Revealed: the impact of automation on jobs

Date: 30 April 2019

Automation equipment testingAutomation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are having a significant impact on the way we work but they won't necessarily cost jobs, according to a new study.

The report, People and Machines: From Hype to Reality, has been produced by HR body the CIPD and PA Consulting. It is based on a survey of 759 UK employers, of which 226 have made investments in AI and automation over the past five years.

The results show that the introduction of new technologies at work will see job opportunities grow, by enhancing roles, employee skills and their pay. However, the authors of the report have warned that lack of focus on how people and technology work together is reducing productivity improvements and increasing the risk of people being left behind.

The key findings include:

  • 32% of UK organisations have invested in AI and automation in the past five years;
  • 35% of employers saw more and 25% saw fewer jobs in the areas most affected by AI and automation (others saw no change);
  • 44% of employers introducing AI and automation say the main jobs affected have become more secure, 18% said they became less secure;
  • 41% reported pay increases for the roles most affected by AI.

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Responses from employees at firms using AI and automation reveal that the changes are not always positive for individuals. More than half (54%) of employees said AI or automation had not helped them to do their job better; 28% felt that it had and 19% neither agreed or disagreed.

However, 43% of workers said that with automation they were learning new things and 33% said they were doing more interesting tasks (only 6% noted a decrease). Other results were less conclusive with 24% saying they have experienced a decrease in their workload with automation, while 23% have experienced an increase.

The CIPD and PA are calling for effective people strategies to be at the heart of integrating automation into the workplace. The research finds that HR is the business function that is least likely to be involved in investment decisions on AI and automation. Instead, functions such as IT, R&D, production, purchasing, marketing and sales are more likely to be involved in technology decisions.

"Too often HR struggles to be part of the conversation," said Peter Cheese, CIPD chief executive. "Instead people professionals should be taking the lead, orchestrating the debate on who does what work, where, when and how technology interacts with those processes."

Katharine Henley, workforce transformation expert at PA Consulting, said: "We have an opportunity to make a difference to people's working lives by considering how we use technology to enhance the employee experience. Our research found that AI/automation can increase well-being by providing more control, more freedom over where people work and increasing more complex or interesting tasks."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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