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Workers feel left out of technology change

While many employers expect technology to deliver productivity and wellbeing gains, a separate report warns that workers feel shut out of decisions around tech

More than a third (34%) of decision-makers think their organisation's technological focus will ‘totally change' over the next two years, with a further 45% expecting ‘slight’ change, according to research from HSBC.

The Navigator: Made for the Future report found that 76% of companies think new technologies will make their staff more productive and 72% think they will enhance wellbeing; 59% also said they think they’ll need fewer workers in the future.

Sixty per cent intend to introduce or increase flexible working practices to enhance wellbeing and adapt to a rebalancing between human and automated output.

The report, which surveyed more than 2,500 companies across 14 countries, found that more than half (55%) are planning to invest more in research and development. Almost as many said they will boost spending on skills training (52%) and on employee wellbeing (43%), ahead of logistics (42%), plants or equipment (34%), and ‘bricks and mortar’ premises (29%).

By upskilling employees and adopting innovative technologies businesses aim to become more efficient, more customer-centric and greener, the research stated.

More than half (52%) of the companies surveyed plan to increase their investment in customer experience and 45% will raise spending to become more environmentally sustainable over the next two years. Twenty-four per cent want to become greener to attract and retain talented staff, and 30% are feeling pressure from customers to improve in this area.

New technologies already embraced by businesses were found to be AI (41%), the Internet of Things (40%), wearables (37%) and facial/image recognition (38%).

However, separate research warned that workers feel left out of conversations about technology at work. A report by the Commission on Workers and Technology, chaired by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, found that 58% of workers disagree that they are given the opportunity to influence how technology is used in their workplace.

Cooper said that employers must give workers a say in automation: “As technology changes our workplaces it is workers who should be in the driving seat. But our research shows that workers are too often being shut out of decisions that affect both their working conditions and their enjoyment of work," said Cooper.

“New technology offers the opportunity for a brighter future for workers. It can free us from demanding physical tasks, take over repetitive admin duties, and allow us to spend more time on the most meaningful parts of our jobs.

“But there is an urgent need for politicians, trade unions and business leaders to act now to ensure technological change benefits everyone rather than widening existing inequalities. If we fail to prepare we face a future where jobs get worse and workers’ voices go unheard”.