Over a third of UK employers are bullish about AI investment despite serious workforce uncertainty. New research shows that 35.3% of employers are actively investing in GenAI while 40.4% plan to increase their use of the technology, to support the workplace. That’s according to new research from SD Worx, the leading European HR solutions provider.

The findings reveal a surprisingly buoyant business outlook for AI adoption at a time when the UK government begins to craft new legislation to regulate AI. The move on regulation comes as the competition watchdog expresses increased concerns about the industry. However, despite businesses betting big on AI investment, similar enthusiasm isn’t shared by employees, with 30% of UK workers fearing their roles will be made redundant as a result of GenAi.

For this large-scale research project SD Worx surveyed 5,000 businesses and 18,000 employees in 18 countries across Europe, including the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium. In terms of employer appetite for GenAi investment across Europe, the UK ranks in the top 3 countries at 35%, surpassed only by Poland (41.8%) and Italy (36.2%).

Sentiment – A mixed Bag

Despite the swirl of buzz and momentum that surrounds AI, it is still not the biggest boardroom priority or concern this year for European businesses. Only 8% of the countries surveyed ranked it among the top five challenges for this year. Well-being (37%), recruitment (34%), employee retention (33%), flexible working (27%) and employee experience (27%) all pulled focus as the most pressing issues to tackle.

However, in stark contrast, employees are increasingly concerned as AI becomes further embedded into daily workflows. Despite serious misgivings, over 20% of UK employees admitted to using GenAi to support their work with 75% of this grouping in agreement that it made them significantly more productive at work.

Strikingly, UK employees are among the 5 workforces most concerned about the prospect of redundancy at 30%, against a European average of 28%. It appears that a major disconnect has arisen between businesses’ ambition to realise the value of AI and employees’ apprehension about its  impact on job security. Overall, the findings suggest that the rise of AI in workplace processes is fuelling anxiety about the tool, raising vital questions as to the change management leadership necessary to deliver AI innovation with workforce buy-in.

One fifth of European companies use AI in payroll processes

Staggeringly, when surveyed which capabilities, functions and features were essential in payroll software, AI ranked bottom out of 15 possible priorities. Yet despite the low score, over a fifth (22%) of organisations indicated they had already deployed AI technology to support their payroll process. The countries applying it the most in payroll are Poland (33%) and Italy (28%).

Within the payroll process, the most typical AI use cases are monitoring legislation (39%), followed by data validation (34%), and detection and correction of anomalies (33%).

Laura Miller, UK People Country Leader at SD Worx, comments: “This research highlights a mixed bag of sentiment around AI in the workplace. It’s one which mirrors the wider debate across the world on the benefits, value and potential drawbacks of transforming day to day life through AI. The research reveals a complicated disconnect between businesses seeking to quickly reap the benefits of AI implementation and employees who have mixed emotions about what embracing it will mean for the future of their working lives.”

“There is now a very clear case for business leaders to show real leadership with AI by making effective change management and upskilling a non-negotiable when delivering AI successfully across their organisations. It’s clear that employees are feeling some of the benefits but wider concerns and a lack of AI readiness amongst workforces are hampering success. In an ever-evolving world, we can expect to see tech-powered change continue unabated across all aspects of life, so it’s time we see tech adoption supported by people focussed strategies, to really take everyone along on the journey.”