Not too long ago, the big fear among employees across the world was that artificial intelligence (AI) would take their jobs. When people were locked down at home for over a year, perceptions began to change as technology adaption became the norm, not just for business, but also for education, healthcare and entertainment. Technology helped people through the toughest times in well over a century.

The changes that the rise of technology has achieved over the past two years are evident in the AI@work survey conducted by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence, an HR research and advisory firm. Now, 82% of the Indian workforce would like to be with a company that uses AI to support career growth. That’s way ahead of a global average of 55%. That’s not all. Around 92% of Indians believe robots can support their career development better than humans. In fact, India is ranked second globally after China (94%) and is way ahead of the world (82%) in this. This is a rise from 64% who said they would trust a robot more than a manager in the 2019 AI@Work study.

The 2021 study, which covered over 14,600 employees, managers, HR leaders, and C-level executives across 13 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Germany France, China, India, Australia, Brazil, Japan and South Korea, found that people all around the world have felt stuck in their personal and professional lives, but are ready to regain control of their futures. Says Shaakun Khanna, head, HCM Applications Strategy, Oracle Asia-Pacific, “Several HR functions have already been automated. Employee Self Service is the next level of automation.”

The definition of success has changed for 96% of Indian workers against a global score of 88%. There is now greater focus on work-life balance, prioritising mental health and having flexibility over when and where they work. Says S.V. Nathan, national president, National HRD Network [NHRDN], “Today, AI is seen as assisting decision making. It helps validate our beliefs and open our eyes to the new reality.

Suddenly people have realised the need to build on their skill-sets in a changing world. The Indian workforce is willing to forego monetary rewards in exchange for benefits such as skill development, work-life balance, mental health, and so on. According to the survey, 97% of Indian respondents want to make changes in their professional lives. Today, many employees want to work from home from different locations and are willing to forego a little remuneration due to the lower cost of living compared to metro cities.

Employees are also recognising that meaningful work comes from having peace of mind and continuing to develop skills on a regular basis. As a result, global and Indian workforces are willing to forego key benefits in exchange for more career opportunities.

Quite a few HR functions have already been robotised. Digital technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and digital assistants (DA) are now regularly used to perform highly repetitive, transactional functions, redirecting the focus of payroll staff to more strategic and analytical activities. Some organisations still believe the value proposition for payroll professionals is to pay employees accurately and timely every pay cycle; however, the role has evolved beyond just leveraging automation to deliver a paycheck on time.

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