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Grow Your Business Technology

What Do Employees Really Think About Automation in the Workplace?

What Do Employees Really Think About Automation in the Workplace?
Credit: KTS Design/Shutterstock

Despite popular perception, most U.S. workers aren't worried about being replaced by a robot, new research finds.

The study from Randstad US revealed that more than three-quarters of employees aren't scared by the prospects of an increased amount of automation in the workplace.

Many workers are actually embracing the influx of automation. The research shows that 30 percent of the employees surveyed think automation will make their jobs better. In addition, as long as they are being paid at least their same current salaries, more than half of U.S. employees are more than happy to be retrained to learn the skills needed to work in tandem with automation.

Linda Galipeau, CEO of Randstad North America, said the study's results should come as good news for companies that are trying to implement more automation in order to spur on productivity and innovation.

"It is evident from our research that not only are workers not afraid of losing their jobs to automation, they are more than willing to retrain to leverage the efficiencies and benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the workplace," Galipeau said in a statement. "As we have known for quite some time, the success of organizations in the future will depend greatly on their ability to strike a balance between valuable human insight and interaction with technology."

Despite the belief that automation will push many workers out of a job, the vast majority of executives disagree. Just 6 percent of the company leaders surveyed believe increasing automation will have a significant impact on workforce planning and shifting the talent needed. [Looking ahead? The job skills you'll need in the future]

To ensure that their jobs don't get replaced, Galipeau says employees need to make sure their skills complement the automation being put into place.

"It has become necessary for today's employees and job seekers to continually cultivate, develop and update their skills to work successfully alongside AI and automation," Galipeau said. "In conjunction with retraining and upskilling efforts, workers should focus on growing unique human skills that AI and robots are unable to replicate, such as strategic and abstract thinking, complex communications, creativity and leadership competencies."

Many organizations are looking forward to seeing how increased automation can improve their operations. Nearly 85 percent of executives believe AI and robotics will have a positive impact on the workplace in the next three to five years.

Automation and robotics have already taken hold in a number of businesses. Nearly half of the executives surveyed said automation and machine learning has either transformed or had a positive impact on their businesses over the last year, with 45 percent saying the same about robotics.

Galipeau said the reality is that automation and AI are not only here to stay, but will grow substantially in the coming years.

"As business leaders invest in digitization, automation, AI and other emerging technologies in the workplace, they must continue to evolve their workforce alongside these advancements," Galipeau said. "While the productivity and efficiency benefits of automation are unequivocal, the need for skilled humans to operate, utilize and advance technologies is equally unmistakable."
The study was based on online interviews with 5,300 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 65.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.