We live in an era of vast technological innovations, in fact big and fast ones. The new information technologies, the explosion of Big Data and advances in visual and language recognition technologies among others have lead to a new way of understanding the working world. We are undergoing the fourth industrial revolution which delivers imminent changes in the way we understand the working world and opportunities that will be created…and destroyed. Two sides of the same coin that flip the same outcome: the automation of work.
Technological improvements expand our capabilities and when these are applied to work, they broaden the current potential for productivity. However, this is right where the conflict emerges; these improvements are linked to the automation of many of today’s jobs. A study by Frey and Osborne in the United States reveals that 171 of 703 professions have more than a 90% chance of being automated. How does the business sector handle this change? What about the rest of society? What will work be like in the future?
Innovation is the key
While there are sectors of society that may show more resistance to technology advances and the robotization of our environment, there is generally an optimistic view according to results presented at the fifth annual "GE Global Innovation Barometer 2016". Accordingly, the fourth industrial revolution is already a reality: today 61% of companies use Big Data for strategic decision making, a trend that will grow as we move deeper into the fourth revolution. Furthermore, the same percentage of companies view the need to radically innovate as essential for creating new markets and to continuing to grow. Not only that, but they are also certain that the return on investment is pretty much a given: 77% confirm that revenues and profits generated from innovation have yielded an increase in financial results. The upshot is that 68% of employers are willing to take on risks of losses when investing in innovation.
So what do employees think? Although there is a sector that fears the loss of job placements, the barometer shows surprising optimism among citizens: the vast majority view work in the future and the fourth industrial revolution as a field of opportunity in which there will be more productive work while creating employee functions of greater value. Furthermore several studies claim that labour automation is still far off, since in the majority of jobs only specific tasks are likely to be automated. Skills such as flexibility, adaptability or problem-solving needed in many jobs may not as yet be automated.
Extra savvy HR
In this respect the role the HR department should play will be essential in training and appropriately moulding employees to a new business organization model that evolves at a fast pace requiring constant and rapid change. In 2020, 65% of jobs will be new careers that do not yet exist and which will directly be related to new technologies, according to the World Economic Forum that took place at Davos in 2016. That’s why HR should not only support and accompany the creation of these new jobs, but also become an icon of modernization that the working world will experience. This adaptation will be successful to the extent that HR relies on rapid and effective solutions to meet the specific workforce and business needs through systems using predictive analysis to effectively analyze large volumes of data and draw relevant conclusions in order to make decisions for strategic planning and others affecting the business.
However, business organizations and HR departments are not the only ones who must take an active role in the new scenario. For the transition to work in the future and the new technological era to be smooth and optimal for employees and businesses, the governments and public institutions in charge should play a more active role in innovation. They need to provide a safe playing field for employees while encouraging the creation of university studies and careers focused on the needs of this new labour scenario. That’s how 57% of citizens view this according to the aforementioned study.
The new era we face will be exciting and by automating work tasks, the capacity of employees may lead to increased business productivity, so long as human capital is placed at the heart of any long-term strategy. The skills that are difficult to replace with machinery should be enhanced for this: forming a complementary system between human and robotic work, and this is one of the areas where HR departments play a key role.
By Isabel Esparza, Content Marketing at Meta4