How AI can help the workplace and make managers better

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There’s no stopping the technological revolution at work. Companies long ago started replacing human production with robotics in an effort infused by an enhanced digital world. Artificial intelligence is here, and many feel it’ll be coming for their jobs next.

Former President of Google China Kai-Fu Lee told “60 Minutes” AI will displace about 40% of jobs around the world in the next 15 years, specifically targeting chauffeurs, restaurants, and stores that shift to automated services. Some places of work have shifted in that direction like McDonald’s, which agreed to acquire Apprente, artificial intelligence used to understand speech, in September. The fast-food king said it would be used in drive-thrus but could also transition to be used for self-ordering and mobile app purposes.

Welcome robots

But the idea of working with robots isn’t scaring employees. In reality, most employees welcome AI and other technological advancements in the workplace with open arms, according to a new survey.

US tech company Oracle and Future Workplace teamed together to get insights from more than 8,000 employees, managers, and human resources leaders from 10 countries to get their stance on AI in the workplace. Sixty-five percent of respondents felt excited and even grateful to work with robots in their place of work.

“The latest advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence are rapidly reaching the mainstream, resulting in a massive shift in the way people across the world interact with technology and their teams,” said Emily He, senior vice president of human capital management at Oracle, in a statement. “As this study shows, the relationship between humans and machines is being redefined at work, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to successfully managing this change. Instead, organizations need to partner with their HR organization to personalize the approach to implementing AI at work in order to meet the changing expectations of their teams around the world.”

That number seems promising as work transitions to incorporate more tools for success, but it should be worrisome to managers everywhere?

Sixty-four percent of respondents said they trust robots more than their managers, with more than 80% believing robots could do day-to-day tasks better than their managers due to their ability to sway away from unbiased information and maintaining work schedules.

With AI creeping into the workplace, it shouldn’t exactly be looked at harming leaders and managers. In actuality, it could prove to be beneficial, according to one expert.

Dan Schawbel, a research director at Future Workplaces, told Ladders that AI is changing the relationship between people and technology at work, and when asked specifically about how a robot can be better than a manager, it ended up being soft skills versus hard skills.

Schawbel said to think of it like a doctor not wanting to fill out insurance paperwork, or in a manager filing expense reports. By shuffling those duties to technology, it allows managers to work on in-person interactions that can better a staff.

Workers felt managers were better at understanding their feelings, coaching them, and creating a work culture compared to robots.

“Talking to different companies, they’re also noticing this,” Schawbel said. “Managers used to have to make some decisions that artificial intelligence is making. They can focus more on team leadership, communication. What our study found was to understand employee feelings. Basically, that means empathy as well as work culture and coaching. Those are things that a robot can’t do right now or can’t do effectively.”

The rise in a burnout culture — and how AI can help

With Millennials and other generations working on full gears, the rise of burnout recently has been a topic of the workplace. Businesses everywhere are making accommodations to fit workers’ needs to create a better work-life balance. One recent study found that a dysfunctional workplace, dealing with co-workers, and having a lack of control at work were the most common reasons that lead to burnout.

Schawbel said there might be a remedy for burnout with AI.

“We live in a burnout culture right now,” he said. “Saying ‘you’re busy’ is the new norm, but I think AI can be the answer to this because if we can eliminate some of those tasks that are tedious and frustrate you and free you up. Then you’re going to do the tasks that can contribute more value, more emotional capital, and hopefully allow you to have more work-life balance like more time with family and friends and doing personally related activities.”