Automation in the workplace is here. No longer the stuff of fiction, human beings are interacting with robots and artificial intelligence on a daily basis. Every moment, there are more and more breakthroughs in robotics and the digital world forming brand new strategies for your business. Within this world of machines and digital automation is the heart of your company, the people. How can you prepare your workforce for the automation age and a vastly changing workplace? It’s important to create an environment where technology and humans can work in harmony.
Automation in the Real World
We’re already sharing the road with self-driving cars, as huge companies like Google, Uber, and Apple test their version of these driverless vehicles. Microsoft has added AI assistants to Skype to join the likes of Alexa and Siri. Huge banks are beginning to digitize the majority of their banking processes. Advances in linear motion technology have made automated assembly a smooth and efficient process for factories around the world. Even delivery trucks could soon be automated. In the first commercial delivery of it’s kind, 2,000 cases of Budweiser recently made a 120 mile run in a self-driving truck designed by Uber’s new acquisition, Otto. These companies are pushing the boundaries of automation research and finding new ways for humans to interact with technology.
Who Will Thrive
Many employees fear that technology will make their jobs obsolete, but some jobs are more susceptible than others. Bots are transforming assembly lines in factories, as well as the way consumers purchase products. Digital self-service is a new reality, with the internet even reducing the need for a physical sales force. These developments are redefining every aspect of the workplace including management, social contracts, jobs, and careers. Decisions made today will have a long-term effect on your company’s future.
The employee who survives and thrives in this changing environment is one who stands out among a thinning workforce. This change is due to specialization, and the ability to manage both people and technology simultaneously. These hybrid employees have the experience and flexibility to shift seamlessly between the two realities.
The Inflection Point
Just as the internet took over the world much quicker than many had anticipated, the pace of automation may be surprising. The key is to watch for the inflection point, or the moment of sudden takeoff. While a fleet of only driver-less cars may be a way off, the technology is there and just waiting for the green light to go into full acceleration.
Companies who prepare for this moment and are ready for the changes that need to be made and come out ahead. You need to think about your organization as a whole, and how automation could be beneficial both in the short and long term.
One of the first adopters of automation in the modern age was the automotive industry. Automating many of the tasks in their body shops and paint shops increased productivity and gave them large gains. Factories have been practical about only automating the most repetitive tasks. Integrating automation has required continual improvement in the auto industry, and people are still very much needed to redesign any processes that need to be adapted to more complex jobs. This example teaches companies that you should be realistic about automation. The evolution of your company is accomplished by balancing costs versus benefits and being sure that automation is cheaper and faster.
Early Intervention to Keep Key Employees
By identifying the first processes that bots will be able to accomplish, managers can analyze which members of their workforce will be most affected. They can strategically move specific employees into positions that suit their long term goal, and the company’s long-term automation goals.
The automation age requires a new form of leadership that can allow talent to evolve with the company. They also need to adopt hiring strategies that think long term. In ten years, you might have a much-diminished workforce. Identifying new hires that will be able to transition from one phase to the next will be critical. These employees will need to have the ability to be retrained many times.
By staying ahead of an ever narrowing curve, leaders can prepare their workforce for the automation age by recognizing the inflection point, retaining their best employees, and adapting future hiring strategies. The most successful companies will thrive by adopting a new form of leadership.