Automation does not necessarily mean job loss. Companies should try to foster a culture of continuous, lifelong learning, including training/apprenticeships and job rotations, in order to better prepare their employees for a digital future.
Many people are concerned that automation would exacerbate the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Automation has changed employment and pay structures in the years since the Industrial Revolution, but it has also produced more jobs over time. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs Report 2020” predicts that 97 million jobs will be generated by 2025, significantly outnumbering the 85 million jobs it expects will be lost.
Processes will be reengineered, tasks will be reorganized, and more jobs will be created – many of which have never been done before. These jobs will necessitate new higher-order skills, which will be in high demand and in short supply throughout the world.
This circumstance gives an opportunity to simultaneously solve both employment loss due to automation and the global skills shortage. However, this demands new skills and learning models from job searchers, as well as educators, businesses, and other stakeholders in the employment ecosystem. Leaders should also explicitly address concerns about employment loss due to automation.
Here are three guiding principles for organizations and leaders to follow in order to help their employees feel more at ease sharing jobs and workspaces with software-driven machines and automatons.
The importance of problem-finding
Both new hires and seasoned employees must focus on identifying and articulating issues. Intelligent digital technologies are already outperforming humans in the resolution of well-defined problems. However, they are unable to identify and frame problems that are yet unknown; these abilities remain the sole realm of humans.
Educational institutions must pivot to instil creative thinking, and curiosity among students from an early age, as they are often restricted by rigid curriculums designed to provide information about defined solutions. Similarly, businesses should aim to foster an innovation culture and training programs like design thinking seminars that encourage employees at all levels to become problem finders.
According to the WEF study, 94 percent of business leaders expect their employees to learn new skills on the job; employees who take initiative in exploring new areas to expand into and deliver value will upgrade their skills at the same time to improve their chances of moving up in their careers, despite automation.
Reskilling and up skilling
Staying employable is the best way to find employment even when jobs are being automated. Employees will need to reskill and upskill to move up as the half-life of jobs shrinks rapidly across industries.
This will happen several times in a typical career, transforming employees into lifelong learners who are always learning in bite-sized chunks. A one-size-fits-all solution can never work because each employee will have different learning demands in terms of content, intensity, and duration. Instead, individual employees should be able to choose their own learning goals. Modularized, tailored, micro-learning can be delivered at scale via digital platforms.
Learning for all
One explanation for the economy’s widening skills gap is that far too many individuals lack access to digital education. Policymakers, industry leaders and academic institutions, must work together to democratize education in order to address this. Higher education must become more inclusive so that people from less privileged backgrounds can benefit from it.
Corporations can also broaden their talent pools by hiring people with non-STEM education, and also by hiring people with disadvantaged and marginalized backgrounds.
Many workers continue to be afraid about losing their jobs to automation, according to a recent PwC poll survey “Hopes and fears 2021: The views of 32,500 workers.” The answer to this is reskilling. People need to gain new higher-order skills to boost their confidence and willingness to take on greater, more strategic responsibilities as AI takes away monotonous tasks. Human potential will be unlocked and expanded through the interaction between digitally skilled workers and automation.