Majority of workers welcome job impacts of AI, automation

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While many recent studies have suggested there is wide-spread fear that artificial intelligence and automation will be major job slashing technologies, a new report from Randstad US contradicts those conclusions.

The 2017 Randstad Employer Brand Research found that only 14 percent of U.S. employees worry that automation will take their job away, and nearly one-third (30 percent) say they think automation will make their job better.

If true, this certainly comes as good news for organizations that are racing to adopt AI and automation in order to increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

Along with their optimism toward automation, many workers also report a willingness to retrain or ‘up-skill’ in order to maintain their current job status, the study revealed. Half of the respondents (51 percent) agreed they would be happy to retrain if they were being paid the same or more than their current salary.

"It is evident from our research that not only are workers not afraid of losing their jobs to automation, they are more than willing to retrain to leverage the efficiencies and benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the workplace," said Linda Galipeau, CEO Randstad North America.

"These sentiments should be welcome news for companies as they seek greater adoption of automation to drive productivity and innovation,” Galipeau said. “As we have known for quite some time, the success of organizations in the future will depend greatly on their ability to strike a balance between valuable human insight and interaction with technology.

But Galipeau also urged caution to employers on how they develop workers and their skills in order to keep them current in the workforce.

"It has become necessary for today's employees and job seekers to continually cultivate, develop and update their skills to work successfully alongside AI and automation," Galipeau continued. "In conjunction with retraining and up-skilling efforts, workers should focus on growing unique human skills that AI and robots are unable to replicate, such as strategic and abstract thinking, complex communications, and creativity and leadership competencies."

Overall, business leaders share the same beliefs as workers when it comes to the level of impact automation may have on the workforce, Galipeau said. Based on a survey of C-suite and human capital leaders, the firm’s latest Talent Trends survey finds that only 6 percent of U.S. respondents “believe that increasing automation will have a significant impact on workforce planning and shifting the talent needed.”

Meanwhile, the studies stress that U.S. companies are enthusiastic about the potential benefits of automation and AI on their business, as evidenced by the following findings:

  • “A clear majority (84%) of U.S. respondents say they believe AI and robotics will have a positive impact on the workplace in the next three to five years.”
  • “Forty-eight percent say automation/machine learning has either transformed or had a positive impact on their business in the past 12 months. Forty-five percent say the same of robotics.”
  • “Seventy-four percent believe automation/machine learning will have sustained or greater influence on their business. Sixty-eight percent hold the same view about robotics.”
  • “Perhaps due to these beliefs, 31 percent of employers said they have increased their usage of automation/robotics in their business in the past 12 months.”

"The inescapable reality is automation and AI are here to stay, and will continue to grow substantially in the near future," said Galipeau. "As business leaders invest in digitization, automation, AI and other emerging technologies in the workplace, they must continue to evolve their workforce alongside these advancements. While the productivity and efficiency benefits of automation are unequivocal, the need for skilled humans to operate, utilize and advance technologies is equally unmistakable. And, we know that real connections aren't made from algorithms or robots, they require human involvement and irreplaceable abilities such as empathy, communication, engagement, intuition and instinct."

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