According to a global survey of nearly 3,000 employees across eight nations conducted by The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated, four out of five employees surveyed see significant opportunity for artificial intelligence (AI) to create a more engaging and empowering workplace experience, yet admit a lack of transparency from their employers is a primary driver of fear and concern.
The Engaging Opportunity: Working Smarter with AI survey conducted with Coleman Parkes Research explores how employees—both hourly and salaried from a variety of industries in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. —believe emerging technologies should be used to improve the future of work.
Survey findings include:
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Employees around the world will embrace AI to make work easier and fairer. Employees from all eight nations would welcome AI if it simplified or automated time-consuming internal processes (64%), helped better balance their workload (64%), increased fairness in subjective decisions (62%), or ensured managers made better choices affecting individual employees (57%).
Workers in Mexico are most enthusiastic about AI’s benefits while Canadian and U.S. employees are also ready to welcome the technology. Four out of every five survey respondents from Mexico felt AI would simplify time-consuming processes (81%/Mexico, 65%/Canada, 62%/U.S.) and better balance their workload (84%/Mexico, 64%/U.S., 61%/Canada). Conversely, two countries where employees are least likely to embrace AI: France and Germany.
“The advent of artificial intelligence should, on the whole, be a very good thing; many jobs will change dramatically and employees will be presented with new opportunities to learn new skills. Individuals who proactively embrace the change will experience more of the upside. It is important for employees to pay attention to what is happening and adapt to, rather than avoid, the adoption of this technology,” says David Creelman, CEO, Creelman Research.
Fear of the Unknown
Lack of communication leaves employees feeling apprehensive. According to the survey, three out of every five organizations (58%) internationally have yet to discuss the potential impact of AI on their workforce with employees. However, two-thirds of global employees (61%) say they’d feel more comfortable if employers were more transparent about what the future may hold.
The U.S. is the most secretive, with 67% of employees reporting they have no knowledge of their organization’s plans for AI. Employees in Canada (66%) and the United Kingdom (62%) are similarly in the dark. More than two-thirds (67%) of employees in Mexico say their organization has openly discussed AI with employees.
Some U.S. industries are more transparent than others. Organizations in financial services/banking (38%), manufacturing (35%), and logistics/transportation (27%) are already discussing AI’s future impact on the workforce with employees.
In Canada, a similar finding: 37% of financial services organizations, 33% of manufacturing industries, 27% of logistics/transportation organizations have discussed the topic openly.
“Large, mid-market, and even small businesses are preparing to implement AI technology but to be truly successful the implementation must embrace the workforce in an open and transparent way. AI will have a positive impact providing fairer management and increased workforce flexibility and productivity. Fear is down to the unknown and better communication will allow the undoubted benefits of AI to be maximised across an organization,” says Ian Parkes, director, Coleman Parkes Research.
The Generation Gap
Gen Z and Baby Boomers have very different opinions. Globally, 88% of Gen Z employees believe AI can improve their job in some manner. However, just 70% of Baby Boomers feel the same way.
In the U.S., Gen Z sees the biggest benefit of AI as its ability to create an overall fairer working environment (48%). Canadian Gen Z employees hope it will bring more fairness to performance reviews (50%).
Younger Millennials, older Millennials, and Gen X employees in both countries think the biggest benefit of AI for them is elimination of manual processes and time wasted on basic, administrative work, each of which detracts from more rewarding workplace activities.
When it comes to Baby Boomers working in the U.S., 38% either don’t think or aren’t sure how AI would improve their job.
Employees hope AI will improve, not replace, their role. While four out of five employees (82%) see opportunity for AI to improve their jobs, about a third (34%) expressed concern that AI could someday replace them altogether, including 42% of Gen Z employees.
“Organizations are making significant investments in benefits, technology, and innovative workplaces, yet employees are working more than ever and engagement has remained stagnant for decades. While emerging technologies always generate uncertainty, this survey shows employees worldwide share a cautious optimism that artificial intelligence is a promising tool that could pave the way for a game-changing employee experience if it is used to add fairness and eliminate low-value workplace processes and tasks, allowing employees to focus on the parts of their roles that really matter,” says Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos.
For more information on the Engaging Opportunity: Working Smarter with AI survey, click here.