Computer says ‘maybe’

A question that will increasingly dominate C-Suite conversations is how far machines can replace humans. A Japanese restaurant recently tested out a robot chef to much customer amusement. But is this the answer to staff shortages in the hospitality industry? Aside from concerns about human redundancy, the experiment raises questions around technology, HR, customer service, marketing and more. Although the restaurant customers found the robots’ clumsy movements to be fun, there are more serious psychological barrier to overcome especially in sectors that value personal interaction. The FT reports that ‘respondents were almost evenly divided over whether they would use hotels where the receptionist was a robot,’ though 40 per cent did not mind robots carrying out cleaning and other non-customer facing tasks. That distinction may prove key for San Francisco-based start-up Momentum Machines whose robot can autonomously produce 400 burgers in an hour, equivalent to three human flippers. L&D executives might now consider in which business areas their own customers would welcome or reject automation.

How to work when your boss does not care

Michael SkapinkerThe most recent annual Edelman Trust Barometer, produced by the public relations company, showed that large numbers of workers no longer trusted the company they worked for. In Japan, only 40 per cent trusted their employers. In France it was 48 per cent and 57 per cent in the UK. In the US, nearly two-thirds of employees trusted their companies but that has to be set against other downbeat US surveys.

FT couminist, Michael Skapinker, argues that employee disenchantment has costs beyond poor customer service: absenteeism, shoddy work and high turnover. Read his article on performance management (requires subscription).