A new study found that despite their digital savvy, 73 per cent of gen Z workers are worried that AI will impact their jobs.Artificial intelligence is quickly becoming more commonplace in the workplace and gen Z workers are worried about it, one survey shows. A new report by Robert Half Talent Solutions that surveyed multiple generations of workers found that, despite their digital savvy, 73 per cent of gen Z workers are worried that AI will impact their jobs. By comparison, 68 per cent of millennials and 44 per cent of gen Xers felt the same. According to Karen Brownrigg, founder and CEO of Ottawa-based iHR Advisory Services, AI usage is on the rise across industries, especially as more employers turn to it out of necessity. “They have no choice,” she said. “They have to look for alternate solutions to their staffing challenges, predominantly in retail, food counter attendants, cashiers, restaurants and administrative support positions. Employers are really struggling to find people who are willing and available to work those kinds of jobs.” But for gen Z workers, Brownrigg said the upward trend of AI use during the hiring process is likely to be a bigger challenge than AI “taking over their jobs.” “There are some concerning trends there about how people are screened in and out of job applications,” she said. “AI is sometimes used in the process for interviews, not only to screen people, but to conduct first interviews. What biases might be introduced into the system that might impact applicants?” Gen Z workers, who by Canadian government standards are defined as those born between 1997 and 2004, are currently either entering the workforce or doing their post-secondary studies. That means they’re most likely to come up against these AI hiring processes, said Brownrigg, which could make it more difficult to kickstart their career. “They’re out there vying for their first job in their desired career,” she said. “(With AI), they don’t know how their network and experience translates to the hiring process. If I’ve done an internship (with a company), am I suddenly screened out by a bot? How do I get an edge as a candidate in a world where AI may be used in the hiring process? “All my hard work establishing my credibility, my competency and building a network may be for naught.” Despite these concerns, Brownrigg said she was surprised by the number of youth surveyed who were worried about AI impacting their prospects. While AI’s introduction to the workplace has been a hot-button topic, there isn’t yet any evidence that it’s disrupting career paths for young workers, she said. “There’s no data to support the concern, so I want to understand (why they feel that way),” she said. “I’m a little concerned that people are alarmed.” In some cases, the integration of AI has improved efficiency by removing repetitive tasks. For Brownrigg, it’s most effective when operating in conjunction with workers, rather than replacing them entirely. “The pendulum hasn’t swung yet,” she said. “It’s premature to worry right now.” Priya Bhaloo, chief operating officer of TAG HR, was also surprised that so many young workers are worried about AI. “I’m actually very optimistic about how AI can actually impact and improve the workplace,” she said. “It’s shocking to me that a generation that is on their actual devices so much would be afraid of what AI is doing. There are ways where we can manage it and incorporate it to the level that we need.” From her perspective, Bhaloo said the labour shortage with which employers continue to struggle offers opportunities to young workers, more than AI presents challenges. “Does any business out there want to replace the entire workforce? Probably not,” she said. “The main issue for businesses is not how AI is going to affect things, it’s where to find talent. People are ultimately the number one issue.” Rather than worrying about AI, Bhaloo suggests that gen Z workers should embrace it. “They should be embracing technology, in whatever form it comes in, as opposed to looking at it as a threat,” she said. “They’re at an advantage, where they can drive how companies are going to integrate AI into their regular processes. It doesn’t have to replace workers, it can enhance what they do.” She also encouraged workers who have started experimenting with AI in their work to be more vocal about the advantages they find. “It starts with removing the fear factor,” she said. “Our motto is work smart, not hard. We should be teaching our staff how to use AI. For young workers, take advantage of the opportunity and make your voice heard.” When it comes to concerns about AI in the hiring process, Bhaloo said the old-school options continue to work best for young people looking to break into their first jobs. “Network, connect with the HR person, express your interest,” she said. “Those connections might help your resume rise to the top of the pile.”
Already an Insider? Log in
- Critical Ottawa business news and analysis updated daily.
- Immediate access to all Insider-only content on our website.
- 4 issues per year of the Ottawa Business Journal magazine.
- Special bonus issues like the Ottawa Book of Lists.
- Discounted registration for OBJ’s in-person events.