Employee Technology Survey Highlights Workplace Trends for 2017
In July 2017, we surveyed 650 employees in the US and Western Europe about their attitudes to technology in the workplace. Topics included views on artificial intelligence (AI), brand affinity, perceptions of the IT department, security and enterprise mobility needs, including usage of business-related apps.
The survey revealed insights into market trends in digital workplaces in 2017. Here I’ll look at a couple of them. A more detailed summary is published in an Enterprise Insight; for a free copy, please contact us.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence
For the first time, our survey looked at attitudes to and experiences with AI. Although only 13 percent of respondents stated that the technology is currently affecting their job, a further 40 percent expect it to affect their working lives within three years, with 70 percent feeling it will do so within the next decade.
The automation of mundane tasks is seen as the leading benefit of AI in the workplace, cited by 26 percent of respondents. Employees also expect gains to include improved performance of equipment and machinery, the utility of assistive features in productivity and collaboration applications such as automated e-mail replies, intelligent scheduling and calendar features, and quick access to documents and search features.
At the same time, however, employees also demonstrate a lack of awareness of AI. Despite significant media hype over the past few years, decades of Hollywood movies featuring the technology and, most importantly, the success of consumer mobile applications that deploy it, such as Spotify, YouTube and mapping apps, 54 percent of employees claimed they do not use the technology in their personal life and only 13 percent said they use it regularly. This contrast is also evident among different generations: 70 percent of baby boomers said AI had no place in their personal life, versus 26 percent of millennials who said the same.
Millennials See Artificial Intelligence As a Job Creator, Not Destroyer
Although some reports paint a bleak outlook for the impact of AI on the job market, our survey revealed few concerns. Almost half of respondents believe that the technology will actually increase the number of jobs available, a proportion that rises to 64 percent among millennials. In fact, the creation of new jobs is considered the main benefit of AI among this generation.
But it’s not all positive. According to the survey, a lack of trust in the accuracy of cognitive systems and an understanding of how they work were cited as the leading areas that could hold back adoption of the technology in the workplace. Absence of confidence in the accuracy of AI systems was the top barrier for respondents in the US and Germany; a lack of understanding about how the technology works was most concerning to UK and Dutch employees. Compromising privacy was cited only as the fourth biggest challenge overall, but emerged as the number-one concern in France.
Google is Top Dog for Artificial Intelligence
One of the most interesting findings from the survey relates to opinions on leading companies in AI. When asked which company respondents considered to be best positioned to lead advancement of AI, Google topped the survey, cited by just over a quarter of respondents. Apple and Microsoft were both picked by 19 percent of employees, with Microsoft ranking in the top three in all surveyed countries. IBM, which has invested heavily in its Watson platform, was chosen by 10 percent. Academic institutions and Amazon both took a notable share, with 10 percent and 8 percent respectively, but Facebook was identified by just 4 percent (see below).
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Mobility (and Microsoft) on the Up
The survey also yielded some interesting results on the themes of mobility and the adoption of cloud apps. Employees continue to show a strong appetite for mobility in the workplace: despite a slowdown in the consumer smartphone industry, the insatiable demand for mobile devices at work was as stark as ever in this year’s study. The average number of connected devices per employee — either for business or personal use — is now 4.8 in 2017, up from 4.2 in 2015 and 4.6 in 2016.
Additionally, the average number of mobile apps that employees use for work purposes grew considerably over 2016, jumping from 4.1 to 6.1. Microsoft Office 365 remains the most popular mobile app for work, as it was in 2016, used by 39 percent of employees. It is followed by LinkedIn, Facebook, Skype, WhatsApp, Dropbox, Adobe, Amazon, G Suite and Salesforce (see below).
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Tellingly, despite the rise of consumer applications such as WhatsApp and Dropbox over the past few years, Microsoft now possesses three of the top five most popular mobile business applications and is the strongest workplace technology brand, according to employees. Microsoft is well ahead of both Google and Apple as the most important technology provider in the workplace at the moment. Trust in Microsoft’s technology represents a strong foundation for the firm’s huge push into AI against cloud rivals Google, Amazon and IBM in the coming years.
Security and Privacy Are Growing Concerns
Employees also demonstrated a growing interest in the security of their devices and applications over the past 12 months. Nearly 60 percent of respondents have downloaded or used additional security apps to protect their devices, including 68 percent in Europe, a significant improvement on the 35 percent who did so in 2016. One in five of the total took it upon themselves to do this, while just over a third were mandated by their employer to install additional security software. McAfee, Microsoft, Apple, Symantec and Google were cited as the top five most trusted brands for protecting workplace information.
… But Security Training Remains Low Priority
Worryingly, only 40 percent of employees said they have been offered cybersecurity training at work. This was highest in large organisations, at 56 percent, and contrasts with only 20 percent of employees working in small businesses claiming to have been offered training in this area.
What Does It Mean?
CCS Insight’s 2017 employee mobility survey validates many current perceptions about major technology trends in workplaces. More importantly, it also offers new and fascinating insights into major trends that will unfold over the next few years.
Demand for mobility shows no sign of slowing, as app usage and device penetration continue to grow year-on-year. Strong adoption of Office 365, LinkedIn, Skype as well as efforts in AI, have made Microsoft the top name in workplace technology in 2017, demonstrating that Microsoft’s rapid cloud transformation under CEO Satya Nadella over the past several years is paying off.
However, after several high-profile cyberattacks over the past 12 months, employees are also expressing a stronger need for device and app security, even though many organisations have been slow to offer cybersecurity training to address these requirements.
Above all, when it comes to future technologies like AI, despite some concerns and a general lack of awareness the technology, employees are broadly positive about its potential and accept that it will hold increasing influence in workplaces of the future. AI will be critical in driving automation and productivity and creating jobs in the future according, to our survey.
Workplace technology has evolved rapidly over the past 12 months, as the survey shows. How these trends unfold over the next year is going to be even more fascinating.
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