Most of the workers responding to a recent survey said they see significant opportunity for artificial intelligence (AI) to create a more engaging and empowering workplace experience. Interestingly, they also said a lack of transparency by their employers is the primary cause of fear and concern about AI in the workplace.


The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and Coleman Parkes Research surveyed 3,000 hourly and salaried workers across various industries in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, New Zealand, the UK and the U.S. The resulting report, “The Engaging Opportunity: Working Smarter with AI” explains that employees from all eight nations said they would welcome AI if it simplifies or automates time-consuming internal processes (cited by 64 percent), helps better balance their workload (64 percent), increases fairness in subjective decisions (62 percent), or ensures managers make better decisions impacting individual employees (57 percent).


“Organizations are making significant investments in benefits, technology and innovative workplaces, yet employees are working more than ever and engagement has remained stagnant for decades,” says Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos. “While emerging technologies always generate uncertainty, this survey shows employees worldwide share a cautious optimism that artificial intelligence is a promising tool that could pave the way for a game-changing employee experience if it is used to add fairness and eliminate low-value workplace processes and tasks, allowing employees to focus on the parts of their roles that really matter.”


Workers in Mexico are most enthusiastic about AI’s benefits while Canadian and U.S. employees were the next groups ready to welcome the technology. That is, 81 percent of the survey respondents from Mexico said they believe use of AI would simplify time-consuming processes, while 65 percent of the Canadian and 62 percent of the U.S. workers felt the say way. Furthermore, 84 percent of the Mexican workers, 61 percent of the U.S. workers and 61 percent of the Canadian workers said they believe use of AI will better balance their workload.


I wasn’t surprised to see that an overall lack of communication makes employees apprehensive. According to the report, 58 percent of the respondents said management at their organization has not discussed the potential impact of AI on their workforce with employees, however 61 percent of the employees surveyed said say they’d feel more comfortable if employers were more transparent about what the future may hold. U.S. companies seem to be the most secretive, with 67 percent of the U.S. respondents reporting they have no knowledge of their organization’s plans for AI, while employees in Canada (66 percent) and the UK (62 percent) report they are similarly in the dark. On the other hand, 67 percent of those surveyed in Mexico said their organization has openly discussed AI with employees.


Finally, as would be expected, there are differences of opinion among generations in the workplace. For instance, globally, 88 percent of Gen Z employees believe AI can improve their job in some manner, however, just 70 percent of Baby Boomers think the same way. In the U.S., Gen Z sees the biggest benefit of AI as its ability to create an overall fairer working environment (48 percent), while Canadian Gen Z employees hope AI will bring more fairness to performance reviews (50 percent).


Younger Millennials, older Millennials and Gen X employees in Canada and the U.S. say they think the biggest benefit of AI will be the elimination of manual processes and time wasted on basic, administrative work—each of which detracts from more rewarding workplace activities. As for Baby Boomers working in the U.S., 38 percent either don’t think about or aren’t sure how use of AI would improve their job.


What do you think about AI in the workplace? Are you optimistic that the use of AI will improve, and not replace, your job? Finally, is your company transparent about its plans for use of AI?