The adoption of artificial intelligence is rapidly growing in the workplace; however, to take full advantage of the opportunities, businesses need to overcome lingering doubts from their customers and employees, according to new research from Genpact, a global professional services firm focused on delivering digital transformation.
The second edition of Genpact’s research series, AI 360: insights from the next frontier of business, explores the perceptions of three distinct groups that are critical to AI’s widespread adoption in business: executives, employees and consumers.
Nearly every Australian executive surveyed says their company plans to implement AI-related technologies over the next three years, citing as the most commonly anticipated benefits improved customer experience (35 per cent), greater inter-departmental collaboration (35 per cent) and more time for employees to focus on important tasks (40 per cent).
While the latest survey results show significant progress since the inaugural 2017 study – for example, 53 per cent of consumers globally say AI is making their lives better, up from just a third globally in 2017 – Australians lag behind their counterparts in the United States and United Kingdom when it comes to embracing it. Only 43 per cent of the Australian consumers surveyed believe AI is improving their lives, compared to 48 per cent of UK consumers and 59 per cent in the US.
“Many companies already see AI’s benefits, and we expect to see this grow in Australia as more businesses learn from the early adopters, and as more customers and employees better understand the benefits of AI on their lives,” says Richard Morgan, Country Manager of Genpact Australia. “Yet, people still worry about such issues as AI bias and privacy, and fear AI’s impact on jobs. These doubts send clear signals about what companies must address to achieve greatest business impact from AI.”
Concerns about personal data may pose a barrier for businesses to get their customers to embrace AI. 70 per cent of Australian consumers say they don’t want companies using AI that intrudes on their privacy, even if the goal is to optimise their experience.
Consumers are also worried about AI discriminating against them in its decisions, with 84 per cent of Australians saying they think it’s important that companies take active measures to reduce AI bias. While the good news is that most businesses are taking some action to combat AI bias, only 31 per cent of Australian executives surveyed say their companies have a comprehensive governance and internal control framework.
When it comes to AI’s impact on the workforce, Australians are the most fearful compared to the other countries, especially when looking at the future. Approximately one in three of the Australian workers surveyed believe AI threatens their job (compared to 28 per cent globally), and more than half worry that AI will threaten the jobs of their children and future generations (46 per cent globally).
Despite these concerns, 69 per cent of Australian workers say they expect to see benefits from AI in the workplace in the next three years, and 77 per cent are open to learning new skills so they can take advantage of it. Moreover, 48 per cent say they will be comfortable working with robots within three years, up from 40 per cent in 2017. However, senior executives are much more optimistic, with 85 per cent believing their employees will be happy working with robots in the same time frame. Businesses must address this expectation gap when managing their digital workforce.
“Slowly but surely we’re seeing a shift in how Australian employees view AI in the workplace. It’s a good sign that a quarter of workers think AI will bring new career opportunities,” Morgan says. “As AI becomes more embedded in our professional and personal lives, it’s vital that business understand lingering doubts. Executives must educate their employees and customers about AI’s potential, and provide them with tools to take advantage of its benefits.”