those who act decisively to harness AI's potential will leapfrog others as the technology develops exponentially.

By having a strategic adoption plan and training everyone on your team to work with AI as new colleagues, you'll create a strong competitive advantage for years to come.

As Rebecca’s colleague, Anna James, added for this newsletter:

"Understanding your organization’s current AI maturity is the first step toward transformation. I encourage all leaders to assess where they are on our AI maturity curve. Are you at the Stage 1 Skepticism stage? Or at the Stage 5 AI Maturity stage? Somewhere in between? Having this self-awareness will help you target more strategic action."—Anna James, Work Innovation Analytics Lead, Asana 

I'll see you again next week.

Don't forget I'm always here to answer any questions!

Daan

FlexOS | Future Work

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Future Work

A weekly column and podcast on the remote, hybrid, and AI-driven future of work. By FlexOS founder Daan van Rossum.