New IPA research reveals personal touch trumps AI in workplace

The majority of Brits prefer human interaction when discussing workplace issues rather than the prospect of interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) systems. This is according to the IPA’s latest AI Radar – Employing AI.

The research, based on survey responses from a panel of 1000 nationally representative GB consumers and 100 GB advertising and marketing professionals, reveals that this feeling is particularly prevalent when dealing with sensitive subjects such as promotions (81% preferring to deal with a human) and pay rises (79%), reporting mental health issues (80%), and reporting misconduct among colleagues (76%).

However, the public are more amenable to artificial intelligence for more general workplace tasks such as admin (61% preferring to deal with an AI system or a human utilising AI), project updates (56%), and enquiring about payroll (53%).

The research also shows that the most appealing applications of AI in the workplace are systems that can help with data analysis (49% saying this had a high appeal), provide prompts on being healthy at work (45%), and makes the workplace more environmentally friendly (41%).

Says Nigel Gwilliam, Head of Media and Emerging Tech, IPA: “It’s clear the more sensitive a matter, the more strongly the general public think they would want to interact with another person. The picture is of people currently viewing AI as most helpful with the mundane, repetitive and data-intensive, whilst nuance and empathy require personal interaction.

“Our view is that AI will play an increasing role in the workplace but in partnership with people, and with each playing to their strengths. In the words of our President Sarah Golding, “We are not all doomed to be replaced by robots… we need to start seeing the opportunities to grow and change alongside our new automated colleagues”.

Says Neil Davidson, Managing Director, HeyHuman: “When it comes to AI in the workplace, particularly agencies, it’s hard not to focus on managing mundane tasks or, at the other end of the spectrum, the threat of iRobot-style machines replacing us. However, we really should look again at AI and its opportunities for all of us. Any change is always both exhilarating and scary but less scary if we don’t run away from it. In an ever-changing world for agencies, we need to see and introduce AI as a collaborator and instigator of positive change, not a threat.”

Each quarterly AI Radar contains top line data from an AI-focused survey and key headlines from the world of AI, as well as different opinion pieces on the state of play in AI.

The AI Radar is free to IPA members and £50 to non-members, and is available to download here.

Last updated 21 January 2022