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UK firms lack skills to make AI work, employees claim

Research finds employees are concerned about being blamed for tech blunders, with those fears increasing resistance towards artificial intelligence technology

The main fear of staff whose employers use artificial intelligence (AI) technologies is that they will be blamed when the tech goes wrong, rather than AI stealing their jobs, according to research.

The study of 1,000 employees in UK businesses, commissioned by software supplier Invu and carried out by Sapio Research, found that more than a quarter of workers believed their company lacked the tech skills to implement AI and automation, and were more concerned about the fallout of the potential tech blunders.

That fear of such negative consequences also affects the implementation of AI systems, as 31% of workers polled said this was the reason they didn’t want to see these technologies in their company. A quarter of respondents feared they would eventually lose control over their processes to an AI-powered system.

In addition, the study found 33% of company staff didn’t see the relevance of AI to their jobs. Moreover, some 21% of employees believed AI would have a negative impact on customers and reduce the effectiveness of customer relationships.

On the other hand, 44% of employees polled said artificial intelligence would increase productivity through the automation of repetitive tasks. In addition, 37% said AI would be key to staying ahead of the competition.

“It should worry business leaders that so many employees are concerned about taking the blame for failing tech. Management needs to address the blame culture, as well as ensuring new technology is implemented properly”
Ian Smith, Invu

The proportion of the workforce seeing AI as a threat and believing robots will “steal their jobs” was lower than expected, according to Ian Smith, finance director and general manager at Invu. “Many employees now see AI as intelligence augmentation, providing an opportunity to improve the quality of their jobs,” he said.

However, Smith argued that the rise of AI would be “no easy ride for employees”, who will need to take on more training and personal development to embrace new opportunities presented by technological changes. “Employers will have an important role in supporting them with this,” he noted.

“It should worry business leaders that so many employees are concerned about taking the blame for failing tech,” said Smith. “Management needs to address the blame culture, as well as ensuring new technology is implemented properly.”

The number of businesses that say they have reached a state of maturity with digital technology is growing, but it’s a journey, with 28% still in the early stages of development, according to a Deloitte survey of digital leaders at the UK’s largest companies and public sector organisations.

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