Apparently, there is an absolute consensus that technology will replace the job or, more precisely, the people who occupy those jobs. Few sectors will not be affected – perhaps none.
Knowledge workers will not escape. Recently, the CEO of Deutsche Bank predicted that half of its 97,000 employees could be replaced by robots. A survey revealed that “39% of jobs in the legal sector could be automated over the next 10 years. Independent research has found that in the future, accountants are 95 percent more likely to lose their jobs to automation. ”
And for those in manufacturing or manufacturing companies, the future may come up sooner. This same report mentions the advent of “robotic masons”. And it also predicts that machine learning algorithms will replace those responsible for “optical part classification, automated quality control, fault detection, and improvements in productivity and efficiency.” In short, the machines work better. The National Institute of Standards predicts that “machine learning can improve production capacity by up to 20%” and reduce raw material waste by 4%.
Many predictions say that 5 to 10 million jobs will be lost by 2020. Recently, space and automotive titan Elon Musk said that machines are “humanity’s greatest existential threat.” It may be a very grim vision of the future, but now the most important thing for corporate leaders is to avoid the catastrophic mistake of ignoring how people will be affected. Here are four ways to think about the people who will be left behind when the new technologies arrive.
The Wizard of Oz is the wrong model
In the film The Wizard of Oz, the magician commands the kingdom through a complex machine hidden behind a curtain. Many executives think they can do something like this: fascinated with the idea that AI will allow them to get rid of millions of dollars in labor costs, they may believe that the best company is the one with the fewest people besides the CEO .
However, Melonee Wise, CEO and founder of Fetch Robotics, warns against such thinking: “Every robot placed in the world needs someone to take care of it, do its maintenance, and provide technical assistance.” For her, the goal of technology is to increase productivity, not reduce the workforce.
Human beings are strategic. Machines are tactics
McKinsey looks at the types of work that best fit the automation. So far, his findings indicate that the more technically the work, the better the technology can do it. In other words, machines have a predisposition for tactical applications.
On the other hand, work that requires a high degree of imagination, creative analysis and strategic thinking is more difficult to automate. As McKinsey put it in a recent report: “The most difficult activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve people management and development (9% automation potential) or apply specialized expertise in decision making , planning, or creative work (18%). ” Computers are great at optimizing, but they’re not so good at setting goals – or applying good sense.
Adopting new technologies is an emotional process
When technology enters, and some workers disappear, there is a residual fear among those who stay. It is natural for them to ask, “Am I next? How long will I be employed? “According to venture capitalist Bruce Gibney,” employment may not seem like ‘existential’, but it is. When people can not sustain themselves with work – even less with work they find meaningful – they cry out for great changes. Not every revolution is a good revolution, as Europe has discovered several times. Employment provides material comfort and psychological gratification, and when those benefits disappear, people become very upset. ”
The wise executive realizes that the traumas of new technologies stem from two issues: (1) how to integrate new technology into the workflow, and (2) how to deal with feelings that new technology is somehow the “enemy” . Without dealing with both, even the most automated workplace can easily be taken up by anxiety, or even anger tendencies.
Think back to what your workforce can do
Technology will replace some of the work, but not necessarily the people doing the work. For economist James Bessen, “the problem is that people are losing jobs and we are not helping them to develop the skills and knowledge they need to work on their new jobs.”
For example, a study in Australia found a positive side to ATM automation: “While ATMs have taken on many tasks, this has allowed employees the opportunity to expand their operations and sell a wider variety of financial services. ”
In addition, the report revealed that there is a growing range of new job opportunities for big-time analysts, decision-support analysts, remote-controlled vehicle operators, customer experience experts, personalized preventive health aides and companions online (online risk management such as identity theft, reputation damage, bullying and social network harassment, and internet fraud). These jobs may not exist in your industry. But perhaps for other reasons, this is the perfect time for you to rethink the form and character of your workforce. This new thinking can generate a new human resource development agenda, emphasizing the innate human capabilities that can provide a renewed strategy of technological and human success.
As Wise, the robot maker, put it, technology itself is just a tool that leaders use in a way that seems most appropriate to them. We can choose to use AI and other emerging technologies to replace human labor, or we can choose to use them to broaden it. “Your computer does not cause you to resign, your robot does not cause you to resign,” she said. “Companies that have these technologies make and define social policies that change the workforce.”
Joseph Pistrui is a professor of business management at IE Business School in Madrid. He also leads the global Nextsensing project.