Employees Worldwide Welcome ‘AI Coworkers’ To The Office

Last year, many Americans worried that artificial intelligence (AI) might replace them at work. This year, employees around the world are wondering why their employers don’t provide them with the kind of AI-enabled technology they’re starting to use at home. 

That’s one way to think about the results of a second annual survey about AI in the workplace, conducted by Oracle and research firm Future Workplace. This year, 50% of survey respondents say they’re currently using some form of AI at work—a major leap compared to only 32% in last year’s survey.

Oracle survey: AI Is Winning Hearts and Minds in the Workplace


Perhaps because workers are seeing firsthand in their personal lives how Siri and Alexa can quickly answer questions, their anxiety about using the technology at work is lessening, suggests Emily He, senior vice president of Oracle Human Capital Management (HCM) Cloud and executive sponsor of the survey. Only 24% of this year’s respondents say they feel “unsure” about AI, down from 38% in 2018.

In fact, workers are getting downright emotional about the assistance AI can offer them.

This year, 65% of respondents say they are “optimistic,” “excited,” or even “grateful” about the possibilities of AI in the workplace. When asked about their relationship to AI at work, 34% of the respondents describe it as “functional,” 25% as “comfortable,” and 11% went as far as to say they have a “loving” relationship. Distributed in six languages, the survey reached 8,370 employees, managers, and HR leaders across industries in 10 countries. It was a significant expansion of last year’s effort, which covered 1,320 HR professionals and employees in the US only.

Other significant findings from the survey include:

Worldwide, 64% of people would trust robots more than their managers. In China, that number soars to 88%, and in India it’s 89%.  


Globally, 50% have asked a robot for advice instead of their bosses. Emily He suggests that computer-savvy workers find it easier, quicker, and more accurate to ask a chatbot straightforward questions like “When is our next holiday?” And, perhaps in a case of wishful thinking, 32% of all surveyed workers believe robots will eventually replace their managers altogether. 

Managers and robots have different strengths. Respondents say robots are better than managers at providing unbiased information (36%), maintaining employee work schedules (34%), problem-solving (29%), and managing a budget (26%).

Managers, the people surveyed say, do better at tasks that involve understanding employee feelings (45%), coaching (33%), creating or promoting a workplace culture (29%), evaluating team performance (26%), problem-solving (25%), and providing oversight or direction (24%).

Today’s workers envision positive possibilities from using AI at work. Only a fifth (19%) of respondents could not think of any opportunities created by using AI at work. The rest envision benefits like gaining more free time (46%), learning new skills (36%), expanding their jobs into more strategic roles (28%), driving organizational change (25%), creating better and healthier work relationships (20%), getting faster promotions (17%), and garnering higher salaries (16%).

The Difference a Year Makes

What changed during the year that elapsed between the two surveys?  

Emily He says that technology advances at the office now allow AI-enabled devices—she calls them “our AI coworkers”—to collect detailed data about work-related matters, learn over time which information is most helpful to individual employees, and then serve it up to them when asked in conversation that believably mimics the ones between human colleagues.

One managerial task He would most like to hand off to a robot is the many required approvals—of expense reports, requests for time off, and other routine matters—that clog her inbox. “I'm personally delighted to see that what employees really want from their managers are things like spending more time with them, showing more empathy, understanding their feelings, and recognizing unique strengths and weaknesses. “I think that’s what real leadership is all about and that’s also what managers are supposed to do.”

Emily He hopes technology will help bring more humanity back to work, since people will spend less time on repetitive, mundane tasks. “Instead, you can focus on things that human beings naturally enjoy, whether it’s connecting with other people or strategizing around what new products and services you should create, and what new markets you can enter,” she says.


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