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Future-proofing your workforce in the age of automation.

By: Damian HamerTechnology Sales

As organizations find ways to automate many processes and workflows, the workforce of the future is set to change dramatically. Over the past few years, we’ve seen various predictions of how automation will affect the workforce. For instance, in 2014, Gartner research director Peter Sondergaard predicted that “one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025.” In a 2015 report, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) said more than five million jobs in Australia alone will be gone in 10 to 15 years’ time. And just recently, artificial intelligence (AI) expert Kai Fu Lee also said 40% of the world’s jobs will be replaced by robots.

However, while some jobs could be lost due to automation, new ones will also be created, and the workforce will have to acquire the necessary skills to adapt to these new roles. By 2030, McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates that as many as 375 million workers globally will have to master fresh skills as their current jobs evolve alongside the rise of automation and capable machines. MGI partner Susan Lund reckons, “the problem is not if there will be jobs. There is a big question about will the workers today, given their existing skill sets, be qualified to get the jobs that will be there.”

Hence, automation actually creates ‘better’ jobs rather than displace them. This dynamic has led to the rise of the ‘augmented workforce’ concept. As Deloitte puts it, the value of automation and AI is not derived from replacing human labor, but from “augmenting the workforce and enabling human work to be reframed in terms of problem-solving and the ability to create new knowledge.” By removing routine work, Deloitte posits that automation enables the role and contribution of people in work to rise in importance and value.                  

Automation technologies, according to KPMG, can be grouped into three categories: robotic process automation (RPA) which automates most manual tasks; machine learning wherein a software uses data to ‘understand and predict the desired course of action’; and cognitive augmentation wherein computers are ‘able to handle unstructured data and provide answers to complex queries.’ These technologies aim to make human labor more accurate and efficient, not necessarily replace it.

Amidst this transition to an augmented workforce enabled by these technologies, what, then, can organizations do to future-proof their human capital? McKinsey suggests that in order to build a competitive workforce, ‘right-skilling’ or retraining employees and acquiring people with the right skills is essential, along with these three key factors:


  • Gaining clarity on today’s workforce gaps and the future skills needed. Translate your strategy into a vision of what future skills are needed. Quantify the chasm, including the business value at stake.


  • A robust plan to supply the future demand. Design a portfolio of initiatives that encompasses hiring, right-skilling and contracting. Upgrade your talent and operations infrastructure to reinforce the new workforce composition and performance management system.


  • Rapid, disciplined execution. Establish a dedicated, cross-functional team, including HR and business unit members, for agile plan execution.


Therefore, companies seeking to emerge successful in the age of automation should master the practice of constantly calibrating human capital. Only then will they be able to capitalize on the seamless integration of two invaluable resources: its people and the technologies available to them.


Sources:
https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/smart-robots-will-take-third-jobs-2025-gartner-says
https://www.ceda.com.au/News-and-analysis/Media-releases/More-than-five-million-Aussie-jobs-gone-in-10-to-15-years
https://fortune.com/2019/01/10/automation-replace-jobs/
https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/jobs-lost-jobs-gained-what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages
https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/how-will-automation-affect-jobs-skills-and-wages#
https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/5136_HC-Trends-2019/DI_HC-Trends-2019.pdf
https://home.kpmg/xx/en/home/insights/2018/06/augmented-workforce-fs.html
https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-organization-blog/right-skilling-for-your-future-workforce


Damian Hamer has a strong understanding of niche skills required across the UC, collaboration, datacentre virtualization and cloud computing space. He specialises in executive search at leadership level, particularly in the recruitment of CEO / MDs, COOs, sales directors, services directors, and senior commercial roles. Connect with Damian.