The majority of workers do not fear automation or artificial intelligence will replace their jobs, and instead see increased value in the rise of the machines, even though few have had the opportunity to use these technologies.
So says a new report from the University of London, commissioned by Automation Anywhere, which highlights the five key challenges that organisations are facing in scaling the use of automation and AI and provides practical advice as to how to overcome them.
Despite a pervasive narrative of job loss fears, almost three quarters (72%) of the 4,000 employees at large enterprises surveyed for the report see the technology as something they will work with, rather than something that will replace them. This is opposed to just 8% of respondents who feel the opposite.
A majority (57%) of workers believe their productivity would increase in the long run if their organisation provided more opportunities to trial different types of automation or AI, compared to just 16% who feel the opposite. However, this rises slightly to 25% of respondents in the UK.
And two thirds (66%) of workers want to know more about how AI can help them do their job.
However, the report warns organisations not to overstate the capabilities of automation and AI – highlighting the growing trend for "AI washing". A majority (53%) of respondents report hearing a "lot of people talking about AI without knowing what it really is".
Despite the curiosity and openness to explore automation and AI, only just over a third (38%) of workers currently use automation technology to perform some work processes that fall under their job responsibilities. This decreases to just a quarter (26%) of those respondents in the UK.
The new research highlights five challenges organisations face in scaling the use of automation and AI and suggests practical actions that organisations can take now to address them:
Technology: The challenge of scalability requires that organisations build a culture that can evolve as the technology advances. Short-term vision would keep organisations stuck in small scale use-cases without looking at broad benefits of automation and AI.
Skills: The future is all jobs "supported by automation". By optimising for immediate productivity gains without creating a culture of support and advancing skills, organisations would see momentary increases in efficiency without long-term performance sustainability.
Diversity: The challenge of trust in automation and AI by ensuring opportunities exist to use the technology among all genders.
Authenticity: The challenge is to avoid "AI washing" – overstating the capabilities of the technology. The less workers trust the organisation, the harder it will be to market the technologies and realise the real value in the long run.
Resilience: Without embracing change, the technology will be slow to evolve as will workers’ skills, and an organisation’s diversity and authenticity.
Dr Chris Brauer, director of innovation in the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, and leader of the research, said: "There is a relationship among the five challenges companies face – and like all great technology revolutions in history, addressing these together allows for the balance required for the integration of augmentation into our lives."