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Job security is redefined by layoffs and generative AI

A global study reveals that in the age of GenAI, workers are redefining job security to emphasize upskilling, adaptable skills and opportunities for growth.

As generative AI reshapes the workplace, a new global study revealed workers' hopes and concerns about their future careers.

Surveying more than 150,000 workers worldwide, the study found that employees are seeking a new kind of job security, rooted in reskilling and career flexibility -- a shift driven in part by GenAI.

This key finding was detailed in the report "How Work Preferences Are Shifting in the Age of GenAI" by Boston Consulting Group (BCG); a global alliance of recruitment websites called The Network; and The Stepstone Group, a job platform.

Employees want job security that ensures they can adapt and thrive as skills evolve, regardless of generative AI's impact on their jobs, said Orsolya Kovács-Ondrejkovic, associate director of people strategy at BCG and co-author of the report. She discussed some of the report's main findings with TechTarget Editorial.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Your study found that over 60% of job seekers believe they have the upper hand in labor market negotiations. What's the basis for this belief?

We are still more likely to run out of talent than to run out of jobs.
Orsolya Kovács-OndrejkovicAssociate director of people strategy, Boston Consulting Group

Orsolya Kovács-Ondrejkovic: Despite some recessions and layoffs, particularly in tech, the overall trend shows a persistent talent shortage in most Western economies. Aging populations and a mismatch between available and needed skills contribute to this confidence. If you have specialized skills, you feel confident. We are still more likely to run out of talent than to run out of jobs.

How significant is the aging baby boomer population in workforce trends?

Kovács-Ondrejkovic: In countries with decreasing or stagnating populations, which are most of the best [advanced industrialized nations], our clients are painfully aware that they will run out of talent quite soon.

Your research found that work-life balance is a top priority for workers. Why is that?

Kovács-Ondrejkovic: People increasingly work to live and not live to work. The importance of a job, as part of one's personal identity and whole life, is going down compared to previous generations. There is a strong desire for rapid advancement into leadership roles in emerging markets, yet work-life balance remains the top priority.

Job security is also a top priority for workers in your survey. How do you reconcile that with recent tech industry layoffs?

Kovács-Ondrejkovic: It is not so much that they are worried about losing their current job. It's more they want to be employable in the long term. Employees seek employers who provide opportunities to develop new skills. If a role becomes automated, they prefer employers who offer opportunities to learn new skills rather than simply letting employees go.

Your study found that about 40% of workers use generative AI tools, but the rate was higher in emerging economies. Can you explain the high use of generative AI tools in emerging economies?

Kovács-Ondrejkovic: This trend is surprising and may be due to less regulation and a more open mindset in these regions. In Germany, for instance, it's much more regulated. One theory relates to how certain economies leapfrog certain technological development steps.

In the emerging world, not many people use desktop computers; they go straight to mobile. Generative AI's accessibility and availability on mobile may be similar.

Only 5% of workers in the study fear job replacement by AI in the next five years. Some other studies suggest the number is much higher. Can you explain this?

Kovács-Ondrejkovic: Our survey asked workers what they expect in a five-year timeline, which might be why the number is lower than other studies that look further ahead. Another BCG study about generative AI's impact over 10 years found that 20% were fearful. Additionally, our sample included a wide range of job types, and many studies that show higher fear percentages often focus on high-skill office jobs.

What was the most surprising finding for you in this report?

Kovács-Ondrejkovic: The heightened importance of job security was surprising, especially given that we conducted a similar survey during the height of the COVID crisis. How can job security be more important now than it was back then? The only answer we could come up with was GenAI, which people now have internalized that their jobs may fundamentally change.

Patrick Thibodeau is an editor at large for TechTarget Editorial who covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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