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Australian employees understand AI benefits – so what’s holding them back?

Today, Adobe announced new research that examines attitudes towards digital technologies and productivity among Australian knowledge workers. Adobe’s The Future of Digital Work: Australia report reveals the factors that enable and constrain productivity and the digital tools and processes that are most important to a productive and gratified future workforce.

  • 91% say that Generative AI is helpful/miraculous, and 85% say the same thing about automation.
  • 51% of leaders have adopted AI, and only 25% of workers have access.
  • 66% of knowledge workers believe that their companies should use Generative AI, however, only 22% of companies currently use Generative AI.
  • Poor technology tools are costing companies up to 6 months of working hours a year.
  • 87% say poor technology impacts productivity, with 13% set to quit due to poor technology.

According to the data, the current state of digital work has found that digital proficiency is lagging despite 82% of knowledge workers stating that digital technologies play an essential role in day-to-day work. While few admit to struggling, just over 1 in 3 admit they are just getting by, with only 1 in 10 claiming to be top experts.

Of all technologies, knowledge workers overall are most likely to agree they can’t live without digital documents (72%), technology to support collaboration (65%) and video conferencing (58%). As hybrid work becomes more prevalent, leaders tend to rely more on collaboration and video conferencing, while employees tend to lean towards instant messaging platforms and digital approval tools for their communication and workflow needs. Despite the increasing adoption of digital technologies, paper-based work continues to be used in many workplaces. More than 1 in 3 knowledge workers say that at least half of their work is paper based, while 19% say they are fully paperless.

Workers Embrace Generative AI for Engaging and Meaningful Work

Efficiency and quality are at the forefront of employee minds when it comes to generative AI, with respondents highlighting the myriad benefits this brings, including accelerated work processes (86%), elimination of redundant tasks (84%), more time for engaging and meaningful work (83%), and the production of high-quality output (83%). However, only 22% of respondents reported that their companies currently use generative AI.

With the astounding benefits associated with Generative AI it’s no surprise that 58% of workers anticipate regular utilisation of generative AI in the coming years, showcasing their confidence in its value. While the majority of knowledge workers (68%) and leaders (70%) believe their companies should leverage generative AI, 32% of respondents still remain hesitant. The top barriers hindering its adoption include security concerns, executives’ resistance, and a lack of comprehensive understanding.

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Both leaders and employees recognise the positive influence of AI on their work (68%), with 23% considering it nothing short of miraculous, and 24% of workers declaring AI has completely revolutionised their work for the better.  The research suggests that more businesses have adopted AI solutions than the workforce is aware of, with double the number of leaders (52%) acknowledging their organisation’s use of AI compared to employees (25%). Leaders, in particular, reap the benefits of AI, experiencing increased speed, time savings, and eliminating mundane tasks.

Impact Equates to Productivity Gains Amid Economic Uncertainty

Traditional notions of productivity in the workplace are shifting as Australians redefine success in the workplace, prioritising impact alongside volume and speed. On average, knowledge workers are almost 2x more likely to equate productivity with doing more impactful than simply doing more or focusing on efficiency. This paradigm shift is being spearheaded by employees themselves, with a majority (52%) emphasising the importance of impactful work, surpassing even their leaders (43%).

While the global average demonstrates that external factors like inflation and economic uncertainty impact productivity for 72% of knowledge workers, Australians show a relatively lower figure at 58%. Hybrid working arrangements were rated the least disruptive factor to productivity, garnering only 26% of the respondents’ concerns.

Adapting to the evolving landscape, the Australian workforce relies more on digital tools and platforms than ever, with 89% acknowledging the importance of technology in enhancing productivity. However, 87% of knowledge workers agree that poor technology tools negatively affect their productivity. Of these, 12% say it’s killing productivity. Globally, employees point to the lack of automation as their top productivity killer.

Poor Technology Tools are Costing Companies Up to 6 Months of Work a Year

Leaders (88%) and employees (87%) overwhelmingly agree that poor technology tools can hurt productivity, with 64% of leaders saying they are losing 2-4 hours a day due to poor technology, resulting in up to a loss of 25 weeks (6 months) per working year. Substandard technology is also noted as significantly eroding the bottom line. 31% of all workers believe poor technology tools negatively impact profitability by 20% or more.

Poor technology also has a significant impact on talent retention. When workers encounter technology at work that constrains productivity, only 21% said they would speak up to a superior. 17% would look for another job, and 15% said they would ‘quiet quit’ or tune out. 13% of employees are considering quitting their job in the next 6 months because of work technology holding back productivity. This can be as high as 39% for full-time remote workers. Most knowledge workers also stated that access to technology heavily influences their decision to accept a job offer, with the majority saying it’s critical (23%) or a top consideration (44%).

“The insights revealed through the report indicate that while knowledge workers recognise the importance of digital tools, proficiency lags behind, with poor technology hampering productivity.” said Chandra Sinnathamby, Director, Digital Media B2B Strategy & GTM, Asia-Pacific, “Embracing the power of digital technologies is the key to unlocking productivity and satisfaction in the future workforce. Automation and AI hold the potential to revolutionise work, while generative AI offers promise in enhancing document workflows, increasing efficiency, and delivering higher-quality work. By overcoming barriers and embracing technology, we can pave the way for a future where productivity is empowered, and the full potential of workers is unleashed.”

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