Generative AI has unleashed a new wave of productivity among companies and their workforces.¹ As businesses race to introduce new AI products and services, many are seeing clear implications of how these technologies, utilized in the right ways, can augment and further unleash human potential—automating repetitive tasks, enhancing decision-making, and optimizing operations.
Our recent research on generative AI in the workplace found that companies plan to hire more as a result of generative AI: 49% of hiring managers say they will hire more independent talent and 49% say they will hire more full-time employees. AI was also the fastest-growing category on Upwork in the first half of 2023,² with generative AI job posts on the platform up more than 1,000% in Q2 of this year compared to the end of last year, while related searches increased more than 1,500% in the same time period. The sentiment around hiring and the surge of activity from companies around generative AI are strong early indications that businesses are paying significant attention to the opportunities generative AI can provide.³
Our latest round of research unveils which generative AI skills are most in demand by companies,⁴ evolving behaviors, and the growing supply of independent talent with expert generative AI skills. Our study examines real-world market behaviors on our platform, and finds a responsive and productive work marketplace able to fulfill the needs of both AI talent seeking job opportunities and clients in search of AI expertise.
- ChatGPT commanded the largest volume of searches by companies in the first half of 2023: OpenAI continues to see a first-mover advantage with ChatGPT, including its underlying models GPT-3 and GPT-4, at the top of the list of generative AI-related search terms from those looking to hire, followed by BERT and Stable Diffusion.
- Companies are increasingly shifting their focus from singular generative AI tools toward generative AI applications and services as their understanding of the technology matures: Many of the skills with the largest quarter-over-quarter growth in searches indicate a shift from singular generative AI tools toward generative AI applications and services, including AI content creation, Azure OpenAI, and prompt engineering.
- Independent professionals are setting the pace for foundational AI skills needed to harness the technology across domains: The fastest-growing generative AI skills reveal a deeper comprehension of the skills needed to implement AI to solve business problems, such as working with Large Language Models (LLMs), prompt engineering, and object detection.
- There is a strong demand and supply match in our marketplace: In the first half of 2023, we saw a powerful connection between the top generative AI-related client searches and top generative AI-related project hires.
Companies’ hiring focus goes beyond singular generative AI tools to generative AI applications and services
In the six-month period between January 1 and June 30, 2023, our platform saw the greatest volume of generative AI-related searches by companies centering on singular generative AI tools. This occurred during a window in which there was a dramatic upswing in public awareness driven by the general release of ChatGPT. Accordingly, we saw ChatGPT (including GPT-3 and GPT-4) consuming the largest quantity of searches over this period.
Top 10 generative AI-related searches from companies, January 1 - June 30, 2023:⁶
- Stable Diffusion
- AI Chatbot
- Generative AI
- Image Processing
- Natural Language Processing (NLP)
We then analyzed the highest-growing rate of generative AI-related searches by companies quarter-over-quarter in the same timeframe. We discovered an increasing shift in search activity, as businesses moved from singular generative AI tools to generative AI applications and services, signaling that leaders and hiring managers are progressing their understanding of generative AI and its diverse use cases.
Fastest growing generative AI-related searches (Q2 2023 vs. Q1 2023):⁷
- AI Content Creation
- Azure OpenAI
- Convolutional Neural Network
- Large Language Models (LLMs)
- Generative AI
- AI Chatbot
- Prompt Engineering
Although singular generative AI tools still exist in the growing search list, we anticipate the trend and shift to generative AI applications and services to continue as businesses move beyond an initial understanding of generative AI as a single tool (e.g., synonymous with ChatGPT) to a deeper understanding of the myriad use cases and complexity of generative AI, and the type of talent and work they need to realize the technology’s benefits.
Generative AI skills are on the rise among independent talent
We’ve seen a growing supply of independent talent with generative AI skills on our platform in the first half of 2023. Independent professionals on Upwork have completed more than 20,000 projects involving AI work in the last year alone.
As broader trends have indicated, in the first quarter of 2023, interest for ChatGPT grew exponentially; however, we did not see interest in specific skills like prompt engineering—the practice of crafting prompts to elicit response from the language model—until the second quarter of 2023.⁸ As we examined the generative AI-related skills most commonly listed on Upwork talent profiles, ChatGPT follows these broader data trends, assuming the highest quantity of listings, followed by a mix of AI tools including services and applications such as natural language processing (NLP), TensorFlow, PyTorch, and more.
As we analyzed the highest growth rate of skills listed on talent profiles, while ChatGPT still shows up the most in terms of the number of times it's cited across talent profiles, what is growing faster is a broader set of foundational AI skills like prompt engineering, versus a single application or tool. Much like on the business side, this may indicate a stronger understanding of the foundational AI skills needed to strategically harness AI technologies’ true potential across domains.
Generative AI-related skills listed on Upwork talent profiles with largest quarter-over-quarter growth (Q2 2023 vs Q1 2023):
- Large Language Model (LLM)
- Generative AI
- You Only Look Once (YOLO)
- Object Detection
- Stable Diffusion
- Prompt Engineering
- Azure OpenAI
- AI Chatbot
- AI Text-to-Speech
As we’ve observed in the past, we see independent talent continue to be on the cutting edge of emerging technologies, quickly recognizing, learning, and mastering these skills. Talent are also providing businesses with the specialized knowledge and deep understanding of artificial intelligence principles, techniques, algorithms, and methodologies required to maximize generative AI’s full potential.
Strong business demand matches talent supply on Upwork
As we compare and contrast the lists of top AI-related searches by companies and top AI-related project hires in the first half of the year, we’ve seen a responsive and productive work marketplace able to fulfill the needs of both AI talent seeking work opportunities and clients in search of AI expertise. When we looked at the top 10 generative AI-related searches by companies and the top 10 generative AI-related hires made, we saw an impressive seven out 10 skills appear on both lists, indicating that our marketplace is adept at connecting businesses with the AI expertise they need and at connecting highly skilled independent talent with the right AI projects.⁹
While generative AI will continue to spur hiring across organizations and AI skills will continue to emerge and develop, business leaders and hiring managers will inevitably seek a diversity of AI skill sets as their understanding of this new technology and its potential also evolves. Leveraging platforms like Upwork and flexible work models that quickly and effectively meet rising hiring demands will be critical for businesses looking to close skills gaps, stay agile, and continue to drive innovation. By correctly identifying the right roles for humans and for tech, organizations will reap the benefits of unlocking new levels of productivity, creativity, and growth in the new era of generative AI.
- Generative AI: a subset of artificial intelligence that allows users to use prompts to generate content, data, and outputs based on patterns and examples present in existing information
- AI tools: software, services, programs, or systems that utilize artificial intelligence techniques, algorithms, and capabilities to perform specific tasks
- AI skills: specialized knowledge and understanding of artificial intelligence principles, techniques, algorithms, and methodologies
- AI services: offerings provided by organizations or platforms that leverage artificial intelligence
- AI applications: problems, fields, or goals for which software, tools, systems, or solutions that utilize artificial intelligence techniques, algorithms, and technologies are used
Skills data was sourced from the Upwork database and is from January 1, 2023 to June 30, 2023. Skills analysis was completed on our generative AI skills category. Quarter-over-quarter growth was estimated by comparing the number of times the skill appeared in a client search to estimate demand and on a freelancer profile to estimate supply.
¹ Early academic research has also pointed to the productivity gains as workers use Gen AI to augment tasks. To learn more, see https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adh2586&https://www.nber.org/papers/w31161.
² Compared to the second half of 2022, as measured by the total number of professionals hired.
³ The World Economic Forum’s Future of Job Report 2023 also suggests the impact of most technologies on jobs is expected to be a net positive over the next five years.
⁴ This is data pulled from logged-in client searches.
⁵ This is data pulled from logged-in client searches. We see similar data from logged-out visitors searching on our site.
⁶ This is data pulled from logged-in client searches. We see similar data from logged-out visitors searching on our site.
⁷ Where is ChatGPT on this? ChatGPT has a large quantity of searches (10k+) that makes capturing a percentage change of growth in a short period of time difficult given the numerous emergent technologies in this space. Our data shows a 54% growth between Q1 and Q2 2023.
⁸ Using Google trends data we identify more specific skills, like prompt engineering, beginning to increase in interest in early April 2023.
⁹ An efficient labor market is one in which there is a smooth and effective matching of job seekers and clients. In our research, we followed the flow of skills from client searches, freelancer profiles, and job hires. We found that seven out of the top 10 client searches for Gen AI skills led to a successful job hire. This suggests that the Upwork marketplace is responsive, productive, and able to quickly fulfill the needs of both job seekers and clients as it relates to Gen AI skills.
¹⁰ This is data pulled from logged-in client searches. We see similar data from logged-out visitors searching on our site.