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By Elaina Farnsworth, CEO of The NEXT Education

The age of automation has arrived! It’s the progress towards intelligent transportation, autonomy, and cybersecurity. This epic shift is just beginning to be felt at every intersection. Workers need to grow as this technology does, and executives need to guide that growth.

According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, 14 percent of workers globally—roughly 375 million—may need to switch jobs by 2030 as automation advances take hold in the workplace. Many economic and occupational experts agree that those same advances will provide new job descriptions as well as the incentive to upskill workers and generate higher wages. The challenge for workers is to evolve as the technology evolves, while the challenge for management is to guide the evolution.

How does the workforce—employees, technicians, transportation engineers, the management suite—deal with this coming transformation? The answer is to maximize their greatest resource—the human resource—with several strategies. 

1. Empower Future & Current Workers

The number of jobs continues to climb thanks to new technologies being implemented. For example, Amazon has continuously invested in robotic innovation. They started Amazon Robotics in 2003 and have more than 100,000 robots working in their warehouses—but not at the expense of human jobs. In 2011, they had 30,000 full-time employees, and they have since grown to over 500,000 employees. General Motors increased its robotic applications by 10,000 while increasing its workforce from 80,000 in 2012 to 105,000 in 2016. In these cases, increased efficiency through robotic implementation, often in collaboration with humans, resulted in growth that generated new jobs.

2. Changing Mindsets

The necessity to change the mindsets of both workers and management regarding automation can’t be overemphasized. Many executives are keenly aware of the challenges ahead; it behooves them in economic terms as suppliers of goods and services to keep people in jobs and generate wages. New approaches to employee development are required if companies hope to train workers in time to move into the new positions needed by automation. 

3. Retraining and Reskilling

This is an urgent need and must be the primary focus for companies investing in automation—investing in the right training, retraining, and reskilling of employees. From teaching basic, foundational skills like digital literacy to teaching logic and critical thinking, employers need to provide continuous learning and methods of adaptation. The challenge is for companies to put programs into place now rather than awaiting the graduation of college students whose knowledge, even after earning advanced degrees, is often more theoretical than practical. 

4. The Return of Mentorships & Apprenticeship

Skilled workers are critical to a company’s success. What better way to ensure a steady stream of qualified, skilled workers with access to ongoing learning than an apprenticeship or mentorship program? Not surprisingly, a few model programs are being implemented in the automotive industry, historically known to develop skilled tradespeople. The industry crisis and subsequent economic downturn resulted in the loss of a generation of electricians, mechanics, and machinists.

The great news is that not only will the workforce survive the new age of automation, but they will thrive in productivity and earnings if managed properly. Just as automation requires industries to come up with new business models, so will they need to adapt their corporate organizations and cultures to empower their future workers. Start now. 

To read more articles from the Spring 2019 edition of #talkITS, be sure to subscribe online. We’ll send you a digital copy of the magazine when it’s released!

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