As you consider your future career moves, try and provide career advice for your children or ponder what applicants you want to fill open positions, consider that the workplace is changing. The evolution of technology is changing everyday tasks and disrupting the current ways of business. Most employees will need to become a hybrid of service-oriented and tech-savvy in order to succeed in a more digital and knowledge-intensive economy.
Much of the research on automation has focused on the potential for job displacement. This is usually something people fear. However, we’ve been through many versions of this type of evolution in the past. It happens as consumer demands change or as businesses find new ways to do things smarter, cheaper and faster. Companies change and need employees that can develop new skills so they can remain relevant over time.
Manufacturing may be the most well-known for abrupt changes in employment due to technology and external circumstances. In the early 1900’s, as demand grew, car-building functions were transitioned from a few highly-skilled technicians to multiple repetitious roles so lower-paid workers could produce faster. In the early 2000’s, a combination of increased trade competition and better automation led to the shedding of 5.5 million manufacturing jobs in the United States.
Technology has also changed the roles in offices. Support roles used to be in abundance; however, these jobs are becoming obsolete. Mobile and VPN technology, client management systems, syncing, cloud calendars, online travel scheduling, etc. have made way for leaner office support teams and reduced the need for armies of administrative personnel.
Since the past tends to repeat itself, this is a good time to start planning for the next surge of development. The upcoming wave of automation will most likely affect job categories such as office support, food service, production work, and customer service and retail sales. Roles involving interpersonal interaction and empathy, skills that machines are not necessarily able to provide, are less likely to be affected.
As automation and innovation infiltrate your day-to-day, creating and seizing opportunities for future value become more important.
Employees and future employees should find ways to develop new skills to stay relevant in the future. According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, “jobs held by nearly 15 million workers ages 18–34 may be automated, so young people will need new career paths to gain an initial foothold in the working world.” The good news is that technology is only as good as its master, and taking classes and staying up-to-date on current technological innovations will help future employees prepare for the trajectory of the job market as it changes. Consider also adding strategy, communications and customer experience skills. By concentrating on these skills and changing as new future developments come to life, it will help develop a plan for success now and well into the future.
Employers need to begin increasing training and investing in their talent to help create a workforce that is best suited for their organization. The McKinsey report also stated, “employers will need to manage large-scale workforce transformations that could involve redefining business processes and workforce needs, retraining and moving some people into new roles, and creating programs for continuous learning.” The good news is that employees want training and they’re looking to their employers to help them become better at their job and bring more to the organization. Employers can make the most out of their new technology and automation by training and transitioning their staff to be productive, efficient, strong communicators and customer focused.
The future of work and the economy is changing, along with the demand for certain skills. Technology is altering the day-to-day mix, and this could be an opportunity to upgrade employees’ skills and make jobs more rewarding. Developing employees with a balance of interpersonal customer service skills, adaptability and the ability to be more productive by working side by side with machines can be a winning mix for a successful future.