For employees and job seekers, the topic of automation in an organization’s workforce can be challenging to understand. On one hand, you have the thought process that automation and new technology will reduce the number of jobs. On the other hand, technology makes your job easier; you know that automation gives organizations the chance to streamline tasks for employees to make them more efficient. So is automation and technology creating or destroying human jobs? As part of the workforce, should you be for or against it?
While advancing technology might feel intimidating, the truth is that automation refocuses job tasks while elevating employee efficiency. This increases the demand for an independent workforce and brings more jobs back to the US. Automation will ultimately play a key role in organizational growth.
While automation has transformed and will continue to transform many industries, it largely redefines rather than eliminates jobs. For example, check-in kiosks at airports. This technology caused a refocusing of skills rather than a reduction in the workforce, allowing airline personnel to dedicate their attention to more complicated transactions while kiosks streamline the check-in process and reduce wait time for customers. Amazon’s Kiva robots have a similar story. While the robots help fulfill warehouse orders, human workers are needed for all tasks involving fine motor skills, judgment, and unpredictability. In the case of Amazon, automation helped each type of worker (human and robot) to focus on what they do best, allowing the company to grow both its robot and human workforce by 50% in 2016.
In the independent workforce, automation may increase demand for flexible workers who have skills and agility that machines are unable to provide. In fact, 51% of global executives say their organizations plan to increase the use of flexible and independent workers in the next 3 to 5 years, according to Deloitte. This segment of the population provides high-quality work, deep industry knowledge, and is highly educated. More than 4 out of 10 independents have a 4-year college degree or higher and 20% have advanced degrees. Independents have the specialized skills needed to quickly and efficiently complete a project, can work offsite, and can assist in niche areas such as software engineering, product management, or application development.
As workplace automation becomes more widespread, much has been said about negative repercussions for American workers. However, automation may actually bring labor and production jobs back to the United States. Along with the growth of a flexible, independent workforce, automation will reduce the incentive for companies to use low-wage labor overseas. Automation eliminates the need for many low-paying offshore jobs, allows companies to bring labor and production back to US soil, and increase the need for high-skilled activities, according to a recent policy report from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Independent professionals can fill these high-skilled roles.
Automation and the technology that drives it is not the enemy. Innovation in the workplace should be encouraged if not demanded. Check-in kiosks and robots make airline and warehouse workers more efficient while increasing customer service and productivity. Independent workers that have a higher skill level to operate machine are in increasingly high demand, thus bringing jobs back to the US. Automation and advanced technologies aid organizational growth through competitive advantage, redefining company goals, and business development. As organizations and industries continue to become more diverse, automation and technology will continue to positively affect the workplace.