AI & automation makes workplaces ‘more human’
Written by Hannah McGrath
Academics investigating the impact of automation have found that augmented workplaces are deemed to be ‘more human’ than the traditional office environment.
The major study by Goldsmiths, University of London showed that companies investing in augmented workplace technology such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) scored 33 per cent higher on factors deemed to make a workplace feel more human.
Companies that embraced these technologies also saw much higher performance returns, with an improvement of 26 per cent, especially if they also invested in peoples' skills and progress.
In the financial services sector, 61 per cent of business leaders said their organisations were ready to embrace automated technology, but only 59 per cent said their company culture fostered a growth mindset along with that while 52 per cent were encouraged to take risks.
A substantial majority (79 per cent) of those working in finance also agreed that automation has freed up employee time and the same amount (79 per cent) says it increases productivity.
The research also found the finance industry is bracing for an upsurge in competition from FinTech challengers with the advent of Open Banking, which will drive an explosion in the volume of transactions as third parties are able to access customer data.
Across all sectors, the survey found that employees were 31 per cent more productive in augmented environments while 38 per cent were more engaged than those in non-augmented competitors due to technological changes freeing them up from repetitive work and allowing them to focus on more creative and strategic tasks.
Meawnhile, 64 per cent of British respondents said their employees were more effective and enjoyed greater wellbeing thanks to augmentation, making the UK the market with the second-highest score for this category.
The academics also found that these improvements are only seen when an organisation makes a conscious decision to use automation in a way that enhances employees’ skills and complements their working style.
The research, commissioned by Automation Anywhere, an RPA software firm, was based on interviews with senior business leaders from major enterprises in the UK, US, India and Japan and interviews with automation and AI-subject matter experts.
Responding to the findings, Dr. Chris Brauer, director of innovation in the Institute of Management Studies at Goldmsiths, University of London, said that the nascent autonomy of digital technology promises an evolutionary leap in human capacity in the workplace.
He explained: “While the hyped potential of AI generates endless headlines, technologies such as RPA are quietly being rolled out in many of the most productive companies around the world – humans and bots are already working alongside each other across the globe and in every sector.”
He concluded that in the early days of the technology, not everyone is getting it right, but those businesses using it to maximise human capabilities can reap the rewards.
The findings come after mounting warnings from industry and public policy bodies over the impact of AI and automation on the future of work, including a recent intervention from Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist who warned that “large swathes” of people risk becoming “technologically employed.”