44% of small businesses expect to hire fewer people due to AI: Report

Two out of three small business owners to try generative AI for work within the next 12 months. While current AI adopters said they’re using it to generate text, create images

   
AI in small businesses

About 44 per cent of small business owners said that they expect to hire fewer people in the future because of AI capabilities, a new report has shown.

According to Canada-based software company FreshBooks, small business owners are less convinced that AI is coming for their jobs and/or the jobs of their employees, with two-thirds disagreeing that AI will replace them.

“In the world of small business, it appears that owners don’t feel particularly threatened and don’t believe artificial intelligence can do their jobs just as well as they can. On the other hand, their eyes are wide open to the potential of using AI as a support to help them scale,” said Mara Reiff, Chief Data Officer at FreshBooks.

About 1,000 small business owners from various industries in the US and Canada participated in the survey. Nearly 25 per cent of small business owners said they’re currently using or testing generative AI tools, like ChatGPT, Google Bard and Microsoft Bing.

Two out of three business owners said they’ll try generative AI for work within the next 12 months, demonstrating that most small businesses will be using the technology within a year. The large majority of current generative AI adopters said they’re using it to generate text, while a slim majority are applying it to create images or to conduct general business research.

When non-adopters were asked what has prevented them from using generative AI, the report showed that 46 per cent were not yet clear on how generative AI could benefit their business. The second highest reason cited was a lack of knowledge, with 32 per cent saying they were unsure of how to begin applying generative AI to their businesses. Larger businesses more often cited a lack of time as one of the barriers they had to try AI versus smaller businesses.

Further, the report said that over half of small business owners (60 per cent) agree that AI will dramatically change their business within the next five years. When asked which areas of their business they expect AI to have the most impact on in the coming years, owners named Business Analytics, Sales & Marketing, and Customer Communications as the most affected. Using AI for HR/Recruiting and Service Delivery was rated as the least likely to play a significant role.

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