Research Digested: Work Trend Index Special Report: What Can Copilot’s Earliest Users Teach Us About Generative AI at Work? Microsoft

A snapshot of useful research for L&D and workplace professionals

Why read this report
Microsoft’s Copilot is an AI chatbot that helps with various tasks (coding, writing, generating images, answering questions….) and it is already being used by a lot of organisations worldwide, despite being less than a year old. For that reason alone it’s worth reading this report to find out what users think of the tool.

About this research
This is a Microsoft study about a Microsoft tool, with responses from 297 users from customer organisations participating in the Early Access Programme. There were also several external studies (such as ‘A day in the life’ study and ‘The missed meeting’ study) where users were assigned various tasks.

Standout stats

The report reveals some impressive findings, with users saying Copilot helped them:

  • Be more productive (70%)
  • Be faster at completing tasks (73%)
  • Spend less time processing emails (64%)
  • Get to a good first draft faster (85%)
  • Get started more easily on a first draft (87%)
  • Catch up more easily when they have missed stuff (86%)
  • Take action more easily after a meeting (84%)
  • Save time by finding items in files (75%)
  • Save time on mundane tasks (71%)

It also boosts quality and creativity, with users saying it:

  • Improved the quality of their work (68%)
  • Made them more creative (57%)
  • Helped them jump-start the creative process (68%)
  • Helped them generate ideas while writing (72%)

The research highlighted significant time savings for Copilot users – 14 minutes a day on average, or 1.2 hours a week, with 67% saying they used the extra time to focus on more important work. Almost a quarter (22%) saved more than 30 minutes a day.

When asked their opinion of Copilot, 77% said they wouldn’t want to give it up. And most would take access to Copilot over a free lunch at work on a monthly (88%), bi-weekly (79%) or weekly (77%) basis. A significant number said access to Copilot would be a factor in their choice of employer.

The report drew on several external observational studies conducted across four areas of knowledge work: meetings, email, searching for information and writing. Having divided 147 people into two groups (one using Copilot and one not), the researchers found that Copilot users were 29% faster when searching for information across multiple sources, summarising a meeting recording and writing a blog post.

In another study, the researchers divided 60 Microsoft employees into two groups (again one with Copilot and one without) and asked both groups to summarise a meeting they missed (a 35 minute recorded meeting including crosstalk, debate and off-topic discussions). The result? Copilot users were nearly 4x faster at summarising the meeting, while also feeling 2x more productive and finding the task 58% less draining. However, Copilot users included 11 out of 15 meeting details (15 being the perfect score), compared to 12 for control users.

Final word

There are lots more interesting stats in this report (such as around the impact of using Copilot on sales, customer service and security professionals). There is also a section titled Transforming business process with AI, for which Microsoft surveyed 18,100 people from 12 countries across six functions. Here are some findings from that section:

People are drowning in what Microsoft calls digital debt – they say they are spending more time searching for information (27% of their day) than creating (24%), communicating (24%) or consuming it (25%). And they complain that only 50% of the information they consume each day is actually necessary.

Going forward, the report recommends that Copilot users:

  • Treat it as a capable assistant, rather than a search engine, in order to get the most out of it
  • Build a daily habit with Copilot – productivity gains will come from intentional, regular practice
  • Think like a manager – know when to delegate a task to Copilot and when to use their own intelligence
  • Don’t squander reclaimed time – use the time saved by Copilot wisely and well on work that will have the most impact and value for the organisation.

When asked how gen AI could positively impact performance, finding information came out top for all six functions. Other performance impacts include:

  • Salespeople: identifying sales opportunities (75%), unifying marketing and sales data (74%)
  • Customer service agents: intelligently routing issues to appropriate agents (70%), detecting trends across agent-customer interactions (68%)
  • Finance: simplifying financial reporting (73%), validating data quality (72%)

Report reading time: 20 minutes

Media: Article