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Surprising optimism in the face of the AI revolution

By Ben Moore
Thu 30 Nov 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Contrary to recent headlines about an artificial intelligence apocalypse, very few workers fear AI will take away their jobs.

These findings come from a new study by Genpact, a global professional services firm focused on delivering digital transformation.

The survey of more than 5,000 people from across the USA, UK, and Australia also shows a gap in views about AI’s impact on their current roles versus the expected impact on the future workforce.

While only 10% of those surveyed agree that AI threatens their jobs today, 90% believe younger generations will need new skills to succeed as AI becomes more prevalent in the workplace.

This workforce survey is the second in a three-part Genpact research series designed to create a comprehensive view on AI adoption, readiness, and impact across three critical and disparate communities – the C-suite, the workforce, and consumers.

The research underscores the need for businesses to prepare their employees for AI, yet few are doing so.

Sanjay Srivastava, Genpact’s chief digital officer, says, “Artificial intelligence brings a seismic shift in the future of work – making some roles obsolete and enhancing others, while at the same time, creating new jobs, and even spawning new professions.

“Our research shows that employees want and need additional skills to embrace these opportunities – and companies must respond.”

Workers concerns

A third of workers surveyed worry that they will not have the money or time for necessary retraining to help them work with AI.

Genpact’s study of senior management, the first in the series, reveals that nearly one in five businesses have no plans at all to reskill their employees.

Only a quarter of companies currently help their employees take advantage of AI, and just a little more than a third provide reskilling to address technology disruption.

A potential training gap

When considering what new skills people think they will need, the respondents view relevant, future-focused primary and secondary education as more important than higher education.

In addition, 45% of those surveyed believe future generations will need more on-the-job training via human-machine interactions.  

Half of all respondents cite the ability to adapt to change as the top quality necessary to succeed in an environment with an increasing AI presence.

They also value critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity over technical skills like coding, statistics, and math.

Robot colleagues

40% of all workers surveyed indicate they would be comfortable working with robots within the next three years.

In contrast, Genpact’s senior management study indicates that nearly 80% of companies that are AI leaders believe their employees will work comfortably with robots in the same time frame.

This gap points to potential challenges for businesses to realize AI’s benefits.

Still, most employees see positive impacts from AI in the workplace.

They cite time savings and reduction in human errors as among top benefits, and younger generations acknowledge these advantages even more prominently.

“The big question is how to effectively encourage and adopt human-machine collaboration,” Srivastava adds, “and the key is in a top-down culture that embraces AI, learning, and training at all levels, within a comprehensive change management framework.”

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