Just two years back, Automation hogged the global limelight when it became a part of 46th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2016. We had a gathering of leaders from across the globe, international media, global enterprises, academia and social citizens et al talking about it under the aegis of - “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
In very few words, Professor Klaus Schwab - Founder & Executive chair World Economic Forum, hinted that the era of automation heralds new a paradigm of opportunities and challenges, as famously quoted below.
Last year, World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim was reportedly quoted saying that about two-thirds of jobs in the developing world may be lost to automation. Significant strides have been made in technology domain of computing, artificial intelligence, and robotics. This reality will enable machines to take over human tasks!
In an article published in the Hindu Business Line, DD Mishra, Research Director at Gartner, “Ongoing reductions of headcount in outsourced businesses (due to automation) will eventually result in a scenario where (only) 30 percent of the workforce will remain relevant”. Tech analysts are predicting a tectonic shift in future workplace moving away from traditional pyramid to inverted pyramid, with a lean base at the bottom and heavy on the top.
Historically, as technology has evolved, it has made work simple and faster, needing fewer inputs and interventions. In the hierarchy of Simplicity Vs Complexity, the simplest, predictable, repeatable tasks are automated first. Anything, abstract and complex comes under the radar later. This thumb rule, when applied to the real world, helps to detect the job families, which are more susceptible to automation vis-à-vis others. Accordingly, the organizations are strategizing on the tasks, which are the best candidates for automation while identifying the value-added, complex tasks, which can best be left for human workforce since this would require more advanced skills to automate.
Future is here and now!
Smartphones, smart homes, smart cities, smart cars will logically translate into smart skills, smart jobs, and smart industries. Global enterprises are progressively moving towards Industry 4.0, which has internet of things, automation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, cybersecurity at the core of its functioning.
Since automation benefits in several ways, it is not hard to imagine why organizations are keen to join the Automation bandwagon:
- Initial investments decrease costs eventually (long-term benefits)
- Reduces human-interface related costs (eliminates several phases of employee lifecycle related activities such as L&D, engagement efforts and activities)
- Enhanced output within the same timeframe
Going Automation is definitely lucrative and certainly results in job elimination; does it mean that the entire workforce is on the verge of extinction?
Not really. A new Korn Ferry research report published recently on the Global Talent crunch forecasts global labor shortage of 85.2 million skilled workers by 2030. Such research estimates challenge the hypothesis that Industry 4.0 would mean just all job losses. Instead, these insights underline the fact that new future would need skills and if corporates do not invest in skills development and reskill their employees, it would become the beginning of the end for those organizations. The world is hungry for new age human skills and jobs will undergo a tremendous transformation. Evidently, it creates urgency to reskill the low-end job employees to move up the value chain, so that they become part of Industry 4.0.
Skills like creative intelligence needing noveau ideas, creativity, fine arts and social intelligence like negotiation, persuasion, relationship-building, care coupled with domain knowledge. Moreover, it is predicted that the extent of automation would also depend upon other variables like demographic details, wage levels, per capita income of the countries.
New Success Stories
At the turn of the millennium, a smartphone was an unheard of luxury and today, we can’t think our lives without it – from purchasing to navigating, we are completely clueless without our smartphones. Any jobs, skills, manufacturing related to smartphones never existed some years ago and today, there are job profiles for smartphone production (manufacturing industry), app developers (Android, iOS), aggregators (Uber, AirBnB), UI/UX (IT industry), social media campaigns (Creative industry) and impact of these developments can be seen in the entire ecosystem.
For e.g., Uber, on one hand, has impacted the automobile industry adversely with lesser number of people opting for car ownership (to avoid loan liability, vehicle maintenance and fatigue from driving); on the other, has benefitted the society overall by mobilizing the general public through shared car services model and has transformed the lives of many drivers and their families by empowering them with higher living standards. Healthcare industry is betting high on robotic surgery for better accuracy, faster resolution, and lower costs.
Gaming apps are a big billion-dollar industry in itself and new age developers are scouted through hackathon challenges. The point is we are already in the thick of automation action and have new job skills workforce employed to build a future-proof solution for our clients. The Indian industry too is very quickly adapting to this reality and tech giants like Infosys is investing heavily in re-factoring talent through massive focus on training and re-skilling their employees to hit the ground running.
Automation is riding on the wave of fourth industrial revolution – digital revolution. The world has witnessed three industrial revolutions before, which too have transformed the world in a radical way -- for people, for job families, for nations, and for world-order. This industrial revolution will be no different and is expected to have similar aftermath resulting in world leapfrogging into Smart Industry (Industry 4.0) – eliminating certain job families and creating new ones.
Since the world is still grasping with new developments and its impact alongside the complexities it is displaying, there is a state of ambiguity resulting in fear of unknown. Yet some are still reveling in the past glory days of IT boom, not realizing the urgency to transform to navigate the next. Digital wave is here and the future is shaping up now. It presents a new world of opportunities to explore. Early adopters will shake off the fears, define the future and lead the way. Are you one of them?
Raghavendra K will be part of the Talk Show at the People Matters TechHR 2018 Conference. Click here to register.