Companies May Tie Salary with AI Skills – and Sooner Than CFO’s May Think

Historically, companies have linked salaries and compensation to specific job skills.

While that’s not a five-alarm news flash, what is new is how artificial intelligence may upend that salary narrative more than financial executives may expect.

Exhibit “A” is a new study by researchers at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on how companies compensate their staffers and how AI is changing the standard equations used to match skills with salary.

Study analysts leveraged Generative AI to evaluate the adaptability skills of 5,000 customer service agents at a Fortune 500 company. Researchers trained the customer service reps on how to use prompt-based AI text (think ChatGPT) to boost customer interactions, defuse any anger of frustrated customers, and generally become more knowledgeable on how to use AI algorithms in the actual workplace.

After testing and the ensuing review process ended, the study authors found the Fortune 500 company’s lowest-skilled workers became 35% faster at their tasks with the ChatGPT-like tool.

According to study researchers, the knowledge boost was triggered by AI algorithms-based technology, which basically transferred top performers’ knowledge to less-experienced colleagues through the automatically generated recommended responses.

Simultaneously, the highest-skilled staffers at the company didn’t benefit as much from the AI training, likely because their customer management knowledge base was already excellent.

Yet as their colleagues’ customer service knowledge expanded, the higher-level staffers’ knowledge didn’t grow, which effectively made the lower-tier (and lower-paid) customer service workers look better by comparison, especially when salary was factored into the equation.

According to the study, it may not be too long before companies opt to financially compensate employees who demonstrate an attribute with AI skills on the job.

“It wouldn’t be far-fetched for (company executives) to put even more of a premium on those people because now that kind of skill gets amplified and multiplied throughout the organization,” said study author and Stanford business professor Erik Brynjolfsson. “Now that top worker could change the whole organization.”

In the meantime, both companies and employees are openly wondering about the financial value of salaried staffers in a rapidly changing AI-fueled workplace.

A recent study from Checkr showed 79% of American workers — 75% of Boomers, 81% of Gen Xers, 82% of Millennials, and 76% of Gen Zers — said, “they are fearful or on the fence about AI leading to lower pay for people in their positions.”

Additionally, 67% of American workers — 59% of Boomers, 61% of Gen Xers, 77% of Millennials, and 69% of Gen Zers — said they would “spend their own money to enhance AI knowledge to avoid being replaced.”

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