The widespread notion that employees are skeptical and unexcited at the prospect of increasing use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies at workplaces has been challenged by a recent survey. The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. surveyed nearly 3,000 employees across eight countries between November 2017, and January 2018 found that an overwhelming majority of the respondents view AI as an opportunity to create a more engaging and empowering work experience. However, it also found that lack of transparency, guidance, and clarification from their employers is a leading cause of concern.
The survey, titled, ‘Engaging Opportunity: Working Smarter with AI’, was conducted in collaboration with Coleman Parkes Research, and quizzed hourly and regular salaried employees from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States on their opinion on the role of AI in workplaces. Here are a few highlights of the same:
Readiness to Embrace AI
- 64% of the respondents said that they would gladly welcome automation if it ‘simplified or automated time to consume internal processes.'
- Better balancing with workload (64%), increasing fairness in subjective decisions (62%) and allowing managers to make informed decisions (57%) are some of the other functionalities that the employees felt that AI could elevate.
- While the sentiment was positive overall, employees in Mexico, USA, and Canada were most ready to welcome the said technology, whereas those from France and Germany were least ready to embrace the same.
Communication from Employers
- Despite having a positive opinion on the role of AI, employees did express concerns. 61% said that they would feel more comfortable and confident if their employers were more transparent and inclusive in discussing what the future of work looks like.
- This anxiety can be attributed to the fact that nearly 58% of the organizations are yet to discuss and communicate the potential impact of AI on the workforce with their employees.
- With 67% of the respondents stating that they have received no communication from their organization in this regard, US organizations, on the average, are the most secretive. Canada (66%) and United Kingdom (62%) come close as well.
- Both in US and Canada, the transparency varies greatly from industry to industry. Generally, the sectors of financial services and banking, manufacturing and logistics/transportation, seem to be more communicative than others.
- Mexico is leading the pack when it comes to being open and communicative, as 67% of the respondents from the country stated that their companies have openly discussed AI with them.
- 88% of all the Gen Z respondents are of the view that AI will improve their job in some or the other manner, whereas, 70% of Baby Boomers think similarly.
- Fairness to the working environment, and to performance reviews, elimination of manual processes, reduction of time wasted on administrative work are some of the ways in which AI will make work more efficient, feel employees from different generations.
- Globally, 82% of all the employees viewed AI as an opportunity to improve their jobs, and about 34% stated fear of being replaced, including 42% of Gen Z workers.
- Baby Boomers in the US are most unsure of the benefits of AI, as 38% admitted that they are not sure how AI can help improve their job.
Joyce Maroney, Executive Director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos, says, “Organizations are making significant investments in benefits, technology, and innovative workplaces, yet employees are working more than ever, and engagement has remained stagnant for decades. While emerging technologies always generate uncertainty, this survey shows employees worldwide share a cautious optimism that artificial intelligence is a promising tool that could pave the way for a game-changing employee experience if it is used to add fairness and eliminate low-value workplace processes and tasks, allowing employees to focus on the parts of their roles that really matter.”
The results indicate that given a chance, employees are willing, and even excited, to incorporate AI technologies in their work. While they are looking forward to automating routine tasks and roles in order to become more focused and efficient, another thing they admitted to, is of critical importance to leaders and organizations all over the world. More than being worried about being replaced, they are expecting their employers to communicate and discuss what the future of work looks like with smart machines being an important constituent in the mix. Employers should take note, and in addition to building resilient organizations which make the best use of human and machine intellect, they must guide, and if required, hand-hold, their employees into this new paradigm. The importance of clear communication is higher than ever, and organizations need to find creative ways to initiate dialogue with their employees about what tomorrow looks like, in a realistic, practical and positive manner.
You can view the complete findings of the survey here.