In pursuit of productivity: Malaysians are bringing their own AI tools to work


(l-r) Raman, Ahmad Yusri, Izzat and Rohit at the media briefing for the Work Trend Index 2024 in Microsoft Malaysia recently. — GLENN GUAN/The Star

As the AI race accelerates, Malaysians are determined not to be left behind and are taking steps to stay ahead, even as companies struggle to keep up.

The 2024 Work Trend Index revealed an emerging BYOAI (bring your own AI) culture, akin to the well-known BYOD (bring your own device) trend, with 83% of Malaysians now opting to use their own AI tools in the workplace.

The report underscores a key point: employees want AI at work and won’t wait for companies to catch up.

The joint study by software giant Microsoft and professional networking platform LinkedIn discovered that this trend extends beyond just Gen Z, with high adoption rates for AI tools seen across all age groups.

Figures from the study suggests that AI adoption has become a cross-generational trend. — MicrosoftFigures from the study suggests that AI adoption has become a cross-generational trend. — Microsoft

Gen Z leads with an adoption rate of 85%, followed closely by Gen X at 76%, Millennials at 78%, and Baby Boomers at 73% in the country.

“Historically, if you look at all other trends like mobile phones, the adoption by Baby Boomers is slower because they are afraid to use some of these newer technologies. But today, seven out of 10 are already using generative AI,” said K Raman, managing director of Microsoft Malaysia.

The Work Trend Index survey was carried out by the independent research firm Edelman Data & Intelligence. It involved 31,000 full-time employed or self-employed knowledge workers across 31 markets from February 15, 2024, to March 28, 2024.

Apart from Malaysia, the surveyed markets include China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Another key driver of BYOAI is the increasingly rapid pace of work, making it difficult for employees to keep up.

In the study, 68% of respondents said they struggled with the pace and volume of work, and 46% felt burned out.

The ubiquitous email continues to be an obstacle – globally, the typical person has to read about four emails for every one they send, resulting in 85% of emails being read in under 15 seconds.

Also, meetings and after-hours work have remained unchanged since the pandemic, with the workday spent mostly on communication tools.

In the Microsoft 365 apps, 60% of time is allocated to emails, chats, and meetings, and only 40% in creation apps like Word and PowerPoint.

According to Raman, the AI adoption rate – which stands at 84% for Malaysia and surpasses the global rate of 75% – has outpaced other revolutionary technologies.

The 2024 Work Trend Index revealed an emerging BYOAI culture, akin to the well-known BYOD trend, with 83% of Malaysians now opting to use their own AI tools in the workplace. — Image by rawpixel.com on FreepikThe 2024 Work Trend Index revealed an emerging BYOAI culture, akin to the well-known BYOD trend, with 83% of Malaysians now opting to use their own AI tools in the workplace. — Image by rawpixel.com on Freepik

“If you look at technology trends, mobile phones took 16 years to hit 100 million people. Today, everyone can’t live without them. They changed the way we work, play and enjoy time with family.

“The second big boom was the Internet, but even the Internet boom took seven years to hit 100 million. For social media, Facebook took four-and-a-half years. ChatGPT achieved that in just three months.

“Because the technology is so easy to use, we are starting to see how consumers who are using ChatGPT are using this generative AI or asking for the use of generative AI in their workplace,” Raman said at a media briefing.

Risk vs reward

Raman emphasised that as the technological shift is driven by employees seeking to enhance productivity and make more efficient use of their time, they are not waiting for their organisations to roll out a coherent AI vision and roadmap.

This has become a cause of concern for 66% of respondents, who feel their organisations have yet to establish a clear direction for AI.

“With AI becoming a business imperative, leaders must demonstrate more appetite for rapid experimentation to drive business transformation,” said Raman.

However, the adoption of AI, especially without proper policies, poses a security risk.

“The concern we have today is this: because users like me, who first used AI in their personal lives, and companies are not really adopting AI at scale yet, people are now bringing their own AI tools to work.

“This whole concept of BYOAI is becoming a trend that organisations are very concerned about because the exposure of your company’s data is also a big concern today.

“We are finding from this survey that people are coming in with their AI, not letting their bosses know they are using AI for work, but at the same time exposing the company.

“That means the risk for organisations not deploying a company-wide AI strategy and a company-wide deployment of guidance for AI is exposing the company to data breaches,” Raman said.

The report states that 52% of Malaysian AI users are reluctant to admit to their bosses that they are using AI, while 53% are unwilling to share these tools out of concern that their jobs will be replaced despite the productivity gain.

Meanwhile, 85% of AI power users, described as those who use the technology several times a week and save 30 minutes of work time daily, are already starting their day by using AI, with 82% also using it to plan for the following day in advance.

Shift in job skills

The rise of AI has also seen a change in hiring priorities among organisations, with LinkedIn’s South-East Asia head of sales for emerging markets, Rohit Kalsy, describing it as an evolution in skills.

“From 2015, we saw on average a 25% change in the skills required to succeed in an application for the same job.

“After November 2022, when ChatGPT came into our lives, we saw a sudden acceleration. Looking at the emerging tech and how roles are evolving, it is anticipated that almost 68% of the skills required for that job will change by 2030,” he said.

In Malaysia, 62% of business leaders surveyed said they wouldn’t hire a candidate without AI skills, while 65% are more likely to hire a less experienced candidate with AI skills than a more experienced one without them. — MicrosoftIn Malaysia, 62% of business leaders surveyed said they wouldn’t hire a candidate without AI skills, while 65% are more likely to hire a less experienced candidate with AI skills than a more experienced one without them. — Microsoft

In Malaysia, 62% of business leaders surveyed said they wouldn’t hire a candidate without AI skills, while 65% are more likely to hire a less experienced candidate with AI skills than a more experienced one without them.

This is not lost on job applicants – as of late last year, LinkedIn has seen a 142x increase in users adding AI skills like ChatGPT and Copilot to their profiles.

“This underscores that AI competency is no longer an ‘X’ factor but a necessity in today’s workplace.

“This past year has indicated that professionals are aware of the need to adequately upskill themselves for the age of AI.

“We have seen a record number of learners undertaking the top AI courses on LinkedIn since January 2023 across South-East Asia, Australia and India,” Rohit said.

In the last six months, LinkedIn saw a 160% increase in users from non-technical sectors, such as real estate and logistics, taking AI courses to better understand the technology.

Permodalan Nasional Bhd’s chief technology officer, Izzat Aziz, said that thinking should shift towards asking, “Can AI help me do this?” This shift would allow workers to engage in more productive, high-value work.

“In any technology, familiarisation is very important. I remember those days when people went to classes, even myself, to use Microsoft Word and Excel, but in today’s context, people would laugh at you,” he said.

Izzat explained that when Excel was new, people moved from using ledgers and journals to consolidating everything into a workbook. He believes that the same concept applies to AI.

“So, similar to training in Word and PowerPoint, we should now have the same mentality about how people can use the same framework to start adopting AI knowledge,” he said.

Johor Corporation’s chief digital officer, Ahmad Yusri Mohamed, believes that the next four to five years will be an arms race for companies building datasets to empower their AI deployment.

“Your AI will only be as good as the data you put in, so I think for all the business leaders, before you start thinking and planning about implementing your AI automation and analytics, you should be planning about how to gather, store, and release the data to users.

“I think four to five years from now, when people talk about AI, they will actually brag about the size of their data. That will determine how good your AI is,” he said.

However, Raman emphasises that integrating AI simply for the sake of it is a misguided approach. Rather, the key is to consider a company’s particular set of challenges and implement the technology as solutions to specific problems.

“For the business to move forward, they must have their leaders start using a top-down, bottom-up strategy. Leaders must provide guidance and training so that their employees are familiar with AI,” he said.

Though 88% of Malaysian leaders in the survey believe AI is a business imperative, they worry that their organisations lack a plan and vision to implement it.

Though 88% of Malaysian leaders in the survey believe AI is a business imperative, they worry that their organisations lack a plan and vision to implement it. — MicrosoftThough 88% of Malaysian leaders in the survey believe AI is a business imperative, they worry that their organisations lack a plan and vision to implement it. — Microsoft

Raman recommends that companies observe the tools staff use to make work more efficient, then design a strategy around their needs, along with appropriate standards of practice for their use.

Izzat shares a similar opinion, stressing that companies need to understand the value of AI before rushing to implement it.

“The idea isn’t to just include AI, we need to anchor it to the problem at hand and see whether AI can tackle the issue.

“Typically, people don’t read the manual when buying consumer products. There are a lot of features and capabilities mentioned in the manual that are not properly used.

“Similar to any product, I think we need to understand the product, know its capabilities, and start asking the right questions to see how we can maximise the use of this technology,” he said.

Izzat also stresses the importance of having a purpose behind using AI, along with the right application or tools for specific tasks at hand.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Next In Tech News

EU antitrust regulators want to know if Google and Samsung's chatbot deal hinders rivals
Exclusive-Apax, Bain and CVC exploring potential bids for SoftwareOne, sources say
Britain's new government aims to regulate most powerful AI models
US online sales hit $7.2 billion on first day of Amazon Prime Day event, Adobe says
Netflix's efforts to grow ad tier in focus as subscriber growth slows
Apple backs $50 million fund to support Bay Area affordable housing
US to award Taiwan's GlobalWafers up to $400 million to boost US semiconductor wafer production
Tokyo airport trials driverless cargo vehicle
China’s ‘rising star’ in chip design software cuts up to half its workforce amid market headwinds
Google-backed AI startup Cropin wants to predict future of food

Others Also Read