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How to Overcome Workplace Automation Fears Through Employee Development

How to Overcome Workplace Automation Fears Through Employee Development

We are on the brink of the 4th industrial revolution.  Innovative technology – think artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – are now a driving force behind the design of robots, self-driving vehicles, virtual assistants and 3D printing. Many believe this will mean robots will supply us with towels in hotels and drones deliver our packages. For others, it begs the question, what will happen to employees as automation technology progresses?  Will robots replace employees? Will all this automation of services increase productivity? Will productivity increases come at the expense of employees?

The answers to these questions are complicated. In The Impact of Automation on Employment: Just the Usual Structural Change?, the authors Ben Vermeulen, Jan Kesselhut, Andreas Puyka and Paolo Saviotti have this to say:

Automation does indeed substitute for labor—as it is typically intended to do. However, automation also complements labor, raises output in ways that lead to higher demand for labor, and interacts with adjustments in labor supply. [. . . ] [J]ournalists and even expert commentators tend to overstate the extent of machine substitution for human labor and ignore the strong complementarities between automation and labor that increase productivity, raise earnings, and augment demand for labor.”

What we do know is that 42% of companies expect to be fully automated within five years, but many companies anticipate that automation will result in demand for human skills such as complex problem-solving (63%), cognitive abilities (55%), social skills (52%) and technical skills (65%). Perhaps the better question is, what are organizations doing to prepare their workforce for this transformation?  What measures is HR taking to deliver a talent strategy that allows them to remain agile and continue to grow in a way that will meet the future needs of the organization?

We also know that specific cohorts, such as Generation Z and Millennials, are growing up with more and more technology, and have expectations that automation is part of everyday life. Research shows that while most employees feel technology will empower them, the concern is it will have a more significant impact on younger generations.  Those surveyed also acknowledge the many benefits of innovative technology for employees:

  • Enhance productivity
  • Increase efficiency
  • Enable remote work
  • Reduce repetitive tasks

Many of these same employees have fears regarding their digital skills and look to their companies to promote and provide training to close any knowledge gaps and keep them current.

To address these fears organizations need to know what new skills are needed for future roles and then provide employees with the necessary customized learning paths. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help.  Innovation in incorporating brain science into learning technology has led to implementing gamification to drive engagement.  According to Eva Sage-Gavin, senior managing director of Accenture’s talent and organization practice, “The challenge for HR leaders is to shift their view of AI from an enabler of speed and efficiency to a key that will “unleash human potential.”

At SumTotal learning and career development go hand in hand. Our solutions enable employees to see what skills they need to acquire today for their role in the future. Tools such as personalized learning paths provide insight into each employee’s learning progress and offer tailored recommendations to ensure employees remain engaged in continuous learning.

This is just a quick view of how SumTotal Learning Management connects the dots between skills and competencies to deliver the required training.

This is just a quick view of how SumTotal Learning Management connects the dots between skills and competencies to deliver the required training.

Want to learn more about how SumTotal is preparing workforces of the future? Watch Derek Blake from PSAV explain how they are training their global employee population by deploying career pathing functionality.




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