Growing up in Silicon Valley, I’d often hear of the archetypal science fiction future that was coming, which predicted close collaboration between humans, robots, and artificial intelligence (AI). While that future seemed realistic, it also appeared very far away.
Well, the future has arrived.
Over the past few months, we’ve teamed up with Future Workplace to survey more than 8,000 employees, managers, and HR leaders across 10 countries to understand their attitudes and behaviors regarding AI. Their answers surprised us, and we think they will surprise you too.
AI is changing the relationship between people and technology at work
We’ve all become familiar with the narrative that AI will eliminate our jobs, leading to unprecedented economic calamity and worry. Our survey answers showed the contrary, with most workers being excited to team up with AI for productivity benefits. Out of those who responded, 53% are optimistic about having robot coworkers, 46% anticipate more free time, and 36% believe they can learn new skills.
We also noted that younger generations were more likely to embrace AI. With millennials already the majority of the workforce and Generation Z following on their heels, we may see productivity soar like never before. Consulting firm PwC believes it, predicting that AI alone will contribute US$15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
AI is changing the way we lead
In the past, bosses and mentors were a centerpiece of the workplace experience, guiding their reports through key career decisions, workplace politics, and skill acquisition. For many workers and bosses, this created a lifelong bond that stretched from the day of hire to retirement.
Fast-forward to today and the state of the worker-employee relationship has transformed. In what we consider our most surprising data point, 64% of our survey respondents stated that they would trust a robot more than their manager, and 38% believed a robot could do certain types of work better than their manager. There was also a cultural difference in these responses, with respondents from Western nations showing a greater fear of robot managers, while Eastern cultures were more embracing.
The findings suggest that companies need to respond to changing dynamics in the workplace and consider how managers lead, especially with the rise of contract and gig economy work. One idea to consider is a skills inventory, where leaders identify what robots are good at and where humans excel.
There are still AI hurdles to overcome—but we’re getting there
AI holds tremendous promise, as revealed in our own customer stories and those shared at October’s HR Technology Conference. 31% of respondents told us that they use AI to collect data on employees and customers, while another 24% are using the technology to manage aspects of customer support. Undoubtedly, this is freeing up time for workers to focus on more creative and strategic tasks.
There’s still work to be done, of course. Our survey data showed that for greater adoption to take place, AI needs to be less complex, address security issues, and protect end-user privacy.
The data is promising, indicating a bright future where humans and technology collaborate to be productive. The existing concerns are consistent with general technology issues that must always be addressed, including security and complexity.
What about your business? As you head towards the holidays and into the new year, where does AI rank in your company’s list of priorities? Download our report today and speak to one of our experts to help guide your journey.