Business leaders increasingly optimistic about benefits of artificial intelligence in the workplace

Executives at major organisations increasingly believe that pairing humans alongside machine intelligence will create a more effective, engaged, and meritocratic workplace, according to a new study released by software provider Pegasystems Inc (registration required). The authors surveyed 845 senior executives working globally across industry sectors including financial services, insurance, manufacturing, retail, telecommunications and media, and government, on the increased role of automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace of the future. The potential impact in the workplace seems to outweigh any lingering fears, the report claims. Around 69 percent of of respondents say “workforce” will refer to both humans and machine intelligence in the future. Nearly three-quarters of executives said using machines to augment human abilities would lead to increased efficiency. Over 60 percent said it could be used to improve customer service.

By augmenting their work with machine intelligence, human employees will be empowered with more autonomy and a greater sense of job satisfaction, according to the survey:

  • AI and robotic automation will allow staff to make more informed decisions and lead to a flattening of traditional management hierarchies, according 8 out of 10 respondents (78 percent).
  • AI will help suggest next best actions for most customer service agents within the next five years, according to more than three quarters (77 percent) of respondents.
  • While 88 percent are comfortable working together with machines, they are less enthusiastic about being managed by them: four out of five (79 percent) say they would not be comfortable with an AI-powered boss.
  • Establishing a more transparent, meritocratic workplace

As organisations increasingly come under scrutiny on equal pay for equal work issues, the study found the use of unbiased machine intelligence to analyze employee effectiveness could be the key to leveling the playing field:

  • Two thirds (66 percent) believe the widespread use of AI will give rise to a more transparent meritocracy in the workplace.
  • Almost three quarters (74 percent) think that within 10 years, AI will become standard practice for evaluating employee performance, while 72 percent predict it will be commonly used to set appropriate rewards and compensation.
  • Eighty-four percent agree it will be commonplace for AI to calculate the true value added by each worker within a decade, while 44 percent see this happening within five years.
  • Leveraging machine intelligence to manage the gig economy

Respondents expect the number of permanent employees at Fortune 500 companies to be cut in half by 2030. But while this shift to the so-called gig economy brings new flexibility to employers to hire on demand, it also opens new challenges:

  • Eighty-five percent expect the use of more flexible, freelance customer service staff will make it easier to provide customers with 24/7 service, while 82 percent forecast faster response times as a direct result.
  • Conversely, 81 percent believe this shift toward temporary staff will make it harder to cultivate an ongoing culture of customer centricity.
  • The gig economy makes it more important to pair humans with AI to ensure consistent quality service. For example, nine out of 10 will use analytics to ensure customers receive the same level of personalisation from one worker to another