Author: Joanne Tan

AI Fears and AI Opportunities

The AI revolution will transform business and work in unforeseeable ways.  Organizations can prepare for the coming changes, and address workers’ concerns, by emphasizing learning and development.  Both technical skills and “human” skills will need to be updated to make the most of the coming opportunities.

Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) has been dominating tech industry headlines lately.  Many commentators emphasize “doom and gloom,” but there is plenty of room for optimism. Change is inevitable, and the rate of change will continue to accelerate. We cannot know or control exactly how change will impact the future. The only thing we can control is how we choose to adapt today, and we can adapt.

While AI fears will need to be addressed, the coming technological revolution and AI transformation offers brand new opportunities for growth. AI can be a catalyst to inspire and motivate how and where we choose to invest in those opportunities. This article will review AI in the workplace and ways to alleviate AI fears and inspire growth.

The AI revolution, old and new

At first glance, AI seems to have burst on the scene fully formed with the release of ChatGPT in November, 2022. Its Large Language Models are able to generate text on a wide range of topics, even if not expertly. In the months since, the AI revolution has gathered pace, with AI generated art and AI generated video coming online.

Of course, this isn’t the first time AI has grabbed the headlines. In 1997, for example, IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, to general dismay. And in 2011, IBM’s Watson computer won a Jeopardy quiz show tournament against human competitors. The victory prompted contestant Ken Jennings to welcome “our new computer overlords.” AI fears have been with us for some time now.

One big difference between earlier AI advances and the current ones is access.  IBM’s computers, Deep Blue and Watson, were far removed from the general public. But ChatGPT and its rivals have opened the doors to mass adoption of AI technology. The AI future is here, bringing with it both AI fears and hopes.

The AI economy and AI fears

In the quarter century since Deep Blue, AI has developed from a technical curiosity to a major economic force. In a 2023 report, Goldman Sachs estimated that generative AI could drive a 7% increase in global GDP (worth $7 trillion) and a 1.5% boost in productivity over ten years. That’s good news, but there are challenges, too.

The report states that 300 million jobs will be “exposed” to AI, including two-thirds of jobs in the U.S. Workloads in those jobs could be reduced substantially. However, the report concludes that “most jobs and industries are . . . more likely to be complemented than substituted by AI.”  (Emphasis added.)

As support, the Goldman report points out that 60% of occupations today did not exist in 1940. They were made possible by advances in technology. According to Goldman, that suggests 85% of all employment growth since 1940 has been due to technology. And most of the growth has come in new fields and new businesses that were not anticipated. While AI can be expected to “disrupt” the business world, it is likely to create new opportunities and industries that we can’t yet imagine. 

Overcoming AI fears by emphasizing individual development

While the situation is far from gloomy, AI fears are real. They are reflected in a 2024 Gallup report finding that 22% of workers worry about their jobs becoming obsolete due to AI. That figure is up from 15% in 2021. There are silver linings, though. 

Gallup points out that workers are eager for learning and development. Some 48% of workers said they would switch jobs for better training opportunities – while only 47% feel they have the skills to excel in their current positions. 

In short, there is a large, unmet desire for training and development. At the same time, new AI technologies will require more training and development, with an AI strategy

To make the most of the situation, leaders and organizations should prioritize upskilling, the process of updating job skills to meet new requirements, and reskilling, the process of moving employees from outdated positions into needed ones.

Leaders should consider two complementary paths. 

Teach technical skills.  The first path is to teach workers to use AI tools to improve their work product and increase productivity. AI is best suited to automate tasks that require less human judgment and interpretation. By giving employees the tools to use AI’s labor saving qualities, organizations will be able to maximize their human strengths.

Teach “human” skills.  That brings us to the second development path: Going where AI cannot go by emphasizing so-called “Soft Skills” (or “Critical Intangibles”) like communication, leadership, problem solving, and teamwork. These are the human qualities AI does not have – and won’t develop for the foreseeable future. 

By leveraging Critical Intangibles, organizations can maximize their “human assets” – the people who bring passion and creativity to their tasks. Unlike technical skills, these Critical Intangibles are durable, providing a long term boost to productivity.  By showing employees that they will have the skills to adapt as their careers evolve, organizations can make great strides toward alleviating AI fears. 

The path to adopting AI technologies won’t always be smooth. Change never is. But organizations can prepare by emphasizing learning, development, and growth to help people embrace change and adapt as the future unfurls. 

If you would like to learn more about preparing your organization for technological change, please contact us. 


Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.