Digital natives like Gen Z may appear to be more open to using AI than older workers.
But a recent Ernst & Young study suggests the opposite could be true.
Gen Xers and millennials employed in the US were found to use ChatGPT at work more than Gen Zers.
Many would think that digital native Gen Zers, who grew up using smartphones with facial recognition, would be more open to embracing AI at work to boost productivity than older generations. However, a recent study suggests the opposite may be true.
Ernst & Young worked with a third-party research group to survey 1,000 full-time and part-time Americans across different age groups. Researchers wanted to understand how concerns around AI usage varied by generation.
Surprisingly, the consulting giant found that older American workers appear to be more open to using AI than their younger counterparts. When asked who uses the technology at work the most, 74% of millennial respondents (born between 1981 and 1996) and 70% of Gen X respondents (born between 1965 and 1980) said they've used tools like OpenAI's ChatGPT on the job.
But Gen Z respondents were a different matter. Only 63% of Americans born between 1997 and 2005 said they have used AI at work.
One reason that Gen Zers seem to trust AI less than older workers, researchers suggested, is that younger Americans may be less convinced that AI can add real value.
"While this may come as a surprise to many, for the youngest and oldest generations in the workplace, trust in AI isn't just about safety and security: it's whether the technology works," Marcie Merriman, EY's cultural insights leader in the Americas, wrote in the study.
Another explanation, according to Merriman, could be the varying degrees of comfort younger and older folks have with deploying new technologies.
Gen X may feel more compelled to learn how to use AI at work to keep up with rapid change and will work through any technical challenges. Meantime, Gen Zers — who grew up with AI tools like GPS as part of their everyday lives and have high expectations of technology — may shift more quickly when it doesn't serve them.
"Gen Z grew up in a technology native space, and they're much more exposed to when AI works and when the AI doesn't work," Dan Diasio, EY's global AI leader, told Business Insider. "If AI doesn't work, they move on to the next thing."
For some Gen Zers, using AI has helped in their jobs. Morgan Young, a 20-year-old content creator as of last August, previously told BI she uses ChatGPT to help do research and brainstorm pitch proposals to brands, which she claims saved time and made her content better. Others are using AI to plan for earlier retirement than their older colleagues.
One thing that isn't yet clear: whether AI makes employees do better in the workplace. While some studies find that generative AI has saved hours of work, others suggest that using ChatGPT can make workers perform worse.
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