CXO

Less than half of employees optimistic about AI, robots in the workplace

Employees see automation technologies in a positive light, but fear the loss of human connection at work, according to a MetLife report.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • 56% of employers and 49% of employees say they are optimistic about automation technologies like AI, analytics, and robots. — MetLife, 2018
  • 51% of employers and 46% of employees say they worry that the workplace is becoming less human due to automation. — MetLife, 2018

Human employees are embracing their future robot colleagues, but fear the loss of human connection in the workplace, according to a Monday report from MetLife.

Of the 2,501 benefits decision makers surveyed, 56% said they had a positive view of automation technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, collaboration tools, and robots, that can help companies complete human tasks. Only 20% of these employers were pessimistic.

Employees also reported optimism about the future of automation: Of the 2,653 full-time employees surveyed, 49% said they had a positive view of automation, while 24% had a negative view. Broken down across gender and generational lines, men (54%) were more optimistic than women (43%), and millennials (63%) were more optimistic than Gen Xers (47%) or baby boomers (38%).

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

However, about half of both employers (51%) and employees (46%) said they worry the workplace is becoming less human due to automation, the report found.

"While automation is the next workplace frontier, the biggest fear is that work is losing its human touch, likely due to unmet needs for personalization and recognition," Todd Katz, executive vice president of group benefits at MetLife, said in a press release. "Employers who are able to balance their—and their employees'—desire for innovation through automation, while creating great work experiences, will be tomorrow's talent leaders."

Employees increasingly see work as an extension of themselves, the report found. As such, personalized options for professional development, scheduling, and benefits are key for building loyalty and trust.

Work/life balance was a major factor in employee satisfaction, the report found: 87% of workers who said their employer allows them to manage their lives both in and out of work are more loyal and satisfied. Some 72% said that having the option to work remotely is important to achieving this balance, while 74% said that having a flexible schedule was key while considering a new job.

A disconnect exists between employers and employees when it comes to professional development, the report found: While 77% of employers said they are committed to their employees' success, only 65% of workers agree. Fewer than two-thirds of employees (63%) said they believe their company teaches them the skills they need to succeed in their current position, and only 60% said they feel appreciated most of the time. Workers who do feel appreciated at work are 19% more likely to say their company is committed to their success.

Positive work experiences are important for reducing turnover, according to the report. Among employees who said they feel connected or empowered at work, more than 90% said they expect to still be working at their organization in a year, compared to 81% of all workers. These employees are also 17% more likely to say they trust their company's leadership.

"With unemployment at a record low and top talent in high demand, employers are looking for

new ways to attract and retain workers," Katz said in the release. "For employees to feel connected and loyal in this era of automation, a positive employee experience is essential. Employees want a say in how, when and where they work—and they're prepared to reward the organizations that deliver with hard work, performance and loyalty."

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Image: iStockphoto/PhonlamaiPhoto

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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