In these times of tight employment and growing demand, many business owners I know are making investments in technology to help automate tasks and get more things done with fewer people. So is the rise of these potentially job-killing technologies creating concern among workers? According to one report, the answer is: not really.
Insurance company MetLife recently surveyed 2,500 benefits decision-makers and another 2,600 full-time employees at companies across the country as part of its 16th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study. The report found that both groups are embracing automation technologies with “open arms.”
In the survey, 56 percent of employers were found to have a positive view of automation technologies such as artificial intelligence, analytics, collaboration tools and robotics. Surprisingly, 49 percent of the employees interviewed were also optimistic about the benefits of these technologies.
Not surprisingly, it’s the millennial generation — who generally range in age from about 22 to 34 — that is most supportive of these technologies. But give some credit to the older folks: 47 percent of Generation Xers and 38 percent of baby boomers are also optimistic about the impact that automation may have on their organizations.
There is a downside, though. Across the board, respondents fear that too much technology can be a bad thing, partly for its impact on human relationships in the workplace. The study’s authors encourage employers to create workplaces that not only use technology but also embrace practices such as better feedback and more-tangible benefits to maintain and attract better people.
“While automation is the next workplace frontier, the biggest fear is that work is losing its human touch, likely due to unmet needs for personalization and recognition,” Todd Katz, executive vice president of group benefits at MetLife, said in a company news release. “Employers who are able to balance their — and their employees — desire for innovation through automation, while creating great work experiences, will be tomorrow’s talent leaders.”
The results should encourage financial leaders to seek out those technologies that will make their businesses faster and enable their employees to be more productive. Machines and automation can be effective, but we all know that it will always be hard to replace valuable people.