The launch of the first British Robotics Seed Fund is indicative of the role that robotics and automation are going to play in providing huge productivity benefits to economies on a macro level. However, for all its benefits, this news will undoubtedly continue to fuel the concept that robots will replace humans in the workforce.
Robotics, automation and artificial intelligence are set to change many aspects of the traditional workplace. However, as with every industrial revolution in human history, it’s important to remember that whilst some jobs will be lost, new ones will be created if employers take tangible steps now to upskill their workforce and create a culture of innovation.
The true mark of responsive leadership today is in offering the training and a new workplace culture that can prepare people for the digital shift. Our recent research, conducted with Opinion Life, reveals that 88 per cent of employees surveyed globally feel that this responsibility lies firmly with their employers. Creating an environment where new innovations, skills and ideas can flourish will be the key to ensuring that humans and robotics can work side by side in the future.
Employers facing new digital demands
The digital disruption we are experiencing is forcing societies and businesses to create new learning environments to train their labour forces to meet the demands of the digital industry. Employees want to be ‘digital change agents’ and are looking to acquire new skills, but are also asking for employers to offer more training opportunities to meet requirements of the digital era.
This year’s World Economic Forum focused much of its discussion on the future of work and responsive and responsible leadership. Workers are placing more responsibility on employers to listen to their needs and enable them with the skills required to be successful as they face changes being brought about by the digital economy.
But what can businesses be doing now to re-train their employees for the digital age, and more importantly, why is this the true mark of responsive leadership today?
The employers that implement a culture of innovation from a grassroots level will give rise to employees that are confident in thinking and solving problems independently. Implementing innovation through programmes and schemes that support creativity in a digital environment, is a good first step but must be demonstrated from the top down. An assured workforce, comfortable in their role in digitised space will play a significant role in fostering innovation providing they feel as though their voice is being listened to and any change is the result of speaking up about how employers can do business better for both customers and staff.
Upskill or die
BMC’s study of over 3,200 office workers in 12 countries worldwide suggests that many workers are excited by the potential for technology to enhance their work lives and create new career opportunities, but an average of 40 per cent fear that they will be unable able to keep up with the rate of change required by digital businesses. Of those surveyed, 88 per cent place the responsibility to create innovative cultures on their employers.
Increasing digital competency has to happen now. In the age of the employee, employers must take charge for upskilling their workforce today. If employers can get the culture right, the expertise will follow creating an environment where new ideas, skills and innovations can succeed. This can be anything from creating a nice office to simplifying operating processes for streamlined and efficient output.
Globally, office workers strongly believe that employers must create an innovative culture to retain staff and enable workers to be successful with increasingly digital roles and responsibilities. However, the level of encouragement employees believe they are currently receiving to drive change in the workplace varies greatly. Only 64 per cent of respondents in the U.S. saying they feel empowered by their company culture to lead innovation, whereas 90 per cent of employees in Mexico feel their workplaces encourage them to drive change.
The study also highlights that the frequency with which management seeks ideas for change and how much employees feel listened to also influences how encouraged or empowered they are to drive change in their roles. 57 per cent of U.S. workers feel that leadership in their organisations only provide the opportunity to suggest changes during performance reviews, while Europeans (39 per cent) instead are asked to provide more feedback via surveys. U.S. and U.K. workers feel among the least empowered to drive change (64 per cent and 47 per cent, respectively) in their roles.
The substantial risk is that businesses that do not proactively enable their employees with the skills necessary for digital industry, or develop new, continuous methods for engaging employees to suggest and drive change, are likely to face extinction.
Robotics and automation are likely to be the game changers of our generation, bringing to life the fictional movies that we consume with such enthusiasm. Only there is real work to be done if we are to truly capitalise on the vast potential of robotisation and automation from both a personal and professional standpoint.
Whether business decision makers like it or not, businesses today are increasingly becoming shaped by new technologies and this particular shake-up, in the form of the fourth industrial revolution, will be a mammoth challenge which will require investing in technology and employees to work together harmoniously in complementary roles. This means enabling employees to feel on par with, if not superior to, the robots replacing their old jobs. This is an opportunity for businesses to show how valued their staff are by nurturing them to deliver in new roles created around machines.
It is clear that more needs to be done to create and foster the most productive and efficient workforce that will contribute to the booming digital economy by innovating from the ground up. It is also clear that more needs to be done to ensure that our current workforce has the necessary incentives to continue to grow and strive within an organisation supported by technology. But also that our future workforce is provided with the right tools to effectively apply themselves to the workplace where man and machine work side by side.
Paul Cant, Vice President EMEA, BMC Software
Image Credit: Tatiana Shepeleva / Shutterstock