Britons are rapidly adopting GenAI at work, whether companies want it or not.

The proportion of Britons using generative AI at work has increased by 66% in just one year, according to Deloitte’s annual Digital Consumer Trends Survey, published on Thursday.

It’s true that it comes from a low base (just 14% of the 4,150 people who participated in the representative survey), but the pace of increase supports the narrative that GenAI will have profound effects on the way people work.

Notably, of the seven million British workers who Deloitte extrapolates have used GenAI at work, only 27% reported that their employer officially encouraged this behavior.

Why is this a problem?

While an increasing number of companies are taking a strategic approach to GenAI, there are several reasons why others may not directly encourage their employees to use it.

They may have carefully evaluated the use cases and decided that the rewards currently do not justify the risks or costs. They may not understand what the potential benefits could be for their business. Or maybe they haven’t given it much thought yet.

In any case, it would be worrying for most CEOs to discover that the adoption of one of the most important technologies of recent decades in their own business was being done without their strategic direction, encouragement or, worse yet, knowledge.

First, if employees can increase productivity or performance with GenAI, then presumably the company could too, just on a larger scale, which would make it a missed opportunity.

Second, employee use of GenAI carries risks, and if not managed or at least monitored, the company may be inadvertently exposed.

In fact, that seems relatively likely, given that among the 36% of the UK population aged 16-75 who use technology, more than a third believed it was always objectively accurate and unbiased, despite widely publicized problems with hallucinations and racial and gender bias.

Who uses GenAI at work and what do they use it for?

Although Deloitte does not break down workplace use by age and gender, it does reveal patterns among the general population. More than 60% of people ages 16 to 34 (generally Gen Z and younger millennials) have used GenAI, compared to just 14% of people ages 55 to 75 (Generation X and Baby Boomers greater).

Men were also more likely to report using the technologies than women, at 43% and 28% respectively.

The main reasons given for using generative AI products were generating ideas, searching for information, creating written content and emails, and summarizing text.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found that people who used technology more tended to be happier with it. That’s all well and good, but if it’s about their jobs, then companies have a vested interest in making sure they’re happy about it too.

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