Will technology adoption take away jobs?
A topic of discussion that since 1930 raises its head whenever there is vast adoption of technology or introduction of technology that changes the way we operate.
The pandemic of last year has once again got the technology and its adoption to focus. The unprecedented events that followed the announcement of the pandemic forced businesses to turn to technology to help them keep continuity in business. Safety norms dictated by the pandemic made Technology adoption became even more imperative post lockdown. As the economy, opened-up businesses were under pressure to look at ways to improve efficiency & elevate the customer experience.
The education sector surprisingly was one of the first to pivot. Virtual meetings, Work from home, contactless delivery, multichannel retail were all a result of the quick adoption of technology.
Incorporating tools that made it easy for the employees to find business solutions and connect with their customers was one route taken.It was these quick adoptions and the willingness and ability of the employees to take these changes in their stride, was what enabled the businesses to keep the wheels rolling despite the global lockdown. Hence it becomes imperative that going forward both organizations and employees keep an open mind to adopt technology, keep abreast of the latest tech solutions being offered. Organizations now need to actively invest in upskilling their employees on an on-going basis to develop and empower them.
Some other technologies that saw quick adoption in the last year has been the integration of Blockchain technology, adoption of Virtual and augmented reality to enhance education & customer experience. Introduction of Robotic store assistants in retail to elevate the customer experience. Robotic assistants, also called bots, walk with the customer as he/ she browses the store. They answer the customer queries; help them find the right product. Their in-built AI enables real-time learning, making them capable of giving answers to a wide variety of questions. They also track stock levels and keep tabs on fast-moving items and communicate back to the supply chain team in real-time; resulting in more efficient stocking and better availability of products. While bots add to the overall efficiency of the store operations they cannot replace the human touch this will require floor staff to have different skillset going forward to engage customers.
Artificial intelligence has been a part of the manufacturing sector for a while but now has extended its tentacles to help retailers tailor the customer experience. AI works two ways. On one hand, understands customers' interest and needs and serves the content and products that align with their needs. On the other hand, feeds the findings and user learning into the system as an input for developing new offerings. It highlights effective supply chain planning and accurate demand forecasting.
While this quick adoption of technology, also called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, will fundamentally change the world and the way we work and live, it is unlikely to lead to unemployment.
What will change, though, is the skillset requirement for employment. Hence job seekers will need to ramp up their skill sets. They will need to make a significant investment in upskilling and reskilling themselves.
A recent PwC AI study has found that “Any job losses from automation are likely to be broadly offset in the long run by new jobs created as a result of the larger and wealthier economy made possible by these new technologies.”
In fact, the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs will be displaced while 97 million new jobs will be created across 26 countries by 2025.
These newly enhanced jobs will create benefits for both businesses and individuals who will have more time to be creative, strategic, and entrepreneurial.
Unemployment may not happen on account of the dearth of jobs but on account of lack of skills.
The need of the hour is to quickly put tools and mechanism in place for reskilling people for an AI-ready world.
A failure of timely action on this front would result in a gap in the skills required and those available in the market, which will mean unemployment on one side & a lack of skilled personnel on the other. So, instead of worrying about job losses, companies need to get their in-house Learning & Development teams to create the required models for training to prepare employees for an AI-based future. True upskilling will require training to develop an AI-ready mindset. Job Seekers need to view, upskilling and reskilling as an investment in their future rather than as a judgement on their calibre.
Another place where companies can offer support is in collaborating with governments, educators, and non-profit organizations on multi-sector upskilling and reskilling initiatives like Generation Unlimited and the Reskilling Revolution. The initiative aims to train and future proof of one billion workers by 2030.
While technology scares many of us. We feel that may well be the end of the road for us one thing this past year has taught us is that agility is the answer to survival, so it is time for all of us to Pivot our learning, drop the blinds and open our eye & minds to new knowledge and new skills, and once again the world will be your oyster.