Technology hasn't always had a harmonious relationship with our global workforce. While concepts like assembly line mass production and automation have ultimately led to significant gains in efficiency and productivity for our overall economy, such innovations have also caused upheaval in the labor markets by creating structural changes throughout industrial employment.
These structural changes have forced temporary stretches of time where technology replaced labor and human capital, unsettling both individual workers and employers until new training and education programs, corporate structures and recruiting efforts could counterbalance the changes.
In this dynamic, digitally driven industrial landscape, artificial intelligence and modern robotics have already started to create similar structural changes within today's labor markets, a notion that will only grow in stature and impact over the next decade. Although research into such changes is just now starting to reveal insights into what to expect, a handful of observations have already become obvious.
While artificial intelligence and robotics will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the workers and the companies that employ them, human resources staff can mitigate much of the inevitable growing pains with due diligence and an eye towards the future.
the immediate impact
As is often the case when technology disrupts the labor force, low to mid-level paying jobs, particularly those that require repetitive or tedious tasks, are the most likely to be replaced by artificial intelligence and advanced robotics. While this has already begun to a certain extent with AI and subsidiary technologies like the Internet of Things, it will grow exponentially throughout the coming decade.
This will not be a temporary replacement of those jobs. Furthermore, without intervention of some sort, those displaced workers will likely have difficulty finding employment elsewhere as the technological changes will be pervasive, taking hold across nearly all segments of industry.
how to prepare your employees and company
Although the structural changes to the workforce will be permanent, there are a number of things human resource departments can do to make sure both their workforce and their organization are well-prepared for the changes. First and foremost, proper training and education can significantly expand the skillset and knowledge base of employees, making them much more adaptable when the changes hit a company.
Workers that are trained for positions that require a combination of physical and people skills are much more likely to evolve along with operational structures. Training employees in soft skills like empathy, teamwork and critical thinking sooner rather than later will be beneficial to both the individual and the organization. While technology can provide substantial gains in efficiency and even overall safety, it's nowhere near capable of mastering our more "human" traits.
While production will obviously never disappear, organizations that heavily reliance on production lines will experience the most impact from the integration of robotics as the positions that are highly repetitive, tedious and often dangerous will be the first to be replaced.
diligent, not hyperbolic
AI and robotics will inevitably have at least some impact on most companies. The scope of that impact is dependent on the nature of the organization itself. Still, although some degree of change is almost a certainty, human beings will not be eradicated from the workplace by the hands of the machines anytime soon. That said, have a game plan that looks 3 to 5 years down the road, not 15 to 20. Technology is moving too quickly to anticipate what might happen beyond a decade from now.
Train current employees to better equip them for the transition, and recruit new ones that already possess the necessary soft skills to absorb the impact of innovation. Ultimately, organizations that successfully combine the efficiencies afforded by technology with a workforce skilled in distinctly human skills will be the ones that are best suited for success in the upcoming automated revolution to industry.