Would you work for a robot boss? Four in ten finance workers would

46% of the UK’s frontline finance workers say they believe a piece of software would be a more effective line manager than their current boss according to new research from technology provider Tradeshift.

Tradeshift’s ‘Are Friends Electric?’ report polled attitudes to automation among 500 finance and accounting professionals, roles which are often cited as being at risk from disruption by technology. The research revealed that globally, 40% of respondents believe a machine would be more effective as a line manager than their current boss, rising to 48% of respondents in the US.

Nearly half of the UK respondents surveyed by Tradeshift said they already felt comfortable handing over control to a machine when it came to setting tasks, checking work, completing low-value repetitive tasks, and checking work for accuracy. 38% of UK respondents said they would also feel extremely comfortable letting a machine monitor their performance.

An end to drudgery

Above all, respondents saw automation as a way to eliminate the low-value, repetitive work they cited as the number one reason for unhappiness in their current role. By handing the bulk of this work to a machine, six in ten frontline workers surveyed saw an opportunity to do more interesting work and improve team morale. Half of the respondents also felt that automation would help them boost their earning potential while reducing their levels of stress at work.

71% of the total respondents believed automation would have a positive impact on their job satisfaction. And while a quarter of employees felt technology could one day eliminate their job role in its current form, a clear majority (63%) believed key aspects of what they do would always demand a human touch.

A link between automation and happiness

The survey revealed significant differences in levels of automation adoption across the territories studied. The US had a clear lead, with almost three quarters (72%) of employees saying the level of automation in their department was already very high. This compares to 50% in the UK, 37% in Germany, and just 21% in France.

Interestingly, territories where automation is already highly embedded in the workplace also showed the highest levels of happiness among employees. In the US, 75% of respondents rated themselves as very happy in their job. In France, which had the lowest level of automation, 44% of respondents said they are very happy. In Germany, just 40% of respondents rated themselves as very happy in their current job, while in the UK 55% of respondents were very happy.

“If you believe the doom-mongers, you’d think today’s workers are terrified that automation will steal their jobs, but our research shows the reality is very different,” said Mikkel Hippe Brun, Co-founder and General Manager, Payment Automation, at Tradeshift.

“Employees who have embraced automation in their day-to-day work have found that any residual fears around robots stealing their jobs quickly fade away. Not only are they more productive, but they’re also happier, less stressed and more optimistic about future career progression.”

Keeping pace with change

45% of the total respondents said they had seen investment in automation accelerate within their department over the past year, while more than half (52%) said they expected investment to accelerate over the next 12 months. Most employees felt comfortable with the pace of change, but under half (45%) rated their employer as very committed to training and upskilling employees to accommodate this change.

“We’re beginning to build a clear picture of the future of work, which will feature close collaboration between humans and machines, each doing what they do best. It is in the interests of every business to give employees the opportunity to prosper in that environment,” said Hippe-Brun.

“The current war for talent will be won by organizations that invest in technology and training that empowers employees to become more strategic, more collaborative, and ultimately more visible.”

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