The robots are coming

Robots are creating jobs, not removing them

Time and again history has shown that modernisation and progress can disrupt the status quo of the workforce, and can revalue skills in the marketplace. And in our generation, that’s exactly what we’re seeing. The highest priority skills now revolve around digital know-how, creativity, leadership and management ability, as well as complex problem-solving.

Recent research estimates that around 35% of jobs in the UK are at a high risk of automation within the next 20 years. According to a report by Deloitte and Oxford University, over the past 15 years technology has contributed to a loss of over 800,000 jobs within the UK. That’s proving to be a major cause for concern for both companies and employees – this revolution favours the tech-savvy, which leaves many in repetitive, mechanical jobs nervous.

But let’s not forget, there’s also evidence to suggest the tech revolution has aided the creation of nearly 3.5 million new jobs in place of those 800,000 lost. With new technology comes fresh opportunities and newly emerging job categories. But are businesses ready for these?

Resistance is futile

It would be foolish to try and resist the rising tide of automation technology. From self-regulating smart meters to mechanical barmen, automation is changing the work landscape across nearly every industry and the pace of change is rapid. So what can be done to weather the storm of this revolution? Businesses need to be flexible enough to evolve with it.

At the World Economic Forum in January 2016, ManpowerGroup’s CEO Jonas Prising was confident about the role companies can play in supporting the workforce through this “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. His solution to the pace of change is a clear training plan and investment in talent.

Future workforce planning is more vital than ever before. In its recent report The Future of Jobs, the WEF found that investment in reskilling and upskilling current employees was the highest-ranked strategy among companies to tackle the automation challenge. It’s not about displacing jobs but finding the right balance. Companies need to ask themselves: what to automate and what not to? Automation can be a great cost-cutting technique, but a personalised, customised experience is still preferential for many consumers – and this could prove to be a key differentiator in the future.

The winners in this new world will be those who can adapt to the changing market and evolve their business models to match. Organisations need to put talent development and future-proofing of skills at the forefront. But crucially the time for action is today – not tomorrow.