The vast majority of small business owners in the U.S. do not believe artificial intelligence tools like OpenAI's ChatGPT are coming for their current employees' jobs, but a large chunk expects the powerful technology will allow them to hire fewer workers down the road, according to fresh data.
A report released by FreshBooks this week found two-thirds of small business owners disagree that AI tools will replace anyone at their companies. But 44% expect to be able to scale down hiring in the future due to AI capabilities, and the larger the company, the more likely the owners were to agree that AI would result in needing fewer new hires.
"The data is suggesting that larger businesses are expecting to hire less people because of AI versus smaller businesses," said Mara Reiff, chief data officer at FreshBooks. "I think this is a reflection of what these types of businesses do internally and whether specialty work is done in-house versus outsourced."
"Larger businesses are working at scale, so they have the scale to reduce. Small businesses with few employees are looking at GenAI as a chance to scale more efficiently over time," Reiff told FOX Business. "They’re probably not looking to downsize the workforce they have but to boost productivity, save time and spark creativity within their team."
Whether they have used the tools or not, 80% of small business owners responded that they are concerned about privacy, ethical and intellectual property issues associated with AI. But that has not stopped them from trying out the new tools or from planning to do so.
Twenty-five percent of the survey respondents said they are currently using or testing generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Google's Bard or Microsoft's Bing, and two out of three said they plan to use one of the tools in their business within the next year. Some 60% agreed that AI would dramatically change their business within the next five years.
Of the business owners that are currently using generative AI tools, a large majority said they use them to generate text, and a little more than half said they use them to create images or assist with general business research.
Out of the respondents who said they have not yet tried out an AI tool, 46% said they were not yet clear on how the tools could benefit their business, and 32% said they were unsure how to begin.
Regardless, the technology is here to stay, and businesses will have AI-related decisions to make as its adoption continues to grow across industries.
"Moving forward, I think both large and small businesses will likely have to determine how much better human-created work is compared to AI-generated work," Reiff said. "And will they pay a premium for human-created work? It's a question that businesses, regardless of their size, will face in the future."