Will The Robots Save Company Culture?

By Simone Sneed-McGurl

Over the past 25 years we have seen a rapid proliferation of workplace technology, automation and artificial intelligence. The evolution of the fourth industrial revolution has dramatically impacted how we live and how we work. With employee disengagement at an all-time high worldwide – are the robots to blame? Or will they save us from daily drudgery and give us the space to build more humane corporate cultures?


Corporate Culture is Broken

In Gallup’s 2013 report on The State of Global Workplace, they identified that 87% of the global workforce is disengaged at work.1 Korn Ferry Hay Group, a global management consultancy, estimates that wages lost due to employee disengagement is valued at over £380B annually. And over 50% of global business leaders say that employee engagement is a major challenge.2 Companies began evaluating employee when the industry began in the 1990s. And over the last 20 years, the numbers have stagnated. Leading many people to speculate about the reasons why.

In Gallup’s 2013 report on The State of Global Workplace, they identified that 87% of the global workforce is disengaged at work.

Especially because organisations with high employee engagement will derive benefits in addition to happy employees: The stock value has higher earnings per share, and the businesses experience 22 percent higher profitability, 21 percent higher productivity, 10 percent higher customer engagement, 25 percent to 65 percent lower turnover, 37 percent lower absenteeism, 28 percent lower shrinkage (theft), and 48 percent fewer staff safety incidents.3

It’s clear that the global white-collar workforce isn’t thriving – but what is the source of this dissatisfaction? Many people are quick to point the blame on the rise of workplace technology, automation and artificial intelligence.

And it’s a fair assumption – but it may not be right.



What is Corporate Culture?

Investopedia defines corporate culture as, “…the beliefs and behaviours that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions. Often, corporate culture is implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires.”

Common corporate culture challenges run the gamut from simply bored employees to high turnover (which is on the rise in the UK and globally) and low morale.4 But at their root most of these occur because of (1) inconsistency (2) poor communication and (3) a lack of meaning and personal fulfilment at work.5

If culture – a key driver in employee engagement6 – is the combination of rituals, artefacts and collective norms, is all this technology helping or hurting?

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About the Author

Simone N. Sneed-McGurl is a creative problem solver living at the intersection of doing good and doing well. She thrives on helping innovative leaders to fund social impact initiatives, activate critical stakeholders and engage partners for the long term. She is currently the Director of Board Relations at the Environmental Defense Fund and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service Management at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Administration. Feel free to visit her website www.simonensneed.com


1. http://www.gallup.com/services/178517/state-global-workplace.aspx
2. https://dupress.deloitte.com/dup-us-en/focus/human-capital-trends/2016/employee-engagement-and-retention.html
3. https://www.inc.com/ariana-ayu/the-enormous-cost-of-unhappy-employees.html
4. https://www.mercer.com/content/dam/mercer/attachments/global/webcasts/trends-and-drivers-of-workforce-turnover-results-from-mercers-2014-turnover-survey.pdf
5. http://managementinnovators.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/meaning-at-work-employee-engagement-in-europe.pdf
6. http://www.corporateculture.co.uk/employee-engagement
7. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/
8. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/06investors-are-backing-more-AI-startups-than-ever-before
9. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-ai-is-transforming-the-workplace-1489371060
10. https://hbr.org/2014/09/profits-without-prosperity
11. http://www.pewinternet.org/files/2014/12/PI_Web25WorkTech_12.30.141.pdf
12. https://hbr.org/2016/02build-a-great-company-culture-with-help-from-technology
13. https://www.fastcompany.com/3042541/why-your-company-should-consider-banning-email
14. https://go.forrester.com/wp-content/uploads/Forrester_Predictions_2017_-Artificial_Intelligence_Will_Drive_The_Insights_Revolution.pdf
15. https://www.marlinfinance.com/information-technology-equipment/rise-artificial-intelligence-workplace/#_edn3
16. http://thethrivingsmallbusiness.com/organizational-culture-and-communication/
17. http://pwc.blogs.com/press_room/2017/03/up-to-30-of-existing-uk-jobs-could-be-impacted-by-automation-by-early-2030s-but-this-should-be-offse.html
18. http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2015 /05/18/407648886/attention-white-collar-workers-the-robots-are-coming-for-your-jobs
19. http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/05/03/the-future-of-jobs-and-jobs-training/
20. http://brookfieldinstitute.ca/research-analysis/futureproof/
21. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-robots-decimate-human-jobs-bob-gordon
22. https://qz.com/914247/canada-is-betting-on-a-universal-basic-income-to-help-cities-gutted-by-manufacturing-job-loss/


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