U.S. Workers Welcome the Robots

No, this isn’t the title of a sci-fi movie, although only 20 years ago the concept may have seemed futuristic.

Source: YakobchulkOlena / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Here, in 2017, the future has arrived—and it turns out, workers are not afraid.

Bring It On

New research from Randstad North America, a wholly owned subsidiary of Randstad Holding nv, a global provider of HR services, contradicts many reports that American workers fear losing their job due to automation. Only 14 percent of U.S. employees responding to Randstad’s survey worry that automation will take their job away, and nearly one-third (30 percent) say they think automation will make their job better.
Alongside their optimism toward automation, workers also report a willingness to retrain or upskill to maintain their current job status. In fact, half of study respondents (51 percent) say 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 of Randstad North America, when releasing study findings. “These sentiments should be welcome news for companies as they seek greater adoption of automation to drive productivity and innovation. 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.”

Companies and Automation

U.S. business leaders share the same beliefs as workers when it comes to the level of impact automation may have on the workforce—that is, the robots won’t take over.
Another Randstad survey, this one of C-suite and human capital leaders, finds only 6 percent of U.S. respondents believe increasing automation will have a significant impact on workforce planning and shifting the talent needed.
Overall, U.S. companies are enthusiastic about the potential benefits of automation and AI on their business, as evidenced by these findings:

  • A clear majority (84 percent) of U.S. respondents says 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; 45 percent say the same of robotics.
  • Seventy-four percent believe automation/machine learning will have sustained or greater influence on their business; 68 percent hold the same view about robotics.
  • Perhaps due to these beliefs, 31 percent of employers say they have increased their usage of automation/robotics in their business in the past 12 months.

Working Side by Side

“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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