REDWOOD SHORES, Calif.—People are ready to take instructions from robots at work, according to a new study conducted by Oracle and Future Workplace, a research firm preparing leaders for disruptions in recruiting, development, and employee engagement. The study of 1,320 U.S. HR leaders and employees found that while people are ready to embrace Artificial Intelligence (AI) at work, and understand that the benefits go far beyond automating manual processes, organizations are not doing enough to help their employees embrace AI and that will result in reduced productivity, skillset obsolescence, and job loss.
The study—AI at Work—identified a large gap between the way people are using AI at home and at work. While 70 percent of people are using some form of AI in their personal life, only 6 percent of HR professionals are actively deploying AI and only 24 percent of employees are currently using some form of AI at work. To determine why there is such a gap in AI adoption when people are reportedly ready to embrace AI at work (93 percent would trust orders from a robot), the study examined HR leader and employee perceptions of the benefits of AI, the obstacles preventing AI adoption, and the business consequences of not embracing AI.
All respondents agreed that AI will have a positive impact on their organizations and when asked about the biggest benefit of AI, HR leaders and employees both said increased productivity. In the next three years, employees believe that AI will improve operational efficiencies (59 percent), enable faster decision making (50 percent), significantly reduce cost (45 percent), enable better customer experiences (40 percent), and improve the employee experience (37 percent). HR leaders believe that in the next three years, AI will positively impact learning and development (27 percent), performance management (26 percent), compensation/payroll (18 percent), and recruiting and employee benefits (13 percent).
Businesses Are Not Doing Enough to Prepare the Workforce for AI
Despite its potential to improve business performance, HR leaders and employees believe that organizations are not doing enough to prepare the workforce for AI. Respondents identified a number of barriers holding back AI—90 percent of HR leaders are concerned they will not be able to adjust to the rapid adoption of AI as part of their job and, to make matters worse, they are not currently empowered to address an emerging AI skill gap in their organization.
While more than half of employees (51 percent) are concerned they will not be able to adjust to the rapid adoption of AI and 71 percent believe AI skills and knowledge will be important in the next three years, 72 percent of HR leaders noted that their organization does not provide any form of AI training program.
On top of the skill gap, HR leaders and employees identified cost (74 percent), failure of technology (69 percent), and security risks (56 percent) as the other major barriers to AI adoption in the enterprise.
Consequences of Slow AI Adoption
Despite all the talk about people being worried about AI entering the workplace, the study found the opposite to be true with 79 percent of HR leaders and 60 percent of employees believing a failure to adopt AI will have negative consequences on their own careers, colleagues, and overall organization. Respondents identified reduced productivity, skillset obsolescence, and job loss as the top three consequences of failing to embrace AI in the workforce.
From an organizational standpoint, respondents believe embracing AI will have the most positive impact on directors and c-suite executives. By failing to empower leadership teams with AI, organizations could lose a competitive advantage.
“As this study shows, people are not afraid of AI taking their jobs and instead want to be able to quickly and easily take advantage of the latest innovations,” said Emily He, SVP, Human Capital Management Cloud Business Group, Oracle. “To help employees embrace AI, organizations should partner with their HR leaders to address the skill gap and focus their IT strategy on embedding simple and powerful AI innovations into existing business processes.”