We can probably all agree that it’s great when robots perform those routine, mundane workplace tasks that we hate — because it frees us up to focus on management, leadership, and strategic planning.

However, robots may also be encroaching in some of the latter areas as well. And employees might prefer AI-driven management. A report by Oracle and Future Workplace reveals the following:

  • 64% of employees would trust a robot more than their manager
  • 50% of employees have turned to a robot instead of their manager for advice
  • 82% of employees think robots can perform some tasks better than their manager

Should managers be concerned?

When asked which tasks robots perform better than human managers, survey respondents said robots were better at providing unbiased information, maintaining work schedules, problem solving, and managing a budget.

Karlin Sloan, CEO at Sloan Group International, agrees that there are advantages to robot managers. “They are organized, have all the data you’ll need, and can give you instant data-focused feedback on your performance within the context of your role and your organization,” she says.

Reuben Yonatan, founder and CEO of GetVoIP, says he’s always looking for efficiency gains, but isn’t ready to fully replace managers with robots or computers just yet. “They’re excellent at tracking well-defined, quantitative performance goals, and as they become even better at predicting our behavior, I'll be looking to them to help me both measure and forecast performance,” he says.

And let’s not forget the level of objectivity robots bring to the workplace (assuming they’re not programmed to be biased). “There’s consistent support that humans make poor hiring decisions when relying on intuition alone,” explains Jennifer Yugo, Ph.D., managing director at Corvirtus. “For hiring, using an algorithm, hiring assessment, and set definitions of what it takes to complete the job increases your odds of making a successful hire two-to-fourfold,” she says.

Automation can also help to make the workplace itself a more impartial environment.

“Employers and managers alike should care for AI and automation, as this tech is what is helping find the underlying policies and practices that lead to and perpetuate pay disparities,” says Maria Colacurcio, CEO at Syndio. “Using tested methodologies to promote a more equitable and consistent way of paying and promoting employees can help managers increase workplace diversity as well as communicate transparency.”

But there are some things that managers do better

Survey respondents noted that human managers were better at understanding an employee’s feelings, coaching, and creating a work culture. According to Michael Solomon, managing partner and founder of 10x Ascend, good management can’t be automated.

“Good management requires immense amounts of emotional intelligence and human connection and, when done right, is not easily replaced by a machine or an algorithm,” he says. “Human managers also have the ability to understand what an individual is good at — or not — and how this plays into managing them.”

“Each human needs different and bespoke management based on their own unique needs, flaws and style, and AI is not advanced enough yet to understand the nuances and differences,” Solomon says. And he believes this gives humans an advantage — at least for now.

Sloan agrees. “Human managers are much better at motivating performance, building loyalty to the brand and the organization, and providing a sense of community, purpose, and meaning.”

Room to improve

Human managers aren’t competing with robots — at least not for the foreseeable future. In other words, no one really cares that robots are better at creating schedules and budgets. However, there is a need for human managers to get better in the areas in which they create the most value.

“The challenge with human managers is that most of them don’t spend the necessary time and energy in inspiring and motivating their teams, which gets de-prioritized by metrics-based systems that don’t measure the application of soft skills that build and nurture talent and performance,” explains Sloan.

Also, many managers don’t know their shortcomings. “You can’t improve if you don’t know what needs to be improved, so start by seeking out feedback from all those around you and exploring your weaknesses and blind spots,” says Solomon. He advises managers to be curious instead of defensive.

Nothing takes the place of trusting a manager or supervisor and working with that individual to create a shared definition of success and roadmap to get there, according to Yugo.

“We are in a wonderful and unique position with the rich understanding we have of psychology and the science of creating work environments that help employees flourish,” she says. “When combined with powerful technology and data, we are in a prime position to use both to make extraordinarily successful businesses that also enhance employee well-being.”