A new study from Headspring, the executive development joint venture of the Financial Times and IE Business School, reveals two in five (39%) UK office workers surveyed believe AI could replace their jobs, despite 58% of those in senior management positions or above saying they trust human decision making over machines.
The online research, which was carried out by YouGov on behalf of Headspring, surveyed 2,010 UK office workers to unveil exactly what they think about the advances in AI technology in relation to their jobs. In comparison, the study also looked at how business leaders think AI will change roles to see if employers and employees have the same expectations.
Although 84% of UK office workers surveyed don’t use any kind of AI in their current role, more than a third (38%) think introducing the technology into the workplace will mean their job has to change. Similarly, nearly one in four (22%) think the technology will reduce the number of people in their department.
When it comes to trusting decisions made by machines, around half (51%) of office workers surveyed nationally say they would be more likely to trust decisions made in relation to their current job by humans more than AI, with just over a quarter (26%) claiming to be likely to trust decisions made by both AI and humans equally.
On the other side of the spectrum, UK office workers surveyed did have some positive things to say about introducing AI into the workplace, with two in five (39%) saying they think the technology would help to improve the quality of their work, and more than one in five (22%) claiming it would make their work more accurate.
The top five jobs UK office workers think AI could do a more accurate job than a human are:
1. Data handling (59%)
2. Financial forecasting (42%)
3. IT (35%), accounting/managing finances (35%)
4. Productivity management (24%)
5. Communications (17%)
One in four (23%) office workers surveyed say AI would make them more productive in their roles, while 16% most closely associate artificial intelligence with ‘better decision making’.
Looking to the future, when asked to imagine that their current company was to implement AI systems that they’d need to use, 60% of office workers surveyed say they feel unprepared to use AI in their current role in the next 12 months, and nearly two thirds (63%) don’t think their employer will be ready to adopt AI systems in the next 12 months either. Despite the general feeling of having a long way to go before using AI in the workplace, the data shows a generational divide in opinion with 24% of 25-to-34-year-olds surveyed feeling prepared to use AI systems as part of their current role, in comparison to 21% of those aged 45-54 and just 17% of those above the age of 55.
The top five areas that office workers think employers would need to do before rolling out new AI systems in their current workplace are:
1. Start investing / invest more in new technology and infrastructure (49%)
2. Establish new processes to manage the ethics of the Artificial Intelligence systems (40%) and manage internal comms to ease any potential negative perceptions (40%)
3. Create a new role to help manage the AI systems/ processes (38%)
4. Starting investing / invest more in people, development and training (33%)
5. Restructure teams across the company (27%)
Commenting on the results, Headspring’s CEO Gustaf Nordbäck says:
“It’s interesting to see the contrast in opinion among the office workforce and business leaders. While so many employees seem to be concerned about their roles with the introduction of AI, those in more senior roles are anticipating the benefits it can bring. It’s reassuring for workers to see that those in senior positions believe they will rely on humans over machines, demonstrating how AI can be harnessed alongside human decision making, rather than replacing it.
“In terms of the priorities office-based employees believe their leaders need to focus on before implementing AI, processes to manage the ethics of AI are high on the list, alongside effective communications. There is a high level of apprehension from the changes AI could bring, and therefore successful implementation of AI will require the business leaders to properly prepare their organisations and educate their staff before rolling out any changes.”
For more information on AI in the workplace and to see the full research, click here to view the full report and further research findings.