Survey: Employees, Employers Upbeat on Automation

A majority of employers and employees in the U.S. are optimistic about the impact automation technologies will have on the workplace, says a new survey. However, they fear losing a sense of human connection as robots and the like play a greater role on the job, according to MetLife’s 16th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study.

More than half of employers (56%) feel positively about automation technologies that can help companies do human jobs, while 20% are pessimistic, the survey showed. Automation technologies referenced include artificial intelligence, analytics, collaboration tools and robotics.

Meanwhile, 49% of employees are optimistic about automation, compared to 24% who are pessimistic. “This breaks down along gender and generational lines,” MetLife says in a statement. “Men (54%) are more optimistic than women (43%), and millennials (63%) are more optimistic than Xers (47%) or baby boomers (38%).”

While notable numbers of employees and employers view automation positively, about half of both groups are concerned the workplace is becoming increasingly dehumanized. Some 51% of employers felt so, as did 46% of employees.

“While automation is the next workplace frontier, the biggest fear is that work is losing its human touch, likely due to unmet needs for personalization and recognition,” says Todd Katz, executive vice president of group benefits at MetLife. “Employers who are able to balance their – and their employees’ – desire for innovation through automation, while creating great work experiences, will be tomorrow’s talent leaders.”

Beyond automation, which Counselor wrote about regarding the apparel manufacturing industry, the survey included other information aimed at explaining the priorities of today’s employees and offering employers insights for building loyalty and trust from workers:

*Work/life blending: Eighty-seven percent of workers whose employer enables them to manage life in/outside of work are more loyal and satisfied. Nearly three quarters (72%) report that having the option to work remotely is important to their work/life balance, and offering a flexible schedule – something 74% of employees say is important when considering a new job – builds loyalty.

*Financial wellness: The ability to customize benefits to meet employees’ needs (70%) remains a high loyalty driver. Trending upward from 2017, six in 10 employees – and 69% of millennials – now report they’re willing to pay more to have benefits choices that meet their needs, up from 52%. Eighty-four percent of employees describe financial wellness programs (e.g., planning, education, workshops, tools) as offerings they want or need.

*Commitment to ‘my success’: While 77% of employers say they are committed to their employees’ success, only 65% of workers agree. Fewer than two-thirds (63%) believe their company teaches them the skills they need to succeed in their current position. Roughly the same percentage (60%) feel appreciated most of the time. Workers who feel appreciated at work are 19 percentage points more likely to say their company is committed to their success.

*ROI: Among employees who feel most “connected” or “empowered” at work, more than 90% expect to still be working for their organization in 12 months, compared with 81% of all workers. They are also at least 17 percentage points more likely to say they trust their company’s leadership and 11 percentage points more likely to report employee benefits help them worry less about unexpected health and financial issues.​