The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation
will have a widespread but mixed impact on jobs, new research shows.
Overall, the introduction of these new technologies at work will see job
opportunities grow, by enhancing roles, employee skills and their pay.
However, lack of thought and planning on how people and technology work
together is reducing productivity improvements and increasing the risk
of people being left behind.
This is according to a new report,
‘People and Machines: From Hype to Reality’ from the CIPD, the
professional body for HR and people development and PA Consulting, the
innovation and transformation consultancy. It is one of the first
comprehensive surveys of both employees and employers that explores how
AI and automation are already being used in UK workplaces. It shows that
AI and automation are radically shaping work and jobs and that,
overall, this is happening in a way that is creating better, more
fulfilling jobs for employees.
However, despite the significant
impact that these technologies are having on the workforce, HR is often
the least likely business function to be involved in decision-making and
implementation for these new technologies. In response, the CIPD and PA
are calling for HR and effective people strategies to be at the heart
of integrating AI and automation into the world of work.
and PA’s research is based on a survey of 759 UK employers, of which 226
have made investments in AI and automation over the past five years. It
• Almost a third (32%) of UK organisations have invested in AI and automation in the last five years.
Overall, 35% of employers saw more and 25% saw fewer jobs in the areas
most affected by AI and automation (others saw no change).
of employers introducing AI and automation believed the main jobs
affected had become more secure, just 18% said they became less secure.
• Two in five employers (41%) reported pay increases for the roles most affected by AI.
speaking to employees at two firms that are already using AI and
automation, the research shows more of a ‘mixed bag’ when it comes to
outcomes for individuals:
• 54% of employees said that AI or
automation had not helped them to do their job better, 28% felt that it
had and 19% neither agreed or disagreed, highlighting the risk to
• 43% of workers said that that they were
learning new things and a third (33%) said they were doing more
interesting tasks (only 6% noted a decrease).
• Employees were
split on how AI and automation have affected the mental demands of their
work (28% said it had increased, 25% said decreased).
• One in four (24%) have experienced a decrease in their workload, with a similar proportion (23%) experiencing an increase.
Employees said that AI and automation make their work faster (45%) and
16% reported that the pace of their work has slowed down (others noted
The research shows that AI and automation are bringing
huge change to workplaces. However, it also found that employers are
often not managing these significant changes with an effective people
strategy. In particular, HR is missing from key conversations on the
introduction of new technology.
The research revealed that HR is
the business function that is least likely to be involved in investment
decisions on AI and automation (being involved in just 55% of cases) and
is involved in just 45% of implementation processes. Instead, functions
like IT, research and development (R&D), production or operations,
purchasing and procurement and marketing and sales are more likely to be
involved in both investment and implementation decisions.
represents a serious risk to organisations as it stands to negatively
impact a number of business outcomes including employee well-being,
productivity, customer service and workforce planning.
Peter Cheese, chief executive for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said:
emerging scale of the impact on the world of work is huge, affecting
the very nature of work. The impact on people must be more carefully
considered so that businesses make appropriate investment decisions,
embed technology in the right way and create jobs and roles that are
good for people rather than negatively affecting their performance or
“This indicates a real need for HR and longer-term
workforce planning, but too often HR struggles to be part of the
conversation. 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. To get to this point, they
must improve their understanding of AI and actively pursue a role in
shaping how new technology is used from the very outset of discussions.”
Katharine Henley, workforce transformation expert at PA Consulting, said:
research shows that it’s a long way from the ‘robots will take my job’
anxiety that dominates the media’s image of AI and automation. There’s a
real opportunity for HR to equip businesses to think big and seize the
opportunity to transform themselves.
“HR is the essential glue
between people and machines. It has a pivotal role to play, for people
as well as business, in making AI and automation work. We have moved on
from simply configuring the technology, plugging it in and switching it
on. 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. If HR teams work
closely with IT to plan their future organisation in the right way, our
future workforce could find the workplace more rewarding and enjoyable.
Younger generations are looking at the workplace as somewhere to curate
different experiences. Employers that focus on the creation of a better
employee experience will attract the best talent.”