Artificial Intelligence and Saudi Employees’ Perceptions

Introduction

Despite the fears of many entrepreneurs and employees, especially in markets with high unemployment rates, confidence in AI adoption remains rather high. As a country with vibrant entrepreneurship and a large percentage of young people, Saudi Arabia must consider the opportunities and prospects that AI opens up to business and the economy (Aldossari and Zin, 2019). In particular, the implementation of a clear plan to subsidize AI adoption in the private and public sector and the development of training programs for employees to interact with AI should be a priority over the next 5-10 years (Seamans and Raj, 2018). According to studies, the introduction of AI can support the creative sector and the service industry, increase the volume of work done, and improve its quality (Aly, 2020). However, it is necessary to consider not only the need to educate employees but also the importance of maintaining a positive attitude towards AI in them (Qureshi and Syed, 2014). It is especially crucial for regions and industries with employment problems, which are the source of mistrust in AI.

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Literature Review

The research on the implementation of Artificial Intelligence in organizations is highly relevant, and many scientists from various perspectives are discussing this issue. The dissertation’s topic is the investigation of the impacts of AI on the employees and top management perceptions in Saudi Arabia’s public sector. Considerably, some scientists discuss employee attitudes towards AI implementation and its effectiveness. For example, Brougham and Haar (2018) analyze awareness and its impact on employee perceptions of smart technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and algorithms (STARA). Scientists predict that by 2025, a third of the jobs that exist today can be occupied by STARA, and therefore there is a need to study how employees prepare for these possible changes and how they perceive them.

A study that relied on measuring the expectation that ‘STARA would replace or displace an employee’ with a scale from 1 to 5 found average expectations to be quite low at 1.7 (Brougham and Haar, 2018). Moreover, more negative expectations were expressed by workers less satisfied with their careers and less committed to organizations. Therefore, a connection was found between career expectations and awareness of STARA or AI. The results also indicate that the majority of employees do not perceive AI as a threat.

It is noteworthy that 120 people of the following professions participated in the study: bartender, business analyst, business support, business activity educator, senior service desk team leader, storeroom assistant, manager, customer service. Other professions included executive, HR manager, retail manager, service delivery manager, service technician, the travel agent (Brougham and Haar, 2018). Interestingly, the level of negative expectations was not related to how complex functions the employees performed and how much communication skills they used. Optimism or pessimism was instead associated with the current state of affairs in the careers of the participants.

The scientists also stated that AI or STARA does not significantly correlate with job insecurity refuting the widespread fear. Specifically, Brougham and Haar (2018) cited the opinion of one worker falling into this category. He stated that he did not see the AI sector getting too involved in the industry at a strategic level and from a management perspective. Scientists also discussed AI or STARA in terms of its impact on reducing commitment to the organization and building freer careers where there are fewer boundaries and limitations. Finally, particular attitudes towards AI or STARA were expressed by employees aged 60-70 (Brougham and Haar, 2018). According to scientists, greater AI awareness was not associated with a high level of concern in this category.

Further, Seamans and Raj (2018) consider the need to collect data on robotics adoption in manufacturing and AI implementation in small and medium-sized enterprises. Scientists believe that a qualitative analysis of the situation will explore the role of market structure in the adoption of AI and the impact of AI on firms, entrepreneurs, innovators, and regional economies. According to scientists, there is more data on the adoption of robotics than AI (Seamans and Raj, 2018). Scientists are interested in whether robots and AI complement or replace the workforce and whether the introduction of robots and AI affects enterprises’ productivity and strategies. Scholars also see the need to study which types of firms are more or less inclined to invest in the development of robotics and AI and whether the structure of the market influences the implementation of robots and AI. Scientists also find it necessary to investigate how the adoption of robots and AI affects enterprise management strategies, especially at the lower and middle levels.

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Researchers are convinced that government systems should develop training programs for working with AI as part of staff development. It is because working with AI is a new experience. Besides, academics believe it is critical to focus on those demographic groups with the least personal opportunity to work with technology (Seamans and Raj, 2018). But the most important in preparing the ground for the introduction of AI in Saudi Arabia is the proposal by scientists to carefully consider the differential impact of AI on the regional economy. It is about the effects of robots and AI on industries specific to certain regions and the workforce involved in these industries. At the same time, scientists pay attention to the factor of tax revenues from sectors.

Finally, scientists believe that, unlike large enterprises, private entrepreneurs may need support in terms of training in AI and how to integrate robotics with the workforce. Another limiting factor may be the high cost of technology (Seamans and Raj, 2018). To answer these questions, scientists suggest using a population cense and surveys for small and medium-sized business employees. In their opinion, these qualitative data collection tools will help to obtain more detailed and comprehensive information. Scientists summarize that the introduction of AI will increase the competitiveness of the state economy. They also suggest finding out if robots and AI are substitutes or support for the workforce when making decisions about taxing or subsidizing them.

In another study by Qureshi and Syed (2014), the impact of robotics on employment and employee motivation in the retail sector is discussed. Scientists note that replacing employees with robots in healthcare organizations can be an inevitable step due to a problematic or unhealthy work environment. However, during the implementation of such a replacement, special attention should be paid to motivating employees and improving employment conditions. According to scientists, a successful example of introducing robots into the state is the iPhone company Foxconn. However, high-profile announcements by management about the adoption of more than one million robots caused a serious scandal, and so far, the company only uses 20 thousand units (Qureshi and Syed, 2014). Scientists also provide interesting data on the general increase in wages in enterprises where robots are used in Brazil, China, the Republic of Korea, Germany, and the United States.

At the same time, it was noted that there was a decrease in wages in Japan, but the reason was not indicated. The increase in wages is considered to occur due to a significant reduction in employment, particularly in the manufacturing industry. It is noteworthy that according to the latest data, the robotics industry occupies 170-190 thousand jobs around the world, and these robots are served by about the same number of people (Qureshi and Syed, 2014). Despite the difference in functions performed, it can be assumed that AI implementation will proceed similarly. However, it should be borne in mind that more people are employed in the service sector, which is a potential consumer of AI. Scientists believe that despite the displacement of people from jobs, robotics is driving a significant increase in production, and a similar situation is likely to be observed with the introduction of AI.

Besides, scholars support the need to create government programs to train employees in industry and futuristic courses. Qureshi and Syed (2014) suggest that the demand in the future not only to interact but also to compete with robots and AI, can have an extremely negative impact on employee motivation. The leadership of organizations will need to take this factor into account. Finally, scholars emphasize that human workers spend their money as the driving force of the economy, while unemployment can lead to a vicious cycle of economic decline.

Then, Aly (2020) examines the relationship between digital transformation, economic development, labor productivity, and employment. The scientist notes that according to the research results, women benefit more from digital transformation than men. Besides, the results indicate that digital transformation is not linked to vulnerable employment. The study aims to determine an adequate and effective state policy for regulating digital transformation, in particular, setting the significance of social support for vulnerable groups. The research also suggests that digital transformation will increase the efficiency, innovation, profitability, and productivity of companies, which is critical for economies in developing countries. Besides, an increase in labor productivity has a positive effect on economic development.

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According to the scientist, an alarming consequence may be the impact of digital transformation on changing the composition and structure of jobs within the economy. Noteworthy, the study results proved the possibility of increasing employment rates through the implementation of digital transformation, especially in female employment (Aly, 2020). Therefore, despite the obsolescence of some professions, new jobs will appear. The scientist notes that although the study did not reveal the correlation between vulnerable employment and digital transformation, states need to pursue policies to reduce vulnerable employment by complying with labor laws and fighting poverty. Aly (2020) summarizes that society needs a more positive attitude towards AI and digital transformation at the state level.

He also emphasizes that administrations need to anticipate the shortcomings of AI implementation. Some groups will be disproportionately affected by these changes, and reintegrating these groups into the economy can be an effective solution. Scientist says that digital transformation will change the structure of the labor market and existing vacancies, which will require states to integrate computer and human intelligence through learning. Finally, Aly (2020) emphasizes that preparing young generations to interact with AI will require significant transformations in the educational, work, and economic environment.

Besides, Al-Zahrani and Marghalani (2018) discuss in their research how AI transforms business. Scientists consider such aspects of the impact of AI as reducing the cost of business operations, improving cybersecurity, marketing, innovation, and management decision making. In this regard, it is concluded that investments in the implementation of AI in enterprises contribute to strengthening their competitiveness. AI can leverage vast data and sophisticated algorithms to facilitate sound business intelligence decisions, which include understanding future business processes, market trends, and consumer behavior.

Therefore, scientists are confident that AI will be widely used as a support mechanism for employees engaged in intellectual work in enterprises. The main advantage of AI over software is the integration and application of more complex data processing algorithms, followed by the proposal of solutions (Al-Zahrani and Marghalani, 2018). However, there is a possibility that AI will be used for other office tasks, such as simplifying the hiring process by automating the verification of information about applicants. Another option for AI training can be its subsequent application to improve the organization’s investment decisions, identify investment fraud, and protect against cybercriminals. As part of customer service, AI can be extremely useful in managing customer information and may replace cloud computing. It is also possible to create chatbots for working with clients, databases for analyzing customer communications, and interaction with CRM applications.

However, the most critical consequence of AI implementation will be lower operating costs associated with lower labor costs, which can lead to higher wages and fewer employees. Besides, AI will be beneficial in the context of globalization, as it can contribute to understanding cultural differences and diversifying products. Another critical AI advancement could be its contribution to the automation of business systems (Al-Zahrani and Marghalani, 2018). It is the automation of production processes and the automation of work with customers, such as when booking hotels. Therefore, robots and AI will perform most of the routine work and tasks, creating a competitive advantage for enterprises.

Further, scientists Aldossari and Zin (2019) tried to create a framework for the implementation of AI and robotics innovations in Saudi Arabia. Scientists have noticed that the use of robots reduces operating costs and increases productivity since robots do not require higher wages and can work around the clock and seven days a week. It is the main reason why Saudi entrepreneurs will invest in AI and robotics in the coming years (Aldossari and Zin, 2019). Besides, since robots can perform tasks that are not available to humans, this will enhance the competitive advantage of such companies. Among other factors that determine the intention and decision-making to implement robots and AI, scientists noted a strategic approach to doing business in transforming companies.

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Further, Ahmed (2019) noted that the entrepreneurial landscape of Saudi Arabia and the Middle East would soon change thanks to the introduction of AI. Scientist believes that the changes will affect the areas of banking, finance, robotics, and industry. AI will be used to improve business processes and solve complex problems. Ahmed (2019) notes that the technology has not yet become popular among startups, but this should be expected soon. The scientist emphasizes that since Saudi Arabia adheres to a diversification policy to stop relying on the oil and gas industry, the business sector especially needs government support in terms of AI implementation. It is also explicitly emphasized that the use of AI will help improve interaction with human capital and increase it, especially in the startup environment, which requires a more knowledge-intensive workforce with higher added value.

The scientist also predicts that after the widespread introduction of AI, the economic growth rate of the Kingdom may increase by 1.1 percent, and the gross value added in Saudi Arabia will be approximately USD 215 billion (Ahmed, 2019). Simultaneously, the projected growth of Internet users, up to 85%, and the unified digital medical record users up to 70% will provide support for the introduction of AI in startups (Ahmed, 2019). An equally important factor is the growing digital education among the Saudi population.

In turn, Elhajji, Alsayyari, and Alblawi (2020) emphasize the effectiveness of introducing technologies in the educational field and predict no less success for the introduction of AI. In particular, it will help improve the quality of education, in terms of gaining practice of working with AI among students. Scientists also note that the introduction of AI into the education system should be consistent with the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030.

Finally, Al-Ruithe, Benkhelifa, and Hameed (2018) believe that the Internet of Things (IoT), big data, social media, cloud computing, blockchain, and augmented reality are taking organizations to a new level of customer experience, business processes, and services. Scientists propose enhancing security and privacy to prevent loss of cloud data management in Saudi Arabia, as many study participants raised concerns about this. It is especially important because, according to scientists, cloud computing is a critical element of the digital transformation technology ecosystem.

Conclusion

Thus, a literature review of articles on AI implementation in large and small enterprises was provided. In most cases, scientists agree that, despite concerns, AI’s introduction will create a competitive advantage for companies and organizations. The only danger is the threat in the form of changes in the labor market, the emergence of new vacancies, and the reduction of jobs associated with routine work performance. However, AI is seen more as a tool supporting employees in their work and improving the overall efficiency of enterprises.

Reference List

Ahmed, S.M. (2019) ‘Artificial intelligence in Saudi Arabia: leveraging entrepreneurship in the Arab markets’, Artificial Intelligence, 12(6), pp. 394-398.

Aldossari, M. and Zin, A.M. (2019) ‘A conceptual framework for adopting automation and robotics innovations in the transformational companies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’, Information and Communication Technology 31(5), pp. 894-905.

Al-Ruithe, M., Benkhelifa, E. and Hameed, K. (2018) ‘Key issues for embracing the Cloud Computing to adopt a digital transformation: a study of Saudi public sector’, Procedia Computer Science, 130(1), pp.1037-1043.

Aly, H. (2020) ‘Digital transformation, development and productivity in developing countries: is artificial intelligence a curse or a blessing?’, Review of Economics and Political Science, 10(1), pp. 5-17.

Al-Zahrani, A. and Marghalani, A. (2018) ‘How artificial intelligent transform business’, Journal of Management & Organization, 32(2), pp. 62-74.

Brougham, D. and Haar, J. (2018) ‘Smart technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and algorithms (STARA): Employees’ perceptions of our future workplace’, Journal of Management & Organization, 24(2), pp. 239-257.

Elhajji, M., Alsayyari, A.S. and Alblawi, A. (2020) ‘Towards an artificial intelligence strategy for higher education in Saudi Arabia’, Computer Applications & Information Security, 22(2), pp. 1-7.

Seamans, R. and Raj, M. (2018) ‘AI, labor, productivity and the need for firm-level data’, National Bureau of Economic Research, 24(3), pp. 22-39.

Qureshi, M.O. and Syed, R.S. (2014) ‘The impact of robotics on employment and motivation of employees in the service sector, with special reference to health care’, Safety and Health at Work, 5(4), pp.198-202.

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