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Workers welcome AI, but want businesses to be smarter and more transparent

Employees are excited and receptive to AI at work, however employers are failing to communicate the impact of new tech on jobs

Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to revolutionise the way businesses in every sector function, however new research from HR thinktank, The Workforce Institute, reveals that businesses need to be smarter and more honest when implementing new technology if it is to deliver real business benefits to the UK.

Despite recent scare stories, the workforce is optimistic about the implementation of AI but businesses are consistently failing to make technology count or effectively communicate how job roles will be affected. The research found that although the majority of employees see opportunity for AI to create a more engaging and empowering workplace experience, the lack of transparency from employers is a primary driver of fear and concern amongst the workforce.

The Always on Con European study, conducted by the Workforce Institute Europe and Kronos, establishes that whilst the vast majority of UK employees (92 percent) are positive about new technology, many are underwhelmed by the value and impact of business technology on their working lives. A large proportion of those questioned feel that when new technology is implemented in the workplace it has no impact at all on productivity (41 percent), work/life balance (55 percent) or happiness at work (44 percent).

Considering three quarters (75 percent) of the UK workers surveyed think that technology is a force for good and more than half believes it makes their lives easier (69 percent), there is clearly a disconnect somewhere. Industry is not translating the experience and benefits of consumer technology into their working lives. Workplace technology has a pivotal role to play in the future of UK business when facing challenges like brexit and low productivity, so understanding how this can be improved is invaluable.

AI has the enormous potential to overcome flagging productivity while improving the work/life balance of workers. With this in mind, the Workforce Institute has surveyed sentiments towards AI technology, today releasing the results of a global survey of 3,000 employees. The research reveals that nine out of ten employees (89 percent) see an opportunity for AI to improve fairness in decision-making, increase transparency with clear and consistent performance benchmarks, as well as reduce administrative work. However, nearly four out of five (79 percent) UK employees have received no communication from their employer about plans to implement AI or how it will affect their working lives, and a third (34 percent) expressed concern that AI could someday replace them altogether.

Just under two thirds (62 percent) of the UK workforce claimed they were comfortable with the implementation of AI in their workplace, provided that they are given a transparent and honest overview of its use and how it will impact their job.

If business leaders are to ensure technology delivers its full potential they should consider four important things - does it help drive efficiency, give greater visibility, improve flexibility or make the workplace fairer? These are the things that will make an impact on working lives of employees, support an increase in engagement and productivity and allow business technology to fulfil everyone’s expectations.

Christian Kromme, Entrepreneur and Futurist speaker, Board Member of the Workforce Institute Europe

“I believe that in the near future every job, routine, or task that is in any way boring or not worthy of our attention will almost certainly be automated by artificial intelligence and robotics. At the same time, I believe that AI will augment and amplify human capabilities. AI will make us more intelligent, more productive and even more creative. As a result, AI will advance humanity toward a more meaningful future with meaningful jobs.”