Tomorrow’s workplace: humans vs. robots?

Robots are creating jobs, not removing them
With technology advancing at pace, plenty has been written in recent years about how the future world of work will be affected.

Run a quick Google search and you’ll find countless politicians, economists and journalists speculating on the impact of robotics on tomorrow’s workplace. Some believe more jobs will be created; others say fewer jobs will be needed in the future.

While no one can be certain what the future holds, one thing is certain: tomorrow’s workplace will be very different from today’s. Skills that are valuable right now may not hold the same value in the future; and, in the years to come, new skill requirements will emerge too.

The future is bright

Embedding new technologies into an organisation requires people with specialist skills. As a result, employers are still hesitant to say ‘hello automation, goodbye workers’. That means, in the short-term, the future of work is bright. In fact, when we recently interviewed 18,000 employers as part of our Skills Revolution research, 90% of employers said they expected their organisation to be impacted by digitisation in the next two years. At the same time, 83% still expected to maintain or increase their headcount.

However, looking longer-term, the value we place on different skills will change. It’s likely that technology will replace both cognitive and manual routine tasks. This will encourage people to take on non-routine tasks and more fulfilling roles. Consequently, workers will increasingly find they need to upskill and diversify into new areas. For example, by harnessing skills like creativity, emotional intelligence and cognitive flexibility, people will be able to augment robots, rather than be replaced by them.

Humans augmenting robots

Nearly two-thirds of the employers we spoke to said they’re investing in internal training to keep their employees’ skills up-to-date. This is certainly a step in the right direction. However, it’s worth remembering that any new education initiative is a long-term strategy. They can take many years to bear fruit.

More than a third of employers told us that they’re easing the transition by bringing in contractors and temporary workers. These specialists can transfer their expertise to the permanent workforce. Added to this, when someone leaves their role, over 40% of employers are recruiting individuals to replace them who have different skill sets, rather than replacing skills like-for-like.

Digitisation will bring new work opportunities, as long as organisations and individuals are ready. To ensure tomorrow’s workplace has the required skills, it’s important that employers take action now. The Skills Revolution requires a new mindset, for both employers trying to develop a workforce with the right skills and for individuals seeking to advance their careers.

We invite you to download our new Skills Revolution whitepaper to find out more.