In fact, The Bank of England recently reported that up to 15m jobs in Britain are at risk of being lost to robots and our own Workforce Horizons study found that businesses believe that 1 in 10 job roles will no longer exist by 2025.
Human vs. Robots
Although automation is key to increasing workplace efficiency, there are some real concerns that the automation of existing jobs will lead to unemployment across industries. What I know from our line of work is that despite the potential threat of technology, ‘human’ relationships play an important part and must continue to be at the heart of business productivity.
Rather than entire occupations becoming automated in the near future, it’s more likely that certain activities will. This will lead to business processes being altered and job titles redefined rather than a complete revolution of the workplace. In my opinion, HR needs to see these changes as a way to improve organisational efficiency.
What can businesses do to deal with automation?
To deal with, and better understand, automation in the workplace, there are a few things that I think businesses can do straightaway:
• Define the difference between relationship-driven activities and those that can benefit from automation – identifying and acknowledging the differences allows you to better understand the current mix you have in your organisation and recognise the changes you need to implement.
• Conduct a ‘talent audit’ to establish where various skills and behaviours add value to your organisation. With the outcomes from this, you can plan how to develop and evolve your employees’ skills to enable the automation of tasks.
• Create a team of change-makers – bring together a group of people from a variety of backgrounds with differing perspectives and experience. Once you’ve identified the individuals who can champion the automation process, make upskilling them a priority. The group will help attract like-minded digitally savvy workers, as well as driving forward engagement with digital tools.
What long-term changes should businesses consider?
When undertaking the journey to automation, it is essential to be consistently clear with both current and potential employees about the fact that your organisation will remain people-driven. There are often conceptions around digitally forward companies that new technology will inevitably outpace employees – but this is not the case.
That’s why it’s down to your employer brand to emphasise the importance your business places on its talent, and stay true to it. Putting out positive messages about how your company has embraced automation and your ability to engage with digital tools is a great way to convey this, as well as helping to attract the right talent to your business that has the coveted digital skills you need. But no matter how tech-savvy your employees are, there are a number of skills that automation will never be able to replace, such as leadership, social acumen, responsibility, creativity and imagination.
Activities such as team idea-creation and the streamlining of processes through team deliberation are qualities of the workplace that will always be important and irreplaceable by machines. That’s why I think it’s imperative that businesses communicate this to their employees. As long as human interaction is still the core of business, the workplace will be able to grow and benefit from changing technology.