Businesses do not fear the emergence of robotic ‘co-workers,’ according to a new global study released by Pegasystems Inc. the software company empowering customer engagement at the world’s leading enterprises. The study surveyed 396 senior executives working across key sectors of industry, including Financial Services, Insurance, Manufacturing, Telecoms & Media, Public Sector, and Retail, to source their views on the increased role artificial intelligence (AI) and automation will play in the workplace of the future.
A majority of respondents – 86 percent – were comfortable with the introduction of machine ‘co-workers’ into the workplace. Indeed, more than two thirds (67 percent) said in the future they expected the term ‘workforce’ to cover both intelligent machines and their human colleagues. The expectation that AI will replace human workers in adminstrative roles is high – with 70 percent expecting this will happen within 20 years. However, 69 percent said the automation of previously manual processes will enable those in such jobs to be diverted into other areas of the business instead of losing their jobs altogether.
On whether they would like to be managed by AI themselves, UK managers do show some initial resistance. More than four out of five (84 percent) respondents said they would not be comfortable with an intelligent machine managing them. However, 65 percent said they would be more comfortable with this prospect if there was complete transparency and auditability as to how the bot reached its management decisions.
According to UK business leaders, greater use of AI will create much better working conditions for human workers. For example, 59 percent expect that the automation of previously manual processes will make a significant difference in enabling staff to take on more varied, rewarding roles. This could be particularly true of customer-facing employees who, respondents suggested, may find that smart machines will make day to day work less mundane and frustrating and give them more responsibility. Seventy-three percent agree that AI will will allow workers to make more informed decisions at a more junior level.
Humans will continue to have an important role to play in jobs requiring emotional intelligence, judgement, and cultural understanding. Only 38 percent expect AI to replace human workers in customer-facing roles in 20 years time, while 74 percent think it will become standard practice for AI to be used to suggest next-best-actions to customer service agents within the next five years.
Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.