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Execs believe AI and robotics could change workplace for the better - study

24 Jan 2018

Organisations believe that pairing humans alongside machine intelligence will create a more effective, engaged, and meritocratic workforce, according to a new global study released by software company Pegasystems.

Pega surveyed 845 senior executives working globally across key industry sectors, including financial services, insurance, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications and media, and government, on the increased role artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic automation will play in the workplace of the future.

The survey uncovered widespread belief that machine intelligence will work ubiquitously alongside humans over time – so much so that seven out of 10 respondents (69%) believe the term ‘workforce’ will evolve to encapsulate both humans and machine intelligence.

They also expect AI-augmented employees to generate tangible business returns such as more efficiency (73% agree) and better customer service (62%).

But the effects may extend even deeper as AI transforms the way people work, are managed, and rewarded.

“AI and automation technologies have generated tremendous hype, but the potential within the enterprise remains largely untapped,“ says Pegasystems chief technology officer and vice president, product marketing Don Schuerman.

“Organisation must augment their human intelligence with AI across the entire organisation in order to move beyond basic efficiency improvements. By deploying AI and automation with an end-to-end view in mind, businesses can move closer to fulfilling their customer-centric vision.”

Empowering employees with more autonomy

By augmenting their work with machine intelligence, human employees will be empowered with more autonomy and a greater sense of job satisfaction, according to the survey:

AI and robotic automation will allow staff to make more informed decisions and lead to a flattening of traditional management hierarchies, according to 8 out of 10 respondents (78%). AI will help suggest next-best actions for most customer service agents within the next five years, according to more than three quarters (77%) of respondents. While 88% are comfortable working together with machines, they are less enthusiastic about being managed by them: four out of five (79%) say they would not be comfortable with an AI-powered boss.

Establishing a more transparent, meritocratic workplace

As organisations increasingly come under scrutiny on equal pay for equal work issues, the study found the use of unbiased machine intelligence to analyse employee effectiveness could be the key to levelling the playing field:

Two thirds (66%) believe the widespread use of AI will give rise to a more transparent meritocracy in the workplace. Almost three quarters (74%) think that within 10 years, AI will become standard practice for evaluating employee performance, while 72% predict it will be commonly used to set appropriate rewards and compensation. Eighty-four percent agree it will be commonplace for AI to calculate the true value added by each worker within a decade, while 44% see this happening within five years.

Leveraging machine intelligence to manage the gig economy

Respondents expect the number of permanent employees at Fortune 500 companies to be cut in half by 2030.

But while this shift to the so-called gig economy brings new flexibility to employers to hire on demand, it also opens new challenges:

Eighty-five percent expect the use of more flexible, freelance customer service staff will make it easier to provide customers with 24/7 service, while 82% forecast faster response times as a direct result. Conversely, 81% believe this shift toward temporary staff will make it harder to cultivate an ongoing culture of customer centricity.

The gig economy makes it more important to pair humans with AI to ensure consistent quality service. For example, nine out of 10 will use analytics to ensure customers receive the same level of personalisation from one worker to another. 

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