October 31, 2016    5 minute read

Technological Disruption And Automation: The Road Ahead

First Gear    October 31, 2016    5 minute read

Technological Disruption And Automation: The Road Ahead

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, and warning bells abound, with jobs and the workplace as a whole poised for a significant change. However, this isn’t the only change that we as humans should be looking forward to (or dreading). This revolution will change the education system as well as required skill-sets. By one estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new professions that don’t yet exist. Therefore, businesses, governments and individuals need to brace for this profound change.

Low Skilled Jobs Are Dying

According to research by HfS Research, a US-based research firm, the IT sector will lose 640,000 jobs to automation in the next five years in India alone. However, the job losses will only be in the “low skilled” category. The “medium skilled” and “high skilled” jobs on the other hand will see a jump of 8% and 56% respectively. The report defines low-skills as those that follow a set process and are repetitive and do not require much in the way of educational qualifications. Medium skills are those that require some amount of human judgement in the process, dealing with more challenging problems. High-skilled jobs require creative problem solving, analytics and critical thinking. According to a research by Oxford Martin School, developing countries such as China and India are most susceptible to the impact of automation in jobs, with China poised to lose 77% jobs to automation. The same figure for India stands at 69%, while Ethiopia is at the highest risk with 85%.

77% Percentage Of Jobs In China At Risk Due To Automation

What Does This Mean For Companies?

Although a lot has been written about these disruptions, the ones above are some of the initial attempts at quantifying it. Taking a cue from the above facts, we can say that job designs, recruitment patterns work culture are all going for a whirlwind spin. Human resource managers will now have to deal in a different manner with their employees due to such changes. For instance, the top skills in demand now will be very different than they were earlier. Complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, emotional intelligence, cognitive flexibility will be in vogue. As industries across the globe adjust to the new demands, there is bound to be both management and regulatory changes.

How Can Companies Cope?

So, the million dollar question here is- how to cope with these changes and disruptions? With the larger picture of workforce planning in mind, arising from the technological disruption, it is imperative that re-skilling and re-training are the highest priority. Companies will need to invest more in their learning and development if they are to swim in favourable tides with their employees. Furthermore, training in cognitive skills will be needed. Cognitive skills will take longer to develop in person than other job-related skills, but the payoff from such training will be significant in the long run.

Additionally, cross functional training will also become important as predicted by the World Economic forum report. Education and skills training are therefore poised to see significant movement and may be a major employment provider in the near future. The HR function needs to be more strategic in its approach and use novel tools to identify training and manpower needs so that the organisations can align their people and business strategies, with people strategy being driven by business and market realities to transform the employment landscape. Day in and day out, some organisations are involved in using technology to befit the business the needs, and every organisation should make it a point to not miss this bus. Real time feedback should become a reality in itself, with companies such as Virgin already using it for predicting customer needs through Google Glass. Businesses will need to adopt newer strategies to workforce planning, with centrality on data and metrics related to this particular area.

The Benefits Of Tech To Human Capital

They will need to develop both predictive and prescriptive analytical abilities to do this. Technology might also bring in a much desired aspect that continues to elude the best of employers: diversity. Technology and data analytics have the capability to advance issues like diversity and equal treatment at work, through their emphasis on objective assessments. Predictive analysis can be used to identify specific careers paths and cliffs, thereby helping managers manage talent better, regardless of age, ethnicity and sexual orientation. This technological disruption is sure to blur the the organizational and physical boundaries and firms will need to adopt flexible work newer strategies such as flexi-time and work from home.

Aligning Talent Management With Business Strategy

However, some barriers do exist in this regard. They can be resource constraints to adopt newer strategies or a lack of vision to predict these changes in specific sectors as well as a lack of alignment between talent management strategy and business strategy. The last one can be damaging as employees themselves might get disengaged with such a gap in the two. Also, firms will need to take into account the specific needs of this new workforce, which will have a totally different mindset from its preceding ones.

Move Past The Neo-Luddite View

Firms and top management need to engage with their workers and have an organic approach to overcome these barriers. Technological progress is as old as humankind. Rather than subscribing to the neo-Luddite apocalyptic view of machines taking our jobs; organisations and governments need to prepare for this change which holds a promise of increased efficiency and transparency.

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