Despite growing adoption Aussie SMEs still largely uncertain about AI

AI, emerging technology, investments, generative AI

New research released by global employment law, HR, and health & safety advisory and consultancy firm Peninsula Group reveals that majority of Australian SMEs (59 per cent) have yet to implement AI in their businesses, despite the headway the technology has made in recent years.

The research, which surveyed 79,000 businesses across Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK, also highlights the fact that Australia is the only country where fear of the unknown with AI and how it impacts business finished in the top three responses when it comes to concerns regarding the technology.

Globally, 30 per cent of employers cite security risk as their biggest concern around AI in the workplace. Increased margin of error, impact on the team’s work quality and/or productivity, and the risk of losing intellectual property also ranked high on the list of concerns.

For businesses that have incorporated AI, 40 per cent of them utilise it for administrative tasks while 35 per cent use it for creative writing. A third of businesses in Ireland that use AI are using it for customer services, while a quarter of Australian employers and a third of Canadian employers are using AI to draft internal or company communications.

“Throughout history, mechanical and technological advances have played a significant role in the changing face of industry, streamlining processes, reducing labour costs, and increasing productivity,” Employsure Australia and New Zealand [Peninsula Group is Employsure’s parent company] Chief Executive Officer, David Price, said. “AI is the latest in a long line of innovations – and it’s clear from these results that employers’ opinions are divided.

“While many can see the benefits of AI, there are still significant concerns around security, increased margin of error, and impact on team’s quality of work that need to be addressed before we will see widespread implementation across global businesses,” Price added. “With online security and data protection being a top priority for most employers regardless, this is not a big surprise.”

Price pointed out that Australian employers are leading the way in incorporating AI in their business, with 41 per cent of businesses currently using it in some way or another, compared to the UK where only 26 per cent of businesses have started to use AI.

“The concerns around security make sense, given the general risk for employers opening themselves up for potential cyber-attacks with increased use of unregulated AI platforms,” he said. “I believe that AI can be a great tool when used alongside people rather in place of them. So, I was interested to see that a third of employers believe that AI will reduce the number of employees at their company. AI is only as good as the way it is programmed, and there can be no substitute for knowledge and personal insight.

“It’s this combination of AI and personal knowledge that I think will be most valuable to employers as we see more and more integration and uptake in businesses around the world. Speeding up processes and freeing up people’s time to concentrate on providing the best service to clients, using their knowledge to solve complex problems with the personal touch and human interaction that is so valuable, even in this digital age,” Price concluded.