Workplace in the 21st century – Automation impact

The 21st century brought significant changes in jobs around the world including international corporations that experience the technological revolution and the need for continuous innovation every day. This process will be enhanced accelerated by current pandemic. The question arises to what extent technological and digital revolution affect changes in the workplace.

What can be observed is, among others, the flattening of organizational structures. CEOs and senior leadership have a growing group of senior managers who report to them and the development path is shortened. This results in greater transparency in organizations. It also gets large corporations to a more open management model, which Frederic Laloux presents in his book “Reinventing the Organization”, with ultimate model called the turquoise organizations. In those organizations we deal with a much more democratic and an inclusive management model, involving all employees of the company. Thanks to this, communication within such organizations is much clearer and more readable. Open to new ideas and ideas coming from all its members. Hence the success of new methods for collecting ideas and converting them into new products like design thinking. Collecting different perspectives and bringing people together with different experiences in the millennial perspective is seen as a good course of action. Interesting, fun and innovative. The main goal is to ask the right question to solve the right problem. The most famous anecdote is the one about the creation of the iPod. On the one hand, Steve Jobs wanted to create a new portable music player to make money for his company. Ultimately, the question he asked the project team was about how we can change how people experience music. The effect was not just a music player. An online store was created that allowed you to download new music onto your device within a few moments. He created a new model and availability of music in a device that can be taken anywhere in your pocket, focusing on high quality product. This story spoke to millennials and involved young consumers. For Apple, it has laid the foundation for tremendous economic success.

Currently, one of the most important trends affecting the workplace is the digital revolution and the increasingly common work automation in every possible dimension. This applies to both physical and office work. The observed changes show that it creates new development opportunities, although it requires openness from employees and readiness to take on new professional challenges or learn new skills. Peter Drucker noticed this in his book „The Practice of Management”: In fact, the new technology (although displacements of the workforce will certainly arise) will increase employment, especially for highly qualified and well-trained people. (…) They will not eliminate human labor. On the contrary, they will require lots of highly qualified and trained people – managers, to think and plan, and for the design, production, maintenance and management of new tools – well-trained technicians and employees.

Increasingly, people in the their workplace work with robots in various forms from factory machines through tools partially facilitating their work, to computer algorithms that perform repetitive tasks. Thanks to this they leave time for creative and critical thinking processes. Nowadays, more and more employees have to devote time to tasks that require assessment, creativity and decision-making that will not be required from robots doing work. For now, automation focuses on tasks that can be determined by a set of rules in such a way that the algorithm can repeat them, and thus independently check the next items, leaving issues requiring assessment and critical thinking to people. This causes an increase in the demand for employees with exceptional skills or those who are ready for a longer period of training and implementation to deal with such tasks.

As predicted by McKinsey & Company in the analysis of the impact of automation on the workplace, How will automation affect jobs, skills, and wages approximatelly 375 million jobs around the world can be automated by 2030. This represents up to 14% of all professionally active people. This will require them to develop new skills and find a new job.

McKinsey graph.png

In the study, McKinsey focused on analyzing the potential for such transformation, giving information about the directions in which this change is going. Change that is inevitable. The presented study shows that the main elements of work automation relate to issues of repetitive and non-specialized skills. Jobs that can be described in form of procedure, code and repeted by robot. In addition, we are able to predict potential problems and the few will only be directed to people who will have to make decisions or assess a given specific situation.

What puzzles in the results of the analysis of industries most exposed to the risk of automation presented by McKinsey & Company is the fact that they affect the most basic positions. The greatest emphasis should be placed on retraining employees and raising their level of skills in such a way that they can move to better paid positions and not be excluded from the labor market. Factory workers and assembly workers can be replaced by robots carrying out repetitive elements. There is a high risk for trade employees, cashiers, who can be replaced by self-service cash registers and automated stores like AmazonGo. Service desk employees, telemarketers who are replaced by bots supported by self-learning algorithms. Office workers whose task is to enter data into systems or accountants in service centers. An example is Accenture, which by extensively automating the activities delivered to its clients will reach the level of 40,000 automated roles. However, what should you pay attention to, at the same time Accenture increased employment from 492,000 to 505,500. Most of the people from this group have been retrained and is now doing less repetitive work.

Automation on the one hand brings benefits to employees, giving them a chance to develop and acquire new qualifications. It should be remembered that the majority of employees are millennials and employers should care about achieving this group’s aspirations by developing their skills. On the other hand, the employee must still show commitment and a desire to constantly develop, facing the risk of being pushed out of the labor market. This is a very significant risk as shown by the detailed analysis prepared by the Bloomberg agency in the tool in which everyone can check the risk they face in the position held in connection with automation processes.

Bloomberg graph.png

FOLLOW THIS LINK TO BLOOMBERG TOOL

What strikes is the large number of positions most exposed to automation with low income, and therefore with low qualifications needed, the progressing process of which may be most affected. It is anticipated that from 2025 most of the work will be done by robots or artificial intelligence. The change is gradual and although the ratio according to which we will rely more and more on automated work will continue to grow, it will not eliminate people’s work completely.

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                                          PEOPLE WORKFORCE VS. ROBOTS RATIO

Another big change resulting from the increasing automation in the workplace is making ways of working more flexible and attracting new experts. Especially in the sectors of new technologies or professional services. We deal more and more often with highly qualified employees available at any time, anywhere on earth, using new technologies and performing work via the Internet, connecting remotely. The task-oriented mode of work allows employees greater freedom of work organization, and thus also gives companies the chance to find employees, they no longer have to live near offices. They can travel provided that the tasks given to them are carried out in a timely manner. It also allows employees to focus on important values ​​outside the company, such as family and friends, their community. Task-oriented mode of work means that if the task is completed, there is no new one or there is a period of downtime, a moment off work will be more motivating, than sitting in the office for no reason. Unless properly planned for training time to upgrade employee skills.

As a result, companies must place great emphasis on maintaining such an extensive employee network, which is no longer shared by shared coffee in the office. Hence the great emphasis on company values, which are very important for building employee-company ties. As Philip Kotler notes in the book Marketing 3.0: Like creative people, companies should start thinking about self-realization that goes beyond material goals. They need to understand what they are and why they do business. They should know what they want to become. All this should be included in corporate missions, visions and values. Profits will be the result of consumers’ appreciation of the efforts of such companies working for the good of community.

 

Articles that inspired text above:

  1. Frederic Laloux, Reinventing the Organization
  2. Peter Drucker, The Practice of Management
  3. Philip Kotler, Marketing 3.0
  4. Chui, S. Lund, P. Gumbel, How will automation affect jobs, skills, and wages?, McKinsey Global Institute, [online], https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/how-will-automation-affect-jobs-skills-and-wages#
  5. Bowles, Is Accenture’s SynOps automation solution a killer app or a job killer?, Diginomica.com, [online], https://diginomica.com/is-accentures-synops-automation-solution-a-killer-app-or-a-job-killer
  6. Whitehouse, M. Rojanasakul, Find Out If Your Job Will Be Automated, bloomberg.com, [online], https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2017-job-risk/
  7. Chowdhry, Artificial Intelligence To Create 58 Million New Jobs By 2022, Says Report, forbes.com, [online], https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2018/09/18/artificial-intelligence-to-create-58-million-new-jobs-by-2022-says-report/#2124773d4d4b

Author: Michal Tarabula

Experienced business services professional with over 13 years of experience, working in this diversified world of ours. Trying to work out how we could understand each other better.

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