Are you afraid of Artificial Intelligence? Global workers say no to robo-bosses

New research reveals employee concerns regarding new technologies in the workplace: Over a third worry about being replaced by emerging tech as employers fail to provide sufficient IT support

Today, Konica Minolta released new research revealing employee attitudes toward changing workplace technologies, including the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Launched following Konica Minolta’s recent Workplace of the Future event, the global survey of 11,000 consumers, undertaken by YouGov, shows that 37 percent are concerned about the possibility of emerging technologies, like AI or robotics, replacing them or their colleagues. Furthermore, 61 percent stated that they would be unhappy to take instruction from an AI powered supervisor – an immediate issue for businesses given Gartner predicts over three million workers will report into ‘robo-bosses’ by next year.   

Surveying consumers from nine different countries (UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden Denmark, Czech Republic, US and Japan), the report also reveals that these concerns about emerging technologies, are mirrored by the belief that employers are not providing the support needed to cope with the pace of technological change.  While 38 percent believe this change is faster today than it has been in recent years, 24 percent complain that they receive either “no” or “insufficient” support, a figure that rises to 35 percent in Denmark,  37 percent in France and the UK, and 40 percent in Czech Republic. Other findings show that 46 percent of workers are frustrated by the lack of integration between workplace IT systems/software/devices.

These sentiments go some way to explaining why employees are skeptical about emerging tech like AI. However, they can see the benefits. Over a quarter (27 percent) of employees believe up to a fifth of their daily tasks could be automated by technologies like AI and automation – this rises to between 41 percent and 60 percent for one in ten employees.

What’s really interesting is how employees would spend the time this automation frees up – top answers include; developing workplace skills (26 percent), improving business processes, developing more creative/innovation approaches to day-to-day work, and increasing communications and collaboration with colleagues (all 20 percent). Employees are less interested in non-work related activities like taking longer breaks, one of the least popular choices with just 12 percent.

“Unfortunately it appears that the approach to technology taken by many employers today is failing to prepare staff for the workplace of the future,” said Dennis Curry, VP and Director of Business Innovation and R&D Europe at Konica Minolta. “Employees are feeling cautious when it comes to emerging technologies like AI and automation. This is a shame as it’s clear from our research that employees are keen to use time freed up by these technologies to engage in activities directly aligned with business efficiency and effectiveness.”

Additional key findings from the research include:

“There is a lot more employers can be doing to ensure technology is an employee enabler rather than a barrier,” continued Curry. “This means more training and finding ways to involve staff in the process of workplace innovation. It’s essential to ensure the technology deployed today will support technologies associated with the workplace of the future. For example, our latest offering, Workplace Hub, was specifically designed to be flexible, able to seamlessly configure IT systems, devices and software into a single technology layer based on a common language. Moreover, it has emerging tech like AI in its roadmap, built to facilitate a strategic division of labour so that it supports employees rather than replaces them. By supporting employees more with training and smart IT acquisition, businesses will better position themselves to leverage the added value that humans and machines can provide together.” 

About the research
The survey was conducted in March 2017 by YouGov, which polled surveyed a total of 11,362 consumers across the UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Czech Republic, The USA and Japan. 

Konica Minolta surveyed the consumers in order to discover more about attitudes toward the workplace of the future and associated technologies.