Not All Workers Fear Automation, Study Says

Many workers are surprisingly sanguine about the impact of automation on their jobs according to a survey of 5,000 business decision makers and knowledge workers. It reveals the majority of the latter (83 per cent) are comfortable with reskilling in order to work alongside the digital workforce.

The study was sponsored by Blue Prism, which along with Automation Anywhere and UIPath, is considered a leader in the at times controversial Robotic Process Automation market.

The impact of automation on employment featured heavily as a discussion point in last week’s Blue Prism World conference in London. The company was keen to emphasize the benefits beyond headcount reduction, although Which-50 noted that almost every customer on stage at the event described the benefits of the technology in headcount terms.

This sentiment found on the report runs contrary to a popularly held belief of the market and business decision makers (70 percent), that employees are afraid of losing their jobs to automation, although the fact that it is sponsored by a leading automation proponent tends to mitigate the independence of the findings.

Still, even with this caveat, it is worth noting that only 37 per cent of knowledge workers said they harbor fears about job losses as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is having a positive impact on workplaces.

Broad impact

The impact of automation is being felt from the boardroom to the shop floor, say the study’s authors. More than three-quarters of knowledge workers surveyed said they (78 per cent) have experienced some of their daily tasks being automated in the last 12 months.

Most business decision makers also believe that RPA (88 per cent) and Intelligent Automation (83 per cent) are solutions to the global productivity problem and that both RPA (95 per cent) and Intelligent Automation (93 per cent) are crucially important in driving digital transformation.

Much of the sentiment reads of making a virtue from necessity. Over a third of knowledge workers (34 per cent) told the researchers they don’t believe their businesses can remain competitive in the next five years with a purely human workforce. This, alongside time-saving, cost-saving and improved accuracy benefits that automation offers, could be amongst the reasons why an incredible 92 per cent of business decision makers plan to extend use cases of automation across their businesses.

“A new wave of economics, driven by automation and Artificial Intelligence, is emerging across the globe,” says Chris Bradshaw, Blue Prism’s CMO.

“This technology is disruptive, in the most positive sense. It is changing how organizations view themselves, how they operate and how the people that drive them, live and work. As we enter a new era of connected-RPA, this technology will open doors for the most digitally savvy employees to create and innovate. This is the first technological revolution to place the human at the heart of the creative value chain which is why it has such exponential potential. We will deliver a roadmap for how businesses can transform economic output, with AI and RPA at the heart of that change.”

Despite the progress that has already been made, businesses need to address cultural considerations if they are to tap into the technology’s latent potential. In order to increasingly incorporate RPA, two- thirds of knowledge workers agree that their businesses culture needs to evolve.

This is because more than half of respondents (53 per cent) have colleagues with concerns over the introduction of the technology, and 44 per cent aren’t confident about their own ability to adapt to work alongside the digital workforce.

To this end, business decision makers are conscious that they need to build trust among employees and the digital workforce (84 per cent). Unfortunately, 68 per cent of knowledge workers, believe their employers need to do more to build this trust.

Improving internal communications is thought to be the best way to do this by 74 per cent of business decision makers and echoed by 67 per cent of knowledge workers. Communication is followed by the need for in-depth training (62 per cent business decision makers, 59 per cent knowledge workers).

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