Academic research shows that companies that invest in robotic process automation (RPA) or artificial intelligence (AI) see much higher performance returns especially if they also invest in people. In fact, the very presence of automation and AI in the workplace is making those work environments more ‘human.’These are the findings of The Augmented Human Enterprise – a major academic study conducted by Goldsmiths, University of London.
The research report, based on a survey of senior business leaders from major enterprises in the US, UK, India and Japan, shows that organizations augmented by automation technologies are 33% more likely to be ‘human friendly’ workplaces, in which employees are 31% more productive. In other words, more ‘human’ workplaces get the most out of automation investments.
The research amplifies the performance impact of RPA and AI with simultaneous investment in people, such that the ‘augmented human enterprise’ sees a 26% performance boost. These technologies are found to be amplifying the human experience, and strengthening the link between employee learning, growth and engagement and organizational performance.
The researchers found that in augmented workplaces:workers are 38% more engaged than those in non-augmented competitors. Seventy percent of respondents said augmentation had improved the wellbeing of their team and 80% of those using AI and 78% using RPA say it frees employees from repetitive work.
The third point is key to understanding why automation actually makes people happier at work. It frees them from repetitive tasks to concentrate on creative and strategic work — the bits of their job they enjoy most.But the research also warns that this doesn’t happen by itself.
The Goldsmiths, University of London team found that it happens when an organization makes a conscious decision to use automation in a way that enhances employees’ skills and complements their working style. Businesses that value how happy their employees are and create an environment in which employees can learn new skills easily increase the performance benefit derived from automation.”Digital technology’s nascent autonomy promises an evolutionary leap in our capacity to grow as human beings,” said Dr. Chris Brauer, Director of Innovation in the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) at Goldsmiths, University of London.
“While the hyped potential of AI generates endless headlines, technologies such as RPA are quietly being rolled out in many of the most productive companies around the world – humans and bots are already working alongside each other across the globe and in every sector. Where businesses are getting it right, the best of our human capabilities are being augmented by technology to create innovation before unimagined. But in these early days, not everyone is getting it right.”
The research team also investigated the relationship between business performance and workforce augmentation.Investment in automation technology alone results in some improvement in business performance. But investing simultaneously in people — in creating a human workplace — supercharges the performance boost companies can expect to gain from the technology investment.
The research found that augmented organizations:achieve 28% higher overall performance. have 31% better financial performance. are 30% more likely to prioritize strategic goals.This perhaps explains why only 56% of organizational leaders involved in the study feel their employees utilize RPA and AI products to their full capacity.
In the U.S., 75% of respondents are aware of RPA and its benefits and 65% deploy RPA- based technologies globally across the business. Interestingly, 51% of the U.S. respondents said their employees were using full capabilities of RPA/AI based technology within their role.Firms investing in people alongside the technology uniquely see better outcomes across three different dimensions of performance, including financial return, innovation, and cultural performance.”Think of the human body breathing,” said Mihir Shukla, CEO and Co-Founder at Automation Anywhere, the company that commissioned the study.
“It’s a complex and critical mechanism, but automated, so our brains are freed to power everything else we do. I think for many organizations, all they can do is ‘breathe.’ It’s so important, it’s all the employees can focus on. But when that breathing is automated within the organization, then employees can focus on so many creative and strategic issues and opportunities. It’s perhaps why this unique research shows that augmented organizations outperform non-augmented enterprises and have more ‘human’ workplaces,” he added.
Another recent survey by Gartner reveals that saving time and money are the top reasons why organizations would use AI, even though privacy remains a concern.
Anthony Mullen, research director at Gartner cautioned, “As the shift to communicate with systems from humans to machines will accelerate, IT leaders must tailor AI’s approaches to customer engagement by persona to persona in order to cater for varying views and preferences. In addition, they need to respect user privacy as well as use AI tools to support privacy and transparency goals.”