Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in Australia are showing a growing interest in adopting new categories of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly generative AI, to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and make data-driven decisions. However, more education and awareness about its potential impact on the workforce is needed, according to new research by global technology platform Zoho.

The survey found that over half (53%) of Australian SMBs feel they are adapting well to the changes in technology, yet just one in three (30%) are utilising technology more this year compared to last year. Generative AI, which can produce credible content in near real-time, has caught the interest of two in five (43%) SMBs, particularly for tasks such as brainstorming ideas, language translation, summarising documents, research, and creating personalised communications.

“Adopting modern AI technologies like Generative AI can be a game changer for SMBs. One of its key benefits is its ability to tailor marketing and communications efforts to individual customers with greater ease and accuracy than ever before. This helps improve customer experience, build brand loyalty, and ultimately drive sales,” Zoho chief strategy officer, Vijay Sundaram said.

Workers in Australian SMBs, however, fear the impact of the AI revolution on their jobs, with three quarters (75%) expecting their jobs to be impacted due to more intelligent AI and machine learning. Just one in three (36%) of workers believe the AI revolution will benefit the workplace, and over half (52%) maintain that job requirements will change in the future.

When it comes to AI taking over their roles, close to half (46%) of workers believe AI will begin performing part of their roles within the next five years, and 72% believe this will happen in the next decade. Meanwhile, one-third (34%) believe this will happen in the next decade, and 60% believe this will happen in the next 20 years. Workers in customer service, IT services, and tourism services are particularly concerned about job loss due to AI.

“Businesses face resistance to modern AI adoption as workers are worried about its impact on jobs and their livelihoods. However, as the technological landscape continues to evolve, AI will create new opportunities and require higher levels of creativity and critical thinking,” Sundaram added.

“SMBs must improve their AI skills and understanding and be willing to adopt it to stay competitive in the market. For this to happen, governments and industry leaders have the responsibility to equip them with the right resources.”