Malaysians bring their own AI tools into the workplace in pursuit of productivity

Malaysians have taken steps to ensure they don’t fall behind in the AI race, even though companies are struggling to keep up.

The 2024 Work Trend Index revealed a BYOAI culture (bring you own AI), similar to the BYOD trend (bring yourself your own device), with 83% Malaysians choosing to use their AI tools at work.

The report highlights a key point: Employees want AI in the workplace and will not wait for companies catch up.

This trend is not limited to Gen Z. The study conducted by Microsoft and LinkedIn, a professional networking platform, found that AI tools are being adopted at high rates across all age groups.

Gen Z is the most likely to adopt a new technology, with a rate of 85%. Gen X, at 76%, Millennials, at 78% and Baby Boomers, at 73%, are also among the top three.

“Historically, when you compare all other trends, like mobile phones or tablets, Baby Boomers are slower to adopt these technologies because they’re afraid of them. Seven out of ten people are using generative AI today,” said K Raman. He is the managing director of Microsoft Malaysia.

Edelman Data & Intelligence, an independent research company, conducted the Work Trend Index. The survey involved 31,000 knowledge workers who were either full-time employees or self-employed in 31 markets between February 15, 2024 and March 28, 2024.

In addition to Malaysia, the survey markets include China Hong Kong, Indonesia Singapore, Taiwan Thailand and Vietnam.

BYOAI has also been driven by the increasing pace of work. It is difficult for employees and employers to keep up.

According to the survey, 68% of respondents struggled with work volume and pace, while 46% said they felt burnt out.

Email is still a major obstacle. The average person must read four emails to every one that they send. This means that 85% of all emails are read in less than 15 seconds.

Meetings and work after hours have not changed since the pandemic. The majority of the day is spent on communication tools.

Microsoft 365 apps spend 60% of their time on emails, chats and meetings and 40% on creation apps such as Word or PowerPoint.

Raman says that AI adoption rates in Malaysia, which are 84% higher than the global average of 75%, have outpaced other revolutionary technologies.

The 2024 Work Trend Index showed that a BYOAI culture is emerging, similar to the BYOD trend. 83% of Malaysians are now using their own AI tools at work. Image by Rawpixel.com via Freepik

If you look at the technology trends, it took 16 years for mobile phones to reach 100 million people. Everyone can’t do without them today. They have changed the way that we live, work and spend time with our families.

The second boom was the Internet. But even that boom took seven long years to reach 100 million users. Facebook took Facebook four and a half years to reach 100 million users. ChatGPT has achieved this in only three months.

Raman, at a press briefing, said that because the technology was so simple to use, consumers were starting to ask for the use generative AI.


Risk vs reward

Raman stressed that employees are driving the shift in technology, as they want to increase productivity and use their time more efficiently. They do not wait for their organizations to develop a cohesive AI vision and roadmap.

It is a concern to 66% of respondents who believe that their organizations have not yet established a clear AI direction.

“AI is now a business necessity, and leaders need to be more willing to experiment quickly in order for them drive the business transformation,” Raman said.

Adoption of AI poses a risk to security, particularly if it is done without the proper policies.

“The concern that we have today is: Because users like myself, who used AI first in their personal life, and companies aren’t really adopting AI on a large scale yet, now people are bringing their AI tools to the workplace.

The concept of BYOAI has become a popular trend among organisations, as the risk of exposing your company’s information is a major concern.

This survey shows that employees are bringing in their AI without telling their employers, and at the same, exposing their company.

Raman explained that the companies who do not deploy a companywide AI strategy or a guidance system for AI are at risk of data breaches.

According to the report, 52% of Malaysian AI-users are reluctant to tell their bosses they use AI. 53% of them are also unwilling to share their tools for fear of losing their jobs despite productivity gains.

AI is already used by 85% of AI users to start their day, and 82% use it for planning the next day.


Shift in job skills

Rohit Kalsy of LinkedIn, South-East Asia’s head of sales for emerging market, described it as a shift in the skills required by organisations.

“From 2015 onwards, we have seen an average of a 25% increase in the required skills to be successful in a job application.

“After ChatGPT entered our lives in November 2022, we noticed a sudden increase. “With the new tech and the way roles are changing, we expect that 68% of skills needed for this job will be different by 2030,” said he.

In Malaysia, 62% said that they would not hire a candidate who did not have AI skills. However, 65% of the business leaders surveyed are more likely than others to hire an experienced candidate with AI abilities.

It is clear that job seekers are aware of this. Since late last year, LinkedIn users have added 142x more AI skills to their profiles.

This shows that AI is not an “X” factor anymore, but rather a requirement in the workplace of today.

This past year, professionals have become more aware of the importance of upgrading their skills to prepare for the AI age.

Rohit stated that “we have seen a record-breaking number of learners taking the best AI courses available on LinkedIn in South-East Asia and Australia since January 2023.”

LinkedIn has seen a 160% rise in the number of users who are not from technical sectors like real estate or logistics but want to learn more about AI.

Izzat Azim, the chief technology officer of Permodalan Nasional Bhd, says that workers should ask themselves, “Can AI assist me in this?”. This will allow them to do more productive and high-value tasks.

In any technology, familiarisation with the product is essential. “I remember the days when we went to class to learn Microsoft Word or Excel. But today, people laugh at us,” he said.

Izzat explained how, when Excel first came out, people consolidated everything into one workbook instead of using ledgers or journals. He believes the same concept is applicable to AI.

He said, “Now, just like when we used to train people in Word or PowerPoint, it’s time to adopt the same mindset about AI knowledge.”

Ahmad Yusri Mohamed believes that companies will engage in an arms race to build datasets for AI to support their AI deployment over the next four or five years.

“Your AI is only as good as your data, so before you think about and plan about implementing AI automation and analytics, I suggest that you first plan about how you will gather, store and release data to the users.

I think that in four or five years, people will be able to brag about their data size when they talk about AI. This will determine the quality of your AI,” he said.

Raman emphasizes, however, that integrating AI just for its own sake is a misguided strategy. The key is to look at the specific challenges faced by a business and use the technology to solve those problems.

“In order for the business to progress, their leaders must start using a bottom-up, top-down strategy.” He said that leaders must train and guide their employees to become familiar with AI.

Although 88% of Malaysian business leaders in the survey believed AI was a necessity for their businesses, they are concerned that their organizations lack a vision and plan to implement it.

Raman suggests that companies should observe how their staff uses tools to increase efficiency, and then develop a strategy based on their needs. They can also create standards of best practice.

Izzat has a similar view, stating that companies must first understand the benefits of AI before they rush to implement it.

The idea is not to include AI. We need to anchor it on the problem and see if AI can solve the issue.

“People don’t usually read the manuals when they buy consumer products. Many of the features and capabilities listed in the manual are not used.

He said: “Like any product, we should understand it, know its capabilities and ask the right questions in order to maximize the use of the technology.”

Izzat emphasizes the importance of having the right tools and applications for the specific task at hand, as well as a clear purpose to use AI.

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