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Employees fear automation will make work less friendly

HR has a role to play in ensuring humans can work with AI while maintaining friendly relations between staff

Two-thirds (67%) of UK employees fear that the rise of robotics will make the workplace less sociable and friendly, according to a report from Capita Resourcing.

The Workplace More Human research, which surveyed 1,203 employees and directors, found that 27% were most afraid of losing the social relationship with colleagues as the use of automation becomes more widespread.

While the majority (91%) considered automation an opportunity rather than a risk, more than half (55%) described the current relationship between workers and automation as ‘a learning curve with some struggles’.

Additionally, 82% of those polled agreed that business productivity is driven by relationships and not automated processes.

Business leaders, however, saw the correct balance of human and automated practices as a key competitive differentiator (83%), with new skills (54%) and higher-value roles (53%) viewed as the most notable benefits of increased workplace automation.

Jo Matkin, managing director of Capita Resourcing, said employers should address the specific concerns of employees. “While there are obvious benefits of automation to employers, employees are concerned not just about the impact on jobs, but also their workplace culture,” she said. “HR, and organisations more broadly, need to strike a balance between capitalising on the benefits while also carefully managing employee concerns.”

Senior leaders highlighted the importance of HR in the survey, with more than half (54%) reporting that training and the development of the skillsets required to work alongside automation should be a major focus for HR over the next five years.

Communication will be key to the successful implementation of automation, according to Matkin. “It is vital that organisations clearly communicate what their automated business would look like with their employees,” she said. “This should include how it will affect their role, the workplace and the possible benefits it presents. This could be in terms of, for example, upskilling, further training and freeing up employee time to focus on more creative, less menial activities.”