Over half of Britain’s employers are optimistic about the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on their staff headcount in the next two years, according to a recent survey conducted by Experis, a leading IT recruitment firm affiliated with ManpowerGroup.

The survey, which involved more than 2,000 British businesses, revealed that 54 percent of employers anticipate a positive influence on their workforce due to AI technologies.

The study also highlighted the broader positive effects of AI, with 69 percent of businesses expecting AI tools and technologies such as ChatGPT, Machine Learning, and Virtual Reality to enhance upskilling and reskilling efforts. Furthermore, 68 percent of respondents believe AI will have a positive impact on employee training, while 67 percent anticipate increased employee engagement and 60% expect improvements in the onboarding process.

Rahul Kumar, Director at Experis, commented on the findings, stating, “These results suggest that employers are more optimistic about AI than the general concerns regarding its potential negative impact on jobs would indicate. Many businesses see AI as a valuable tool for effective recruitment and retention.” Kumar emphasised the importance of AI in the IT sector, where 81 percent of employers face challenges in filling open roles, and welcomed the potential for an AI-driven revolution in upskilling and recruitment.

The resilience of the tech industry

Despite recent high-profile mass layoffs in the communications and tech industries by companies such as BT, Meta, and Vodafone, the survey revealed a positive outlook among IT employers in the UK. The report indicated that the Net Employment Outlook for the IT sector in Q3 is estimated at +43 percent. While this represents a slight decline compared to the previous quarter and the same period last year, it remains significantly higher than the global employment outlook for IT (+39%). This trend highlights the resilience of the IT industry and its continued demand for talent, contrasting with recent layoff announcements.

Kumar explained that the industry is experiencing a correction following the rapid hiring during the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated, “Many of the recent announcements regarding mass layoffs are longer-term and may not have an immediate impact. We encourage affected organisations to support employees in upskilling and reskilling to bridge the growing talent gap and retain their institutional knowledge.”

What about beyond AI?

The survey also explored attitudes toward emerging technologies beyond AI, such as the Metaverse. Although only 24 percent of respondents claimed to be very familiar with the Metaverse, and 63 percent had no professional experience with it, 65% expressed optimism about its potential impact on the world of work, particularly in terms of connecting people.

Kumar emphasised the importance of embracing emerging technologies, saying, “Rather than fearing or dismissing AI and emerging technologies, employers are interested in understanding their potential uses.” He highlighted the opportunity for tech to eliminate repetitive tasks and enhance job roles, offering customer service call centres as an example where AI can handle routine queries, allowing staff to focus on more complex issues requiring human attention and empathy.

Human vs. AI

The survey also touched upon candidate preferences regarding AI in the hiring process. While 76 percent of candidates were comfortable with AI use, 46 percent expressed a desire for their applications to be reviewed by a human, and 40 percent indicated their comfort with virtual job interviews. Employers were urged to strike a balance between leveraging AI and automation while maintaining human interactions to convey the company’s culture and attract potential candidates.

Kumar concluded by emphasising the impact of AI, VR, and tools like ChatGPT on the new generation entering the workforce. He noted their curiosity and eagerness to develop skills, encouraging employers to prioritise “learnability” when hiring and to cultivate teams that are open to constant upskilling to ensure their organisations are future-proofed.

According to the survey, British employers’ top IT staffing priorities include cybersecurity (36%), customer or user experience (33%), technical support (33%), database management (29%), and Customer Relationship Management System (25%). To address technological challenges, the employers’ top approaches include investing in more automation (53%), training and upskilling the workforce (53%), hiring new workers with the required skills (50%), reskilling workers for IT roles (50%), and hiring short-term staff (freelancers, contractors, etc.) to fill skills gaps (47%).

 

 

 

 

Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.