Work is changing, and for many, the future will eliminate the work they do today. A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that nearly two-thirds of all jobs could have a significant part – at least 30% – of their activities automated by 2030. That could affect 800 million roles, it said. Further, “… about half of all work activities globally have the technical potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies…” This has a significant impact on the future of business and on the future of the workforce. If you are a Business owner or Leader, preparing for this inevitable change should be a big part of your strategic planning. The year 2030, the endpoint of this study, isn’t far away.
What will you do?
THE FUTURE, IT’S ALREADY HERE
Let’s start with a simple scenario; one we can all see daily. Almost all of us go to the grocery store. The most noticeable change is where we check out. More and more Grocers are adding self-check out kiosks. Commonly this is due to labor costs. The repetitive job of Cashier is being replaced by technology. While some protest and refuse to use this “new fangled technology because it replaces workers” that will not stop the change. In this instance, the change is brought about due to increased labor cost (remember that $15 an hour minimum wage) and a desire to not add that cost to the goods and services these businesses sell. We saw this with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems for Customer Service (“Press 1 for English”, “speak or say…” etc.). Most people I know not only complained about it and still do, but it didn’t stop the automation of the process. The Research Firm Gartner states that in the next few years, by 2020 specifically, “85% of questions will be answered by virtual assistants.”
Preparing your business and your workforce for this inevitability isn’t hard and if you start now the process isn’t that difficult. It begins with 3 simple steps:
- Assess the current skill sets each worker
- Determine the contributions these workers make to your team,
- Identify their willingness to learn and collaborate with new technology tools.
Managers and Supervisors can use this information to begin to develop learning opportunities for new skills.
This is also a good time to map out your current workflows and begin to identify what steps can be automated. Combining this with skill development in both hard and soft skills can begin to prepare your workforce and eliminate future disruption while also improving employee retention.
HR MUST PLAY A ROLE
You can’t do this without also ensuring your HR function not only understands the impact of technology on the workforce and workflows but that it also understands how data and data analytics impacts decisions regarding the workforce. This is not just a project for management; HR must be a key player in this. Key skills involving change management will be a critical component as well as ensuring that common human traits and behaviors are, within reason, protected from the relatively emotionless action technology will otherwise bring. It will require that HR be more anticipatory in its activities, using as Evan Sinar, chief scientist and vice president at Development Dimensions International states. “advanced analytics to provide insights to executives and help them plan a talent strategy that links to the business strategy..” This is much different than the reacting or partner role HR commonly performs. Failure of HR to respond to this change will seriously dilute its value to the business.
Preparing your business and workforce for the future should be an important part of building and growing your business. As lower skilled jobs disappear successful businesses must adapt and train their workforce on new skills to meet the challenge and succeed. Is your business ready?