Leaders are blindly ignoring the dangers of ‘confidently incorrect’ AI – and why it’s a massive problem

Why don’t scientists trust atoms? Because they make everything up. 

When Greg Brockman, president and co-founder of OpenAI, demonstrated the possibilities of GPT-4 – Generative Pre-trained Transformer 4, the fourth-generation autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text – upon launch on Mar. 14, he tasked it to create a website from a notebook sketch

Brockman prompted GPT-4, on which ChatGPT is built, to select a “really funny joke” to entice would-be viewers to click for the answer. It chose the above gag. Presumably, the irony wasn’t purposeful. Because the issues of “trust” and “making things up” remain massive, despite the incredible yet entrancing capabilities of generative artificial intelligence. 

Many business leaders are spellbound, stated futurist David Shrier, professor of practice (AI and innovation) at Imperial College Business School in London. And it was easy to understand why if the technology could build websites, invent games, create pioneering drugs, and pass legal exams – all in mere seconds.

Those impressive feats are making it more challenging for leaders to be clear-eyed, said Shrier, who has written books on nascent technologies. In the race to embrace ChatGPT, companies, and individual users, are “blindly ignoring the dangers of confidently incorrect AI.” As a result, he warned that significant risks are emerging as companies rapidly race to re-orient themselves around ChatGPT without being aware of – or ignoring – the numerous pitfalls.

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in March 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Why the need for leaders to address poor workplace communication is so urgent now

Ineffective communication costs U.S. businesses $1.2 trillion annually, or $12,506 per employee, pointed out by Grammarly Business’s latest State of Business Communication report, published in early March. But are leaders receiving the message that urgent improvement is required? 

The Grammarly Business survey of 251 business leaders and 1,001 knowledge workers suggested connection problems are growing. Time spent on written communication grew 18% compared to 2022, while worker stress levels were 7% higher due to poor communication, and this caused a 15% decline in productivity.

Further, the research, conducted in partnership with The Harris Poll, showed that workers spent over 70% of their working weeks communicating on various channels. Yet 58% wished they had better tools to streamline communication. “Leaders who shrug off the massive impact of poor communication on their bottom line will lose,” argued Matt Rosenberg, Grammarly’s chief revenue officer and head of Grammarly Business. 

Rosenberg said that the results of the second annual report indicated the challenge was growing, causing a “greater impact on everything from operational efficiency to employee and customer satisfaction.” As a result, he urged a rethink of communications strategies. “At a time when the stakes are critically high, leaders who invest in empowering efficient, consistent communication across their organizations will see results and profits climb.”

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in March 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Businesses are not putting people in the right jobs – how tech can help

Most business leaders who offer variants of the cliché that “people are the company’s greatest asset” seldom match words with deeds. More worrying, though, is that people are not being matched to jobs in which they can excel – now more than ever. 

Alarmingly, a vast majority of organizations were taking the wrong, outdated approach to managing and developing human capital, argued professor Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Digital Economy Lab at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, and arguably the world’s leading expert on the role of digital technology in improving productivity.

“Human capital is a $220 trillion asset in the U.S. – bigger than all the other assets put together, and about ten times the country’s gross domestic product,” said Prof. Brynjolfsson. “The most important asset on the planet is the one we’ve been measuring the worse.” 

As a result, human capital has been “probably the most misallocated asset on the planet. Businesses are not putting the right people in the right jobs; they’re not hiring, firing, and reassigning where they need to be doing it.”

This gloomy analysis is a lose-lose for employer, employee, and society, added Brynjolfsson. “Think of how many people are not in the right job, living lives of quiet desperation,” he said. 

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in March 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

WTF is the Turing trap – and how businesses that embrace AI can avoid it

All the recent chatter about ChatGPT and advancements in generative artificial intelligence has been impossible to avoid for business leaders. More than ever, they are being urged to embrace AI. 

True, if used correctly, it can improve efficiencies and forecasting while reducing costs. But many people make the mistake of thinking AI could – and should – be more human. 

Science-fiction tropes do not help this perception. Additionally, Alan Turing’s famous test for machine intelligence, proposed in 1950, has conditioned us to think about this technology in a certain way. Originally called the imitation game, the Turing test was designed to gauge the cleverness of a machine compared to humans. Essentially, if a machine displays intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human, it passes the Turing test.

But this is a wrongheaded strategy, according to professor Erik Brynjolfsson, arguably the world’s leading expert on the role of digital technology in improving productivity. Indeed, the director of the Digital Economy Lab at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI recently coined the term the Turing trap, as he wanted people to avoid being snared by this approach.

So what exactly is the Turing trap?

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in March 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Stanford professor on the AI skills gap and the dangers of exponential innovation

ChatGPT and its ilk represent a welcome quantum leap for productivity, according to eminent AI expert professor Erik Brynjolfsson. But he adds that such rapid developments also present a material risk

Erik Brynjolfsson is in great demand. The US professor whose research focuses on the relationship between digital tech and human productivity is nearing the end of a European speaking tour that’s lasted nearly a month. Despite this, he’s showing no signs of fatigue – quite the opposite, in fact. 

Speaking via Zoom as he prepares for his imminent lecture in Oxford, the director of the Digital Economy Lab at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI is enthused by recent “seminal breakthroughs” in the field.

Brynjolfsson’s tour – which has included appearances at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Institute for the Future of Work in London – is neatly timed, because the recent arrival of ChatGPT on the scene has been capturing human minds, if not yet hearts. 

The large-scale language model, fed 300 billion words by developer OpenAI, caused a sensation with its powerful capabilities, attracting 1 million users within five days of its release in late November 2022. At the end of January, Microsoft’s announcement of a substantial investment in OpenAI “to accelerate AI breakthroughs” generated yet more headlines. 

ChatGPT’s popularity is likely to trigger an avalanche of similarly extraordinary AI tools, Brynjolfsson predicts, with a possible economic value extending to “trillions of dollars”. But he adds that proper safeguards and a better understanding of how AI can augment – not replace – jobs are urgently required.

What’s next in AI?

“There have been some amazing, seminal breakthroughs in AI lately that are advancing the frontier rapidly,” Brynjolfsson says. “Everyone’s playing with ChatGPT, but this is just part of a larger class of ‘foundation models’ that is becoming very important.”

He points to the image generator DALL-E (another OpenAI creation) and lists similar tools designed for music, coding and more. Such advances are comparable to that of deep learning, which enabled significant leaps in object recognition a decade ago. 

“There’s been a quantum improvement in the past couple of years as these foundational models have been introduced more widely. And this is just the first wave,” Brynjolfsson says. “The folks working on them tell me that there’s far more in the pipeline that we’ll be hearing about in the coming weeks.”

As much as I’m blown away by these technologies, the bottleneck is our human response

When pushed for examples of advances that could shape the future of work, he reveals that Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) – the language model that uses deep learning to emulate human writing – will be superseded by GPT-4 “within weeks. This is a ‘phased change of improvement’ compared with the last one, but it’ll be even more capable of solving all sorts of problems.” 

Elsewhere, great strides are being made with “multi-agent systems” designed to enable more effective interactions between AI and humans. In effect, AI tech will gain the social skills required to cooperate and negotiate with other systems and their users. 

“This development is opening up a whole space of new capabilities,” Brynjolfsson declares.

The widening AI skills gap

As thrilling as these pioneering tools may sound, the seemingly exponential rate of innovation presents some dangers, he warns. 

“AI is no longer a laboratory curiosity or something you see in sci-fi movies,” Brynjolfsson says. “It can benefit almost every company. But governments and other organisations haven’t been keeping up with developments – and our skills haven’t either. The gap between our capabilities and what the technology enables and demands has widened. I think that gap will be where most of the big challenges – and opportunities – for society lie over the next decade or so.”

Brynjolfsson, who studied applied maths and decision sciences at Harvard in the 1980s, started in his role at Stanford in July 2020 with the express aim of tackling some of these challenges. 

“We created the Digital Economy Lab because, as much as I’m blown away by these technologies, the bottleneck is our human response,” he says. “What will we do about the economy, jobs and ethics? How will we transform organisations that aren’t changing nearly fast enough? I want to speed up our response.”

Brynjolfsson spoke passionately about this subject at Davos in a session entitled “AI and white-collar jobs”. In it, he advised companies to adopt technology in a controlled manner. Offering a historical analogy, he pointed out that, when electricity infrastructure became available about a century ago, it took at least three decades for most firms to fully realise the productivity gain it offered because they first needed to revamp their workplaces to make the best use of it. 

“We’re in a similar period with AI,” Brynjolfsson told delegates. “What AI is doing is affecting job quality and how we do the work. So we must address to what extent we keep humans in the loop rather than focus on driving down wages.”

Why AI will create winners and losers 

The risk of technology racing too far ahead of humanity for comfort is a familiar topic for Brynjolfsson. In both Race Against the Machine (2011) and The Second Machine Age (2014), he and his co-author, MIT scientist Andrew McAfee, called for greater efforts to update organisations, processes and skills. 

AI can benefit almost every company. But governments and other organisations haven’t been keeping up with developments – and our skills haven’t either

How would he assess the current situation? “When we wrote those books, we were optimistic about the pace of technological change and pessimistic about our ability to adapt,” Brynjolfsson says. “It turns out that we weren’t optimistic enough about the technology or pessimistic enough about our institutions and skills.”

In fact, the surprising acceleration of AI means that the “timeline for when we’ll have artificial general intelligence” should be shortened by decades, he argues. “AGI will be able to do most of the things that humans can. Some predicted that this would be achieved by the 2060s, but now people are talking about the 2030s or even earlier.”

Given the breakneck speed of developments, how many occupations are at risk of obsolescence through automation? 

Brynjolfsson concedes that the range of roles affected is looking “much broader than earlier thought. There will be winners and losers. Jobs will be enhanced in many cases, but some will be eliminated. Routine work will become increasingly automated – and there will also be a flourishing of fantastic creativity. If we use these tools correctly, there will be positive disruption. If we don’t, inequality could deepen, further concentrating wealth and political power.” 

How to apply AI in the workplace

How, then, should businesses integrate AI into their operations? First, they must avoid what Brynjolfsson has labelled the Turing trap

“One of the biggest misconceptions about AI – especially among AI researchers, by the way – is that it needs to do everything that humans do and replace them to be effective,” he explains, arguing that the famous test for machine intelligence, proposed by Alan Turing in 1950, is “an inspiring but misguided vision”.

Brynjolfsson contends that a “mindset shift” at all levels – from scientists and policy-makers to employers and workers – is required to harness AI’s power to shape society for good. “We should ask: ‘What do we want these powerful tools for? And how can we use them to achieve our goals?’ The tools don’t decide; we decide.”

One of the biggest misconceptions about AI is that it needs to do everything that humans do and replace them

He adds that many business leaders have the wrong attitude to applying new tech in general and AI in particular. This amounts to a “pernicious problem”. 

To illustrate this, he cites Waymo’s experiments with self-driving vehicles: “These work 99.9% of the time, but there is a human safety driver overseeing the system and a second safety driver in case the first one falls asleep. People watching each other is not the right path to driverless cars.”

Brynjolfsson commends an alternative route, which has been taken by the Toyota Research Institute, among others. When he was in Davos, the institute’s CEO, Dr Gill Pratt “told me how his team has flipped things around so that the autonomous system is used as the guardian angel. Creating a self-driving car that works in all possible conditions is tough, but humans can handle those exceptions.” 

With a person making most decisions in the driving seat, the AI intervenes “occasionally – for instance, when there’s a looming accident. I think this is a good model, not only for self-driving cars, but for many other applications where humans and machines work together.” 

For similar reasons, Brynjolfsson lauds Cresta, a provider of AI systems for customer contact centres. Its products keep humans “at the forefront” of operations instead of chatbots, whose apparent Turing test failures continue to frustrate most people who deal with them. 

“The AI gives them suggestions about what to mention to customers,” he says. “This system does dramatically better in terms of both productivity and customer satisfaction. It closes the skills gap too.”

Does Brynjolfsson have a final message for business leaders before he heads off to give his next lecture? “We need to catch up and keep control of these technologies,” he says. “If we do that, I think the next 10 years will be the best decade we’ve ever had on this planet.”

This article was first published by Raconteur, as part of the Future of Work special report in The Times, in February 2023

Hybrid working and the trust challenge

Some of the hurdles around identity and productivity have been cleared, but no one has the perfect solution, according to a roundtable of experts

In early 2023, three years since the start of the coronavirus pandemic that spurred work trends already trotting along, the pace of change continues at a frightening gallop. It’s been a bumpy ride for both employer and employee. 

The hurdles of trust and security still loom large and must be cleared to improve Britain’s productivity growth, which has lagged behind G7 peers since the last financial crash. 

The most recent Office for National Statistics, corrected in late January, calculated Britain’s average output per hour or per worker – a vital metric to gauge living standards and future wages – contracted 0.3% between 2020 and 2021 when the economy struggled under pandemic restrictions. Only France’s 0.5% decline was worse during the same period.

Last September, a Microsoft report, which surveyed 20,000 people across 11 countries, discerned a “productivity paranoia” suffered by leaders who worried their workers were underperforming despite increasing hours and meetings. While 87% of employees felt they were productive, 85% of senior leaders said the shift to hybrid work made it challenging to have confidence in staff performance.

However, a new study suggests a corner has been turned on trust, at least in the UK. The research, launched in late January by global identity and access management company Okta, found that of the 500-plus business leaders quizzed, 85% believed remote or hybrid working is not causing disappointing workforce output.

As encouraging as these results are for hybrid working evangelists, doubts linger, says Rachel Phillips, Okta’s vice president in the UK and Ireland. She points out that while 61% of the business leaders surveyed believe that remote workers are more productive, 15% still think that they are less so.

Measuring success

Karen Jacks, chief technology officer at Bird & Bird, whose 1,400 lawyers operate in 31 countries, identifies two critical problems with hybrid working, trust and productivity. She notes that measuring hybrid working output and performance in some industries is tricky, given there are intangible factors, such as brainstorming sessions or virtual check-in meetings. 

“Because we are a professional services organisation, and lawyers record what they are working on, it’s straightforward to monitor productivity,” she says. Notably, throughout the pandemic, Bird & Bird’s productivity level increased. “It continues to be at a high level, with people encouraged to come into the office around 50% of their time.”

Chanuka Weerasinghe, chief technology officer at Hawes & Curtis and engyin.com, agrees that determining either employee engagement or output for a hybrid workforce is complex for many reasons. “There are certain things we can’t measure, or they are hard to measure,” he concedes. “Also, we could use monitoring software, but it is intrusive, and we don’t want to come across like we are spying on employees.”

Nefarious actors might be snooping, though. From a security perspective, hybrid working has multiplied attack vectors, says Andrew Tsonchev, cybersecurity firm Darktrace’s vice president of technology. But most organisations have responded to limited potential cyber threats. “It feels like we are now in a more stable era of hybrid working, and all of the significant changes that needed to happen have been made,” he says. 

Regarding identity, Tsonchev is pleased that many businesses have, finally, embraced a zero trust model – “never trust, always verify” – to cybersecurity. “The conditions of hybrid work make concepts like zero trust non-optional, which is good,” he adds.

Cultural change

Another trust-related issue could be cultural for some organisations, says Jacks. If some leaders are sniffy about people working away from the office, more fool them. “We make sure our people know we trust them,” she says. “People used to say ‘oh, you’re working from home’ with quotation marks, but I think that attitude is changing.”

This insight chimes with Becky Wender, global head of culture, talent and learning at global cosmetics firm Avon. “At times, we have tried to legislate for everyone being bad as opposed to trusting people to do the right thing and then dealing with those who don’t,” she says.

Key to a culture of trust is connection and communication. Wender began her role in April 2020, at the start of the first lockdown. She turned to the company’s learning experience platform, Fuse, to ensure the workforce stayed connected. “Leaders ran events, and we had things like making hand sanitiser with our kids,” she says. 

Buoyed by that early triumph, Wender created a “two-day virtual career festival” attended by 3,400 associates from the 39 markets in which Avon operates. “There were 69 learning sessions, and a huge success,” she says. “Now we are back in the office more, the question is: how do we use technology to help all our markets stay connected?” 

Connection problem

Andy Hepworth, future of work transformation director at consulting and digital services company Sopra Steria, argues that flipping things around and asking employees what’s working, and what’s not, helps reconnect and reinvigorate a hybrid workforce. 

“We invited everyone within the UK business to participate in workshops, one-to-one meetings, questionnaires, or just to drop suggestions through,” he says. “We collated and meticulously catalogued it all to assess where we were as a company. We looked at where the hotspots were and what we needed to prioritise to improve the lives of our colleagues because a one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid doesn’t work.”

Hepworth points out that those earlier on in their careers are often especially keen to be in the office to learn “through osmosis” from more experienced colleagues. But he stresses that managers and leaders have an essential role to play here. “There is a dependency on reciprocation; otherwise, people coming in to learn will be stuck in a vacuum,” he warns.

Again, the solution lies in reframing the potential issue. Hence, lots of in-person events are organised at the Sopra Steria offices around what Hepworth neatly calls the “three Cs”. He explains: “We get together to connect, collaborate or congratulate.”

Similarly, Okta’s Phillips makes herself available to her team members for ask-me-anything sessions and encourages in-office get-togethers for “moments that matter”. She is conscious of how some young or vulnerable employees might struggle without physical interaction with colleagues. 

Additionally, Phillips references Gartner data that reveals the bonds between remote-working teams have strengthened, but relationships outside that bubble are weaker due to infrequent contact. “We are siloed by video-conferencing and tend to engage with the same people daily.” 

Phillips adds: “Hybrid working is not going away, so how do we enable people within that environment to be as impactful as possible?”

No one has the perfect answer, yet.

This article was first published by Raconteur, as part of the Future of Work special report in The Times, in February 2023

‘Protirement’ is trending again – but ageism remains rife

In late January, Jeremy Hunt, chancellor of the U.K. government, invoked the spirit of Uncle Sam, who had implored Americans to enroll for World War I action over a century earlier. “I want YOU for the U.S. Army,” read the caption on the four million recruitment posters – featuring the scowling, pointing, bearded fictitious character – plastered across the country. 

With, at the last count, 1.1 million job vacancies to fill in the U.K., Hunt adopted a similarly commanding tone, this time to persuade troops to rejoin the workforce and ease the war for talent. “To those who retired early after the pandemic or haven’t found the right role after furlough, I say ‘Britain needs you,’” he said. “We will look at the conditions necessary to make work worth your while.”

This plea was part of a campaign to encourage the 630,000 people who left the U.K. workforce between 2019 and 2022 – so-called “protirees” – to return to employment and help the country fight off the recession.

However, more recent research from the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) that surveyed more than 1,000 managers working in U.K. businesses and public services indicated firms are overlooking older people and instead opting for younger workers. Indeed, just 42% of respondents were open “to a large extent” to hiring people aged between 50 and 64 years old.

How, then, can protirees who want to return to employment be better welcomed by organizations so that their considerable talents are not squandered? 

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in February 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

WTF is learning quotient – and why it matters now

In January, at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alps, there was much chat about ChatGPT, OpenAI’s large-scale language model that has been fed 300 billion words to help it generate plausible, passable answers to most questions. An Elon Musk tweet summed up the sentiment for many. “It’s a new world. Goodbye homework!”

With generative AI advanced enough to produce eerily-human text responses, and other related foundational models now able to create music, art, and code, is it time to turn the page on traditional education? Further, is rote learning and cramming for exams, only to forget the key facts instantly afterwards, finished? Granted, it has its place for times tables and languages, but what else, really? 

While some may want to defer answering these uncomfortable puzzlers, speakers on oversubscribed AI-related panels at Davos 2023 heralded LQ as the new IQ.

So what exactly is LQ?

It stands for “learning quotient” – as opposed to intelligence quotient. Essentially, it’s a measure of adaptability and one’s desire and ability to update our skills throughout life.

The full version of this article was first published on Digiday’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in February 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How the drive to improve employee experience could trigger a ‘data-privacy crisis’

How much personal information would you feel comfortable with your company knowing, even if it improves the working experience? Where is the line? Also, will that boundary be different for your colleagues?

Right now, it’s all a gray area, but it could darken quickly. Because of that fuzziness and subjectivity, it’s a tricky balance to strike for employers. On the one hand, they are being encouraged — if not urged — to dial up personalization to attract and retain top talent. On the other hand, however, with too much information on staff, they might be accused of taking liberties and trespassing on data privacy issues. 

In 2023, organizations are increasingly using emerging technologies — artificial intelligence (AI) assistants, wearables, and so on — to collect more data on employees’ health, family situations, living conditions, and mental health to respond more effectively to their needs. But embracing these technologies has the potential to trigger a “data-privacy crisis,” warned Emily Rose McRae, senior director of management consultancy Gartner’s human resources practice.

Earlier in January, Gartner identified that “as organizations get more personal with employee support, it will create new data risks” as one of the top nine workplace predictions for chief human resource offices this year.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Lack of in-office experience shows many Gen Zers don’t know how to behave at work

London-based banking consultant Amy – an alias to which WorkLife agreed to protect her identity in the highly regulated financial services industry – has managed dozens of Gen Zers in the last couple of years. She has often been frustrated – and at times flabbergasted – by their attitude towards traditional workplace norms. She offered plenty of examples, but overall it’s the sense of entitlement despite a lack of experience that most sticks in the craw. 

“Many started their careers in lockdown, but they are super-ambitious and expect to be calling the shots. Yet when restrictions lifted, it became clear that they were unsure of the right workplace etiquette,” said Amy, who has worked for numerous banks in a 20-year career.

She explained how there was an agreed expectation for everyone to return to the office for one specific day a week to improve face-to-face connection and collaboration. However, Gen Zers would frequently not show up for the brainstorming sessions. “I’d have to call them to see if they were coming in, and they’d say: ‘No, I’m working from home.’”

Amy’s insights tally with recent Gartner data that suggests the rise in remote and hybrid working has meant that many career starters have committed faux pas due to having few in-person experiences. Expressly, this lack of face-to-face time in the office has limited the chances to observe workplace norms or determine what is appropriate and effective within their organizations. 

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in January 2023 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

The future of work is not evenly distributed – how employers can prepare

“The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.” U.S.-Canadian writer William Gibson, the father of the cyberpunk sub-genre of science fiction, has had his finger on the pulse of breakthrough innovations for decades. However, in early 2023, this perceptive comment is especially apt for the working world, which is going through the most seismic transformation in our history.

The digital revolution, accelerated by the pandemic fallout, presents challenges and opportunities. For instance, technology has enabled remote working. And yet, employees are clocking up more hours when not in the office, and loneliness that harms mental health is becoming a worrying side effect. Plus, the number of meetings has also shot up, and often people mistake being busy for being productive.

Moreover, while workers demand more time and location flexibility, where does that leave industries in which it isn’t feasible? It’s all very well for those in desk-based jobs to use tech to improve their work-life balance, yet around 80% of global workers are “deskless.” They need to be physically present to do their jobs. 

To help navigate the journey ahead, WorkLife selected nine recent statistics to show the direction of travel, identify the most prominent likely obstacles, and offer advice from experts on how employers can overcome them. In this article, we have included four, and the remaining five will be published separately.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

WTF is social engineering?

Who can you trust online? Given the surging number of global identity thefts, it seems we are nowhere near cautious enough regarding digital interactions.

Neil Smith, partner success manager for EMEA North at cybersecurity firm Norton, said 55% of people in the U.K. admit that they would have no idea what to do if their identity was stolen. “The biggest worry is that it is often ourselves that is the root cause of identity theft,” he added.

Further, Allen Ohanian, chief information security officer of Los Angeles County said that, alarmingly, 67% of us trust people online more than in the physical world.

In early 2022, the World Economic Forum calculated that 95% of cybersecurity incidents occur due to human error. “Almost every time there’s an attack, it’s down to a mistake by or manipulation of people like you and me,” said Jenny Radcliffe, who goes by the moniker “The People Hacker.”

Indeed, 98% of all cyberattacks involve some form of social engineering, cyber security experts Purplesec worked out.

But what exactly is social engineering?

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Gen Z workers are not tech-savvy in the workplace – and it’s a growing problem

It turns out Gen Zers have a common secret. They’re not as comfortable with new technology as older generations would typically presume.

Sure, they may have grown up with instant access to information and an affinity for digital devices that older generations had to learn. But that has led to a widespread presumption that Gen Zers are therefore innately good with tech. Now, new research is showing that may not be the case at all when it comes to workplace tech. In fact, this presumption from older generations is leading a larger number of young professionals to experience “tech shame,” according to HP’s “Hybrid Work: Are We There Yet?” report, published in late November.

One in 5 of the 18-to-29-year-olds polled in the report, which surveyed 10,000 office workers in 10 markets including the U.S. and U.K., said they felt judged when experiencing technical issues, compared to only one in 25 for those aged 40 years and over. Further, 25% of the former age group would actively avoid participating in a meeting if they thought their tech tools might cause disruption, whereas it was just 6% for the latter cohort.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in December 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How organizations can spot future workforce skills gaps

With technology-powered change being the only constant in the digital age, what skills will pay the bills in the next five years? Moreover, how could — and should — organizations identify the potential gaps in the near future and train employees or hire accordingly to plug them?

According to global data analyzed by LinkedIn, the skillsets required for jobs have changed by 25% from 2015 to 2021. “This figure is expected to double by 2027,” said Becky Schnauffer, LinkedIn’s head of global clients in EMEA and LATAM. 

These findings were mirrored by a Boston Consulting Group report published in May, which showed that 37% of the top 20 skills requested for the average U.S. job had changed from 2016. But which industries have been impacted the most, and which others are at risk?

The LinkedIn Future of Skills report calculated that since 2015, the top three sectors to have experienced the most significant change in required skillsets are hardware and networking (31%), energy and mining (27%), and construction (26%). 

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Organizations are reskilling retired elite professional athletes

At the pinnacle of his rugby sevens career, Philip Burgess won an Olympic silver medal representing Great Britain at Rio 2016. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience — I felt so lucky to be there, and it was an unreal sense of achievement,” he said.

However, when he hung up his boots seven years later, at age 32, Burgess struggled. Despite captaining England of the sport and being a prominent leader, he found it initially hard to catch a break in his second career. “The transition from sports to business was hard,” he admitted. “I had spent over a decade building skills and working tirelessly, and had gone from being one of the best players in the rugby sevens [a form of rugby that uses seven players] world to feeling like an overqualified graduate.”

A LinkedIn post, in which Burgess wrote that he was actively looking for opportunities, was spotted by a fellow ex-sportsman working at Salesforce. He contacted Burgess, who in time became an account executive for the software firm. “He and a group of fellow ex-athletes at Salesforce supported me to transition — we have become a community, and it has helped to build the foundation for Athleteforce,” said Burgess.

The full version of this article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in November 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Is long-term employee retention a losing battle?

Is the concept of a job for life dead?

The mass reassessment of careers people have undergone over the past few years – described by many as the Great Resignation, by others as the Great Reshufffle – is showing no signs of calming down. In fact, in the U.K., the trend seems to be accelerating.

More than 6.5 million people (20% of the U.K. workforce) are expected to quit their job in the next 12 months, according to estimates from the Charted Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which published the data in June after surveying more than 6,000 workers. That’s up from 2021, when 16% of the U.K. workforce said they plan to quit within a year, according to the CIPD. Meanwhile, in March Microsoft’s global Work Trend Index found that 52% of Gen Zers and Millennials — the two generations that represent the vast majority of the workforce — were likely to consider changing jobs within the following year.

Tania Garrett, chief people officer at Unit4, a global cloud software provider for services companies, argued that it is time for organizations to get real — they are no longer recruiting people for the long term. Instead, they should embrace this reality, and stop creating rewards that encourage more extended service from employees. 

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

The Great Disconnection: People no longer recognize their workplace

Modern workplaces have an employee-disconnection problem. And it’s costing businesses a fortune.

Two-thirds of 2,000 white-collar workers in the U.K. feel disengaged from their workplace, while 53% of 3,000 U.S. workers polled in the same survey, recently published by recruitment firm Robert Walters, said they also feel disengaged. The firm calculated that the cost of that workplace disengagement to the U.K.’s already shaky economy will be £340 billion ($386 billion) this year alone.

It’s a strong indicator that despite having moved past the worst peaks of the coronavirus pandemic, and the long period of enforced remote working that followed, the shift to more flexible-working policies hasn’t solved the issue either. At least, not yet.

More than two years later, it seems that the employee disconnection can is still being kicked down the road. That’s not for lack of trying.

Employers everywhere have brought in new working measures at every turn – whether it’s hybrid models, work-from-anywhere policies, flexible hours, four-day weeks, or even full five-day returns to the office. You name it, it’s being tested. But could it be that there has been so much change that that in itself is adding to the confusion and disconnection? 

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in October 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

Are employers creating a lost generation of managers?

For all the benefits of flexible working, a stark question remains unanswered: How will no or little in-office experience affect our young and future managers?

To some, the opportunities to learn through osmosis, either in the office or at work socials, are already dwindling. If left unchecked, it could potentially lead to a lost generation of young managers in knowledge-worker industries, they think.

Perhaps employers deserve some sympathy. With the war for talent raging and a gloomy economic outlook, investment in developing young workers could be costly with little return.

Maybe it makes better sense to work backward: What skills will the managers of tomorrow require? UJJI research identified the five skill areas for good managers in the world of modern work as communication, problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, and productivity.

How can these skills be honed if workplace learning is limited?

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in September 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How to fix the metaverse’s sexual harassment problem (and make ‘metawork’ a reality)

Since Meta – the tech titan formerly known as Facebook – revealed last year that it would invest heavily in the metaverse, there has been massive enthusiasm about the possibilities of this nascent technology, not least in a future-of-work capacity. 

Indeed, at the end of July, a study by Grand View Research predicted the booming metaverse market will reach $6.8 trillion by 2030. However, alarming recent data indicates that almost two-thirds of adults believe metaverse technologies will enable sexual harassment.

national tracking poll by business-intelligence company Morning Consult, published in March, found that 61% of 4,420 U.S. adults were concerned about this specific subject. Women seem most worried about it, with 41% of female respondents saying they have “major” concerns, compared to 34% of males. 

The same research showed that 79% of adults are worried about the tracking and misuse of personal data in the metaverse. Add in the numerous articles written about people’s personal experiences of harassment in the metaverse, and it’s clear there is a deep-rooted trust issue that business leaders should consider before funding metaverse worlds for employees, whether onboarding staff, hosting events, or meetings.

This article was first published on DigiDay’s future-of-work platform, WorkLife, in August 2022 – to read the complete piece, please click HERE.

How technology can help financial services organisations reach younger generations

Smartphone apps, gamification and proactive support are some of the ways operators can engage the digital natives of today and tomorrow

Baby boomers might have a majority of global wealth today, but tomorrow it will be different. Indeed, by 2030, Europe’s younger generations – millennials and gen z – are due to inherit around £2.3 trillion from their parents, according to recent estimates. How can financial service operators cash in on this great wealth transfer?

In 2022, client-facing teams operating in the financial service industry can – and must – leverage technology to build meaningful relationships with younger generations who are digital natives. 

Indeed, over a third (34%) of 18- to 34-year-olds would choose a different financial services provider if they were expected to visit a branch in person, according to VMware’s recent Digital Frontiers 4.0 report, which surveyed over 2,000 UK consumers. 

Similarly, Marqeta’s 2022 Consumer Money Movement report reveals generational differences. Over half (54%) of gen z – born between 1997 and 2012 – can’t recall their PINs, and more than three-quarters (77%) feel confident enough with contactless payments to leave their wallets at home and just go out with their phones. 

Consider a Chase study from 2021 indicated that 99% of gen z and 98% of Millennials use mobile banking apps, compared to 86.5% of gen x and 69.5% of Boomers.

“Younger markets live on their smartphones,” says Ben Johnson, CEO of digital transformation consultants BML Digital. “Everything needs to be available via the app, and the mobile experience has to match the ease of something like Snapchat or Pinterest.” 

Prakash Pattni, managing director of financial services digital transformation in EMEA for IBM, agrees. “Ultimately, younger consumers want to access their accounts, lock missing cards, make virtual payments and transfer money to others swiftly and securely,” he says. “Financial institutions must develop easy-to-use applications with superior uptime that can easily integrate with other apps.”

Gamification and proactive support

How can financial services operators generate trust with younger generations? “Technology is the answer,” posits Somya Patnaik, a market product manager specialising in real-time payments at ACI Worldwide. “They must bring more innovative features that will engage young people and improve their consumer experience.”

Gamification in financial services is winning a lot of trust among young consumers, suggests Patnaik. So, for instance, insurance companies might build an app that tracks fitness activities against pre-agreed goals, which, if hit, unlock rewards like cheaper insurance or gym memberships. This insight chimes with George Ioannou, managing partner at design experience company Foolproof. Learning patterns around digital activities differ according to age. Where the older generations turn to Facebook for information, younger generations are growing up using gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Discord servers. 

“This may speak to using gamified models of education within financial applications to facilitate learning, perhaps even in a sandbox, and therefore a safe environment,” says Ioannou. 

Ioannou argues that technology enables financial services organisations to become more proactive in supporting customers, and younger generations want more advice about money matters now than ever. “Operators need to step up and actively educate their users,” he adds. 

Research from Personetics, a global fintech, published at the end of June shows in the past three months only 22% of UK customers feel their primary bank has communicated with them about dealing with the cost-of-living crisis. Further, over half (53%) would consider moving banks if a rival offered better money management support and personalised advice.

Reliable source of truth 

Financial education is now starting young. NatWest is currently offering a children’s pocket-money application for free to customers. “Last year, we acquired Rooster Money, a children’s prepaid debit card and app,” explains Fay Wood, head of acquisition and digital security authentication. “We wanted to do more in the space for children.”  

She also stresses the importance of working with expert partners to provide access to apps at speed. “Five or ten years ago, we would have built something like Rooster Money in-house.”

Alongside proactive apps, social media is an invaluable tool for sales and marketing teams in the financial service industry looking to use tech to appeal to younger customers. Here, states Amanda Le Brocq, head of strategy at Marcus by Goldman Sachs, is where organisations can add value. 

“Young people are increasingly getting financial information from social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram,” she says. “But with so much content available, people can easily get the wrong information. Today, it is essential that financial services companies provide a compelling digital offering, so young people can consume content online and know it is coming from a reliable source.”

Operators wanting to engage younger customers must look further and deeper, says Meghana Nile, insurance CTO at Fujitsu. “Social media and peers influence a lot of the purchasing decisions, meaning financial services companies that have a reputation for having ethical and sustainable practices will attract buyers from gen z, who in 2030 will be the dominant purchasing demographic.”

This article was first published in Raconteur’s The new financial services client experience insights report, sponsored by Seismic, in August 2022