Are employees truly scared of automation?

by HRD25 Sep 2017
Movies such as The Terminator might portray robots as creepy and threatening, but the reality is that workers are generally not too concerned about them being in the workplace.

A new survey commissioned by Microsoft Australia found that 67% of firstline workers agreed that the ability to work closely with automation and AI-enabled systems was central to developing a successful modern workforce.

The research also revealed that 77% of employees (both customer-facing firstline workers and managers) believe that digital transformation and technology are significant issues for every organisation.

They also recognise the benefits technology offers in terms of improving work-life balance, easing access to new skills and training, improving engagement levels and enabling collaboration with co-workers.

Ian Heard, general manager, Digital Workplace & Collaboration, Microsoft Australia, said that as rote work is increasingly performed by machines, human interaction and knowledge-based expertise will become more essential to firstline workers.

“They’ll use technology to collaborate, to exercise greater creative and strategic freedom, and to bring real value to the work they perform,” he said.

When asked how advanced their organisation was with regard to digital transformation, the largest cohort – 39% – said it was still “developing” with significant room for improvement.

However, only 4% said felt they were part of a “pioneering” enterprise that featured organisation-wide integration of digital technologies promising significant process improvement.

Heard added that there’s room for improvement in all sectors and all scales of business.

“By engaging firstline workers from the get-go, enterprises will be better positioned for success,” he said.

“Organisations that engage firstline workers in their digital transformation initiatives – ensuring that these programs are inclusive, simple and effective, supporting firstline creativity and teamwork while preserving enterprise and employee security – will be better placed to succeed with their strategic priorities.

“Digital transformation is powerful but everyone needs access. Firstline workers are the key to the next wave of successful digital transformation and sustained competitiveness – they must be part of the program.”