Since the introduction of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022, the rapid advancement of generative AI has significantly impacted the workforce. These powerful language models can automate a wide range of tasks, from content creation to data analysis, often leading to increased efficiency and productivity. However, this technological shift has also raised concerns about job displacement, as certain roles become increasingly automated. It is crucial for organizations to carefully consider the implications of generative AI on their workforce and develop strategies to mitigate potential disruptions. Understanding workers’ mindset and attitudes toward and experiences with these technologies is essential to properly shape policies and training programs that empower employees to leverage the benefits of generative AI while addressing potential challenges.

Employees’ experiences with and attitudes toward generative AI was a primary focus of meQ’s Spring 2024 Workforce Well-being study. The study population consisted of meQ members invited to participate in a short wellbeing survey in January 2024.   The final sample consisted of 5,989 employed adults across a variety of industries.  Topically, the study focused on uptake and impact of generative AI tools among employees.  Given meQ’s deep experience with individuals’ thinking styles,  the study had a particular focus on the cognitive traits that assist or resist successful adaptation to generative AI in the workplace.

The use of generative AI on the job is growing but not yet endemic
These data suggest that the adoption and integration of generative AI in the workplace is still a work in progress, with only about 1 in 10 employees reporting daily use of these tools in their work. While nearly one-third (31%) of respondents report their company has explicit guidance on the appropriate use of generative AI, just 9.3% of employees say their managers are providing practical support on how to effectively leverage these technologies. Employees’ perceptions of the impact of generative AI on their productivity are mixed, with 11% finding it helpful as a productivity enhancer.  Similarly, concerns about job displacement due to these AI systems are relatively uncommon, with just 18% of employees feeling their job security is threatened. These findings highlight the need for more comprehensive training and management support to help employees navigate the evolving landscape of generative AI in the workplace.

The uptake and impact of generative AI differs dramatically by industry
The use and impact of generative AI was quite different across the six industries most heavily represented among study participants.

Tech companies are in the lead in identifying use cases for and implementing generative AI tools.   Employees in that sector are most likely to report they use genAI tools in their daily work (13%), and also are most likely to believe that the tools help make them more productive at work (15%).  The tech industry is also at the forefront when it comes to policy and management guidance on how generative AI tools should– and should not–be used. Over half of tech industry employees (57%) report their employer has provided guidance on appropriate use of generative technologies.

Generative AI seems to have made the fewest inroads in the health services industry — consisting largely of health care delivery organizations.  Just 1 in 20 employees report being familiar with their company’s policies about the use of generative AI and only 2% report receiving guidance from their leader about how to use generative AI tools at work.

Across industries, 12-20% of employees report some degree of trepidation about their job security secondary to the growth of generative AI.  Concern is highest among employees in the tech, business services, and finance/insurance industries, and least common among health services.

Generative AI lands differently among managers
The uptake and reactions to generative AI tools varies significantly between managers and individual contributors within an organization. Compared to individual employees, managers exhibit a more proactive and positive stance towards these transformative technologies. Managers are 20% more likely to be early adopters of generative AI in their daily work (9.1% vs 7.5%), and are 26% more likely to view these tools as productivity enhancers (12.3% vs 9.8%). Furthermore, managers are considerably more familiar with policy guidance on the use of generative AI, with 36.8% reporting awareness of such policies, compared to just 28.8% of individual contributors.

Managers also receive more leadership support around AI, with 11% stating they get guidance on how to leverage generative AI tools, versus only 7.4% of individual employees. Finally, managers are 68% more comfortable than individual contributors in feeling that their positions are safe from the threat of replacement by generative AI. These disparities highlight the importance of fostering a shared understanding and equitable access to the opportunities presented by generative AI across all levels of the organization.

…and generative AI also lands differently by work location
The impact of generative AI in the workplace is felt differently by remote/hybrid employees compared to those working in-office. Interestingly, there is virtually no difference between these two groups in the actual uptake of generative AI tools or their perceptions of these technologies as productivity boosters. However, a closer look reveals that hybrid and remote employees are 40% more likely to report that their company has clear policies in place for the use of generative AI (34.3% vs 24.6%), and 48% more likely to say their manager provides support on how to effectively utilize these tools (9.3% vs 6.3%). Notably, remote employees are also 34% more likely than their onsite counterparts to express concerns about job security threats posed by generative AI (22.2% vs 16.6%). These findings suggest that while the overall adoption and perceived benefits of generative AI may be similar, the experiences and attitudes of remote/hybrid workers differ, highlighting the need for tailored approaches to integrating and supporting the use of these technologies across diverse work arrangements.

While the use of these transformative technologies is steadily increasing, the level of integration and support varies significantly across industries, management levels, and work arrangements. Tech companies are leading the charge in implementing generative AI, whereas the health services sector has seen the least amount of uptake. Interestingly, managers exhibit a more proactive and positive stance towards these tools, with higher adoption rates and greater perceived benefits compared to individual contributors. Furthermore, remote and hybrid employees tend to have more exposure to company policies and managerial guidance on the use of generative AI, although they also express greater concerns about potential job displacement.

Highly resilient employees feel less threatened by GenAI and are more likely to make productive use of the tools
Examining employees’ psychological resilience is critical to fully understanding their attitudes and responses to the integration of generative AI in the workplace. An individual’s level of resilience, or ability to adapt to change and navigate challenges, directly shapes how they perceive and interact with these transformative technologies. More resilient employees are likely to be more open to learning and leveraging generative AI, recognizing the potential benefits it offers, while those with lower resilience may be more prone to feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and resistance. This “resilience advantage” is particularly evident in employees’ perceptions of the productivity benefits and job security implications of these transformative technologies.

Contrasting the experiences of employees at both ends of the resilience spectrum, we see stark differences emerge. Highly resilient workers are 35% more likely to report that generative AI tools help them be more productive in their day-to-day work (11.9% vs 8.8%). Conversely, these resilient employees are half as likely to express fears that such AI systems pose a threat to their job security (13% vs 26%).

This disparity highlights the importance of cultivating resilience among the workforce as organizations continue to integrate and leverage the capabilities of generative AI. Employees who are better equipped to adapt to change and embrace new technologies are better positioned to harness the productivity-enhancing potential of these tools, while feeling more confident in their ability to navigate the evolving job market. By investing in the development of resilience, companies can empower their workforce to navigate the transformative impact of generative AI more effectively and with greater optimism.

Positivity and Problem-Solving are the key drivers of positive outcomes with and attitudes toward generative AI in the workplace. 
It’s not just resilience that gives employees an edge when it comes to embracing the transformative potential of generative AI. Specific cognitive traits and thinking styles can also play a pivotal role in shaping employees’ attitudes toward it, and their ability to effectively leverage these disruptive technologies.

meQ’s unique cognitive dataset has shed light on two key factors that significantly influence experiences with and perceptions of generative AI: Positivity and Problem-Solving.

The Positivity factor reflects an individual’s optimistic mindset and focus on the constructive aspects of life. Those who score highly on Positivity practice gratitude, savor positive moments, and reframe negative thoughts into more productive perspectives. In synchrony, the Problem-Solving factor evidences an individual’s capacity to approach challenges in a systematic, solution-focused manner – breaking problems down into manageable steps, considering multiple options, making a plan, and persistently working through obstacles.

The data reveal that these cognitive traits confer significant advantages when it comes to navigating the transformative impact of generative AI. Compared to their less positive counterparts, employees with the highest Positivity scores are 40% more likely to report that generative AI tools enhance their productivity, and 37% less likely to feel their job security is threatened by these technologies.

The problem-solving advantage is even more pronounced. Individuals with strong problem-solving skills are 66% more likely to experience productivity gains from generative AI, and nearly half as likely (49% less) to worry about their job security being undermined.

These findings underscore the importance of cultivating cognitive resilience and agility within the workforce. By empowering employees to maintain an optimistic outlook and approach challenges with a systematic, solution-focused mindset, organizations can better position their teams to harness the transformative potential of generative AI, while navigating the evolving landscape with confidence and adaptability.

By accounting for these key cognitive factors, organizations can develop targeted training, support, and change management strategies to empower all workers, regardless of their baseline psychological traits, to successfully and productively incorporate generative AI into their roles. This holistic approach ensures a more inclusive and equitable transition, as organizations foster an environment where all employees are empowered to embrace the power of these emerging technologies, rather than feeling threatened by them.