67% of business leaders and 64% of workers in Malaysia believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will augment their jobs and not displace them, allowing them to do their existing jobs better or reduce repetitive tasks. These were part of the findings of a new AI study by Microsoft and IDC titled “Future Ready Business: Assessing Asia Pacific’s Growth Potential Through AI”.

The study also found that only 10% of business leaders expect AI to replace jobs, with only 7% of workers agreeing with this view, further reinforcing the idea that AI will augment, not displace jobs.

The study, which surveyed 1,605 business decision makers and 1,585 workers from 15 markets, including 100 business leaders and 100 workers in Malaysia, dives into the impact of AI on several areas of analysis, including the impact of AI on society and how it will affect the jobs of the future. The study acknowledged that AI will lead to some reduction in repetitive and transactional tasks which will simultaneously empower employees to perform tasks more efficiently, making their jobs easier with the help of AI.

“AI is playing an increasingly important role in our lives,” said K. Raman, Managing Director of Microsoft. “The study shows that AI is not a tool that needs to be feared, but instead ought to be leveraged to exceed our limitations as human beings. As we continue to develop better AI systems, we anticipate the creation of new jobs that didn’t exist before, or that we didn’t even imagine could exist, opening up new avenues and opportunities for our future workforce.”

17% of business leaders believe that AI will create new jobs while 6% see AI as having no impact on jobs. Similarly, only 18% of workers believe that AI will create new knowledge-based jobs and 11% see it as having no impact on their jobs.

Commenting on the study is Elanjelian Venugopal, the Chief Executive of the Human Resources Development Fund (“HRDF”), “Without a skilled workforce that leverages on AI, progress might be stifled. HRDF encourages businesses, particularly employers registered with the Fund, to prioritize the up-skilling and re-skilling of their existing local workforce. Proper learning and development plans and strategies should be put in place to train Malaysian employees, apprentices and trainees, to ride this technological wave.”

Among the core skills that will be in demand in the future, as identified in the study, include critical thinking, decision making, entrepreneurship and initiative-taking. These skills were listed by business leaders in Malaysia as important for the future success of their business and that physical and manual skills like general equipment operation and mechanical skills, will outstrip demand in 3 years.

The study found that most Malaysian workers want to develop new skills in-line with the rise of new technologies such as AI. 90% of the workers surveyed indicated that they want to upskill themselves, with only 10% stating that they are not interested.

“Microsoft’s AI vision is first and foremost about people,” said Raman. “Without a skilled workforce that knows how to leverage the power of AI, economic and technological progress will be stifled. To overcome this, business leaders must prioritize the up-skilling and reskilling of workers of the future. Proper plans and strategies should be put in place to train employees, both present and future, to keep up with the changes in technology.”

The study indicates that approximately half or more of organizations and more than half of Malaysia’s organizations employees believe that the cultural traits and behaviors that contribute to AI adoption levels are not pervasive today, with workers being more skeptical than business leaders about the cultural readiness. It is important that leaders embrace a new culture, where innovation and continuous learning are core components of their organizational culture. It sets the stage for agility, adaptability and growth

To help business leaders achieve this, Microsoft recently launched the AI Business School. Consisting of an engaging master class series for business leaders that is focused on leadership in the age of AI, this school aims to empower business leaders to be successful by leveraging the power of AI as well as foster an “AI Ready” culture in their workplace.

About Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF)
The Human Resources Development Fund (“HRDF”) is an agency under the purview of the Ministry of Human Resources Malaysia. Governed by the Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad Act 2001 (PSMB Act 2001), HRDF has been given the mandate by the Malaysian Government to catalyse the development of competent local workforce that will contribute to Malaysia’s vision of becoming a high-income economy.