Featured in today's briefing:
- The management skills that are more and less valuable with AI.
- Skepticism about AI experience people claim on their resumes.
- A refresh on workplace dating policies.
AI and Work Radar
- A new study involving BCG consultants performing tasks for a fictional business found that those using AI tools did higher-quality work and were significantly more productive. At the same time, when given tasks outside the current capabilities of AI, the consultants using AI were much less likely to produce correct solutions compared to their peers. That’s seemingly because they mistakenly blindly trusted the AI, which researchers say highlights the importance of humans continuing to assess and validate AI’s responses.
- Nearly a third of recent job seekers have exaggerated their AI skills on their resumes, and 30% have done so during the interview process, a ResumeBuilder survey found. Roughly two-thirds of respondents said they’ve exaggerated their AI skills at work, including 78% of those at the manager level or above.
- A new analysis from Indeed’s Hiring Lab found that all US listings on the job-search site include some skills that can be done or augmented by generative AI, and that around one-fifth of jobs on the site are “highly exposed,” meaning generative AI could perform well or excel at 80% or more of the skills needed for the role.
- A new feature of ChatGPT Plus enables the chatbot to field spoken questions and speak out loud to users, the way Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa do (Amazon, meanwhile, is working on improving its own digital assistant with a large language model, and Apple is reportedly doing the same).
- Charter Pro Insight: Rebecca Hinds, head of Asana’s Work Innovation Lab, told us for our latest Charter Pro strategy briefing, “AI: Lessons from the Frontier,” that she encourages employees to try to use AI for all of their job tasks for an entire week to get a better sense of the technology’s strengths and weaknesses, and how it can help them do their jobs.
Focus on the Management Skills Most Valuable in the Age of AI
One of our current obsessions is how the introduction of generative artificial intelligence alters the nature of jobs, organizational structure, and management, sometimes in ways most people haven’t anticipated.
Microsoft’s Jared Spataro has an interesting perspective on this, as his role heading the tech company’s Modern Work & Business Applications team affords him advance access to many of the AI tools that businesses will roll out to employees in the months and years ahead. When we spoke with him earlier this year, he predicted that as a result of AI and other factors, “the manager of the next even two or three years is going to look very different.”
Spataro will be a keynote speaker at the Charter Workplace Summit on Oct. 26—you can see more details and sign up to attend for free here. We caught up with him at Microsoft’s recent unveiling of new AI features in products including Windows and Microsoft 365, and are sharing excerpts of that discussion here, edited for space and clarity, as a preview of what we’ll cover live in a few weeks at the Summit.
When we spoke earlier this year, you mentioned two ways in which the introduction of AI impacts management and leadership: One is managing across time and space, including flexible, hybrid working. The second is managing teams for machine-human augmentation as an additional skill required of managers. Building on that, are there other things that come to mind?
What people are starting to understand is that what we have is a general-purpose reasoning engine. We've never had anything like that except for the human brain up to this point. The underlying assumption of firm design and team design has said, anytime you need a thinker, stick a person there. What I see as a fundamental new skill is thinking, no, you don't have to stick people there. You can sometimes stick machines there. That's causing a rethink of everything from the structural design of teams and organizations to process redesign to even what that culture looks like.
You just mentioned three things: organizational structure, process, and culture. Let’s start with structure. There's research suggesting that the introduction of AI flattens organizations, so there are fewer middle managers. And we know that some of the tools are able to upskill less experienced workers...
It's a trend. I don't know if we've seen enough for any of us to say that's it definitively, but if you think about what middle managers do structurally, their job is essentially to be a buffer, a mediator between the people below them that are meant to do the work and the people above them that are setting expectations and trying to give direction. Certainly AI is not at the point where it can do all that work. There's a lot of mediation to be done.
But the flow of information up and down, that type of work can be done even much more effectively by machines. Some of the synthesis work that happens, summarizing what's happening, reasoning across and looking at options—that can be done.
What I see happening is people reevaluating, is the way we've organized ourselves ideal or is it based on previous assumptions? And can we experiment?
How do you think about skills in this context? How can organizations prepare workers for what you're saying could happen?
Economically what gets valued tends to be the scarce resources. When expertise was a scarce resource, when thinking was a scarce resource, when solid reasoning was a scarce resource, then we tended to create a worldview that was all about getting those really scarce resources and monetizing them.
I think we're going to be seeing a different world. There still will be scarce resources for sure, but will reasoning over complex data sets be one of them? It's not clear to me that that will be a scarce resource going forward. We'll economically get to the point where that is cheaper and cheaper and cheaper.
What skills are valuable? What I'm seeing is some very interesting combination of generalized management skills where everyone becomes a generalized manager, meaning these generative AI tools essentially put an entire staff at the beck and call of anyone. That's a new skillset. How you generally manage, how you delegate, how you pass judgment on what is brought back to you, how you synthesize across things. That's a skillset for sure.
How you prioritize....
How you prioritize, all that type of stuff. Then there are some domain specific—I don't know if I'd call them skills—but knowledge and understanding enough to use the tools to get real results.
What I've found is that the more I know about a particular issue, topic, problem set, the better the results are from generative AI. I can ask very sophisticated questions. I can direct it in different ways, for example, 'We've gone down this path, don't do that. I want you to go deep here. I want you to make sure that you bring these things to the forefront.' That requires domain knowledge. But that combination—: a generalized skillset, but the ability to have depth in key areas where you have to make decisions—is almost at odds, and that’s really interesting.
You talked about two other areas where management is changing as a result of AI. One is process and one is culture. How is process changing?
Right now, the cutting-edge business leaders out there are picking core workflows, core processes, and they're asking themselves, what portions do humans do? What portions do machines do? Where do I want my humans spending their time? Where do I want machines spending the time?
In some ways it feels like 1980s, 1990s process reengineering. But this time you have a really new tool set.
What about culture? How is leading an organization's culture different with AI?
The speed of AI is having a major impact. One example comes from our own company, where we just announced Nov. 1 is the date that we will make this latest version of Microsoft 365 generally available. That's less than a year from the release of ChatGPT. We used to develop products on five- and seven-year cycles.
You've got to think about how you move quickly without all the information, but knowing that you have resources that can help you along the way in ways that you haven't been helped before. That's a change for many industries to think about what that culturally means.
Companies are looking to get their leaders up to speed on generative AI and business strategy—how would you recommend they do that?
Number one on my list is that people just need to use the thing. Your personal experience is going to be more valuable than anything anybody has to tell you.
Maybe number two that is on our collective list as a team—going back to your questions about leadership and management—we have been recently digging into some good work that's been done over the last 10 years out of Harvard on adaptive leadership.
Basically the framework is this: there are technical problems and there are adaptive problems. Technical problems are those that have been solved before and it's a matter of applying technique. Adaptive problems are you're walking into the dark, you don't really know what's next, and you've got to be able to experiment quickly and move into these areas. For me, it seems like a great framework for the management and leadership questions you were asking me earlier, when also fused with your own experience.
Sign up to see Spataro live at the Oct. 26 Charter Workplace Summit here, with both virtual and in-person options. Read a full transcript of our conversation here, including more on the next chapter of artificial intelligence and the impact on higher-level workers.
What Else You Need to Know
Hybrid workers are more burned out than fully remote workers, but job satisfaction remains high. Two-fifths of hybrid workers reported feeling stressed or burned out in the past year, compared to less than a third of fully remote workers, according to a new Deloitte survey.
- Hybrid workers are more likely than fully remote workers to feel disconnected from on-site colleagues, to feel distracted by nonwork activities, and to have difficulty accessing work files.
- In spite of these difficulties, job satisfaction was highest among hybrid workers, at 72%, compared to 70% of fully remote workers and 63% of fully in-person workers.
One Amazon executive predicts that the company’s hybrid-work mandate won’t become a reality for another three years. Previously, Amazon leaders have taken a hard-line stance in calling workers back to offices three days a week.
- Insider reported that during an internal meeting, SVP of utility computing Peter DeSantis used a softer tone, acknowledging the need for a more “nuanced” approach that could take up to three years to be fully realized. His comments are notable as some companies have recently pushed hard for employees to return to the office more days per week and are still assessing any impact on labor relations and retention.
- DeSantis noted, according to Insider, that many employees had moved away from Amazon hubs before the company announced its return-to-office mandate in February 2023. “You can’t move all these people all at once, but over a two to three year period, I believe we can slowly kind of bring our teams back to some more rational state where coming to the office has more value,” DeSantis reportedly said.
A majority of Americans say that there are too few women in top executive positions, according to a new survey from Pew Research. Some 55% of respondents would like to see more female business leaders. Among men, that number was just 45%, compared to 65% of women.
- The survey results show an even greater gap between respondents of different political affiliations: Just 33% of Republicans believe there are too few women in positions of leadership, compared to 76% of Democrats.
- The reasons most commonly cited by respondents for the gender gap in leadership included that women have to do more to prove themselves than men, workplace gender discrimination, and family responsibilities outside of work.
Companies are revisiting workplace-dating policies amid the return to office. With workers meeting up in person with greater regularity, both for business meetings and for after-hours happy hours and social events, many organizations are reminding their staff of corporate policies governing intra-office relationships.
- “When we’re back in an office environment, where there are things that combine social, work, and maybe an alcohol situation, that’s usually the moment where things that were happening that were discreet become a little bit less discreet,” Roxanne Petraeus, CEO of the HR compliance training company Ethena, told WorkLife.
A significant majority of S&P 100 jobs went to workers of color following the Black Lives Matter protests. A Bloomberg analysis of 88 S&P 100 companies’ US demographics in 2020 and 2021 found that they largely made good on their promises in the wake of George Floyd’s murder to increase diversity in their workforces. In aggregate, the organizations added more than 323,000 people, with workers of color accounting for 94% of the growth.
- As organizations try to figure out what the Supreme Court’s recent striking down of race-based affirmative action at universities means for corporate diversity programs, a decision this week may offer new insight into how the resulting legal challenges will play out. A federal judge rejected a lawsuit against the Fearless Fund, an organization that provides grants to Black woman-owned businesses, after conservative activists argued that it was perpetuating “explicit racial exclusion.”
- A recent study found that putting time pressure on managers to make hiring decisions increases their bias against candidates with “Black-sounding” names. Other recent research suggests that organizations can mitigate hiring manager bias by creating a system where they have to opt in to viewing candidates’ demographic information, rather than opting out.
Here are some of the best tips and insights from the past week for managing yourself and your team:
- Conduct a flip interview. To evaluate a candidate’s problem-solving and decision-making skills, turn the tables on them: Present the candidate with a business scenario relevant to the position, and invite them to ask questions, which gives you an insight into how they frame situations, interpret information, and think about next steps.
- Reward GROSS behavior. Non-profit health system Hawaii Pacific Health implemented a Get Rid of Stupid Stuff (GROSS) nomination system that allows staff members to identify unnecessary, cumbersome, or confusing administrative tasks related to the electronic health records system. The GROSS team then developed a triage system to sort and respond to staff member suggestions.
- Reminisce to reengage old ties. If you have relationships in your professional network that have gone dormant, reestablish the connection by bringing up past shared experiences. Research suggests that talking about memories, even of shared hardships, can be effective in awakening dormant ties.
- Frame constructive feedback as a request. One way to help colleagues improve is through specific, clear requests that target the desired behavior. For example, you might help a direct report who struggles with deadlines by asking them to submit a presentation 24 hours before the project deadline.
A ruff side effect of the office return. Fewer people working from home means fewer midday snacks for their pets—a decrease so significant, in fact, that pet-care retailers have seen a recent drop in financial performance.
- In an earnings report last week, General Mills lamented “pet parents increasingly away from home, impacting wet food and treats.”
The handbook for this new era of business doesn’t exist. We’re all drafting our own as we go along—and now we’d like to start doing so together. You can sign up here to receive this briefing by email.