AI & Robotics: Embracing the technology revolution

Without a doubt A.I. and Robotics are providing the biggest technology leap that we have seen in a very long time and will affect every business and individual.   

The power of technology to create change in the global job market has never been felt more acutely. The move towards smart cities and smart workforces is already in motion: in retail, our supermarket staff are being replaced with automated tills; in offices, personal assistants are becoming artificial; in engineering, vehicles are driving themselves; at banks and insurance companies, robot process automation is fast becoming integral to success.   

In our recent Technology: Voice of the Workforce survey of over 1,600 tech professionals, 39% of respondents see automation technologies replacing traditional human processes as the biggest disruptor to the industry in the next five years. The accompanying anxiety that increasingly intelligent machines will diminish jobs across practically every sector continues to fuel conversations among employees that the future is uncertain.    

The government’s investment in the sector is crucial in ensuring that Britain remains digitally competitive on a global scale and it is good to see positive steps that are being made such as their commitment to invest in developing local skills and technology hubs for A.I. However, the responsibility to embrace the digital revolution also lies with both businesses and individuals, to ensure that the UK is prepared for the future. 

Often, confronting these new realities provokes the concern that self-learning machines, which can feel like they’re developing minds of their own, are doing our jobs better than we can. Amid these worries, here’s how we can prepare to embrace technology revolution: 

Shift expectations 

First, we need to accept that the jobs we hold now won’t look the same in the future. Similarly, the jobs we are poised to take up as a consequence, may not yet exist. Nothing is more exemplary of this than the emergence of roles such as Cyber Security Architects, App Developers and Data Scientists, which didn’t exist 10 years ago. These jobs came from nowhere, as digitalisation developed in ways we couldn’t have anticipated.    

While some roles will be subject to substantial change, they won’t necessarily become redundant – technology still needs human interaction to be successful, but we must alter expectations around the future of the workforce. We need to be nimble and prepared for the unpredictable. 

Invest in upskilling   

New government initiatives to foster education in cyber security and technology for children is a commendable step to counteract the risks of a tech-first future. However, the skills gap faced by adults is likely contributing to why the rise of advanced technologies is disconcerting. Many people won’t feel they have the skills in place to compete with automated programming that eliminates the risk of human error. 

In fact, Networkers’ Voice of the Workforce research revealed that 57% believe there is a technology skills shortage – a void in preparedness which will challenge the future of business.   

The most successful companies will identify where the knowledge gaps lie in their current workforces, and will support them to upskill, investing in new talent to complement. Their employees will feel emboldened that they can keep a competitive edge with the elevated skills that new technologies demand.

Focus on Diversity   

Amid this rapidly changing technological landscape, the companies that are adapting most successfully are those that have equal numbers of men to women. Facebook, Google and Amazon are all examples of companies with high percentages of female employees and their industry positioning demonstrates the importance of attracting and retaining women into these roles.    

However, as specialist recruiters within the technology industry, we see first-hand how few women choose careers in IT.  In our Voice of the Workforce survey - 54% said they believe gender diversity is improving; however, worryingly 43% are unaware of what their organisations are doing to address the lack of gender diversity in their organisation. 

Improving gender diversity within the tech workforce is a key part of addressing the overall digital skills deficit and also helps to provide businesses with variety of fresh and unique ideas. Businesses need a range of personal, technical, financial and management skills alongside the scientific knowledge to effectively manage the implementation and social impacts on the business in order to stay ahead. To encourage more women to the tech sector, businesses should consider adopting strategies such as flexible working and return to work schemes. 

Cultivate a futuristic mindset now  

Finally, workforces need to feel assured that their companies are agile enough to cope with technology disruptors.   

Our research shows that only 34% of tech professionals believe their companies are proactive in implementing changes that will allow them to survive in the future technology landscape. Clearly, there is a need for business leaders to instill confidence in the longevity of their companies’ aims, by embracing forward-thinking measures to progress in tech.  

Accept change is upon us  

Many enterprises are reluctant to fully invest in digitalisation until the security exposure risk is significantly diminished. Realistically, we don’t know exactly what this exposure is going to look like even in 10 years’ time, but we are certain that the companies who don’t put future-gazing measures in place now will get left behind, and so will their employees.   

Engaging the right senior leadership and senior experts to facilitate and embrace these changes will be key in helping businesses adapt accordingly. It’s true that many jobs as we know them now are under threat – but, there’s no need to panic. Advances in tech will naturally create space for new opportunities, as long as businesses are prepared to welcome these changes and adapt in ways that will benefit their workforces. 

Chris Rosebert, Head of Data Science and AI Networkers 

Image Credit: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek / Shutterstock