Future-proofing your workforce for the new decade

'Rather than being enslaved by robots, there is an argument that we are actually being set free from a robotic work-life.'
20 December 2019

Want a progressive workforce? Don’t encourage your organization to fear the robots. Source: Shutterstock

The pace of technological change continues to accelerate and transform our lives, businesses, and our world.

Helping your employees make sense of the evolving landscape, and understanding their reactions to continuous change or upheaval, is more important to the future of your business than the technology solutions that you implement.

On this digital journey, many organizations will follow the change curve, which is a model originally developed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in the sixties. Although change is widely regarded as the only constant in life, it doesn’t make the grieving process that we all go through any easier.

If we put the change curve model alongside the tech headlines over the last few years, there are clear parallels. News stories around emerging technologies that promise to make our lives easier and automate repetitive tasks were initially greeted by fear and scary articles that painted a picture of a dystopian future where the rise of the machines will take our children’s jobs.

Upon closer inspection, headlines around artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and robotic processing automation (RPA) showed classic symptoms from the beginning of the change curve. It began with denial and the blaming of tech companies for their irresponsibility, followed by blaming ourselves for being so reliant on technology.

As we progress through the change curve, headlines around the impacts of technology on the employment landscape spoke of uncertainty, confusion, and doubt. Unsurprisingly, these are all emotions that we encounter when faced with any significant changes in our lives.

However, we not only preparing for life 2020 but a new decade of opportunities too. Acceptance, rationalization, problem-solving is slowly replacing headlines around robots coming to take away our jobs, as we recognize the need to evolve and adapt to the changes ahead.

The moment of clarity?

There is an argument that rather than being enslaved by robots, we are actually being set free from a robotic work-life by machines so we can get back to being human. By automating repetitive and mundane tasks and allowing machines to do what they are best, we can finally enable employees to shine in areas that technology cannot compete.

Communication, content creation, creativity, emotional competence, mentoring, strategy, management, empathy, and the ability to put things into context are just a few skills that machines cannot replicate. We are all creators now, and the smartphone in our pocket enables us to do more than previous generations could only imagine.

Forward-thinking businesses are already building a new future where machines and humans do what they do best. When they seamlessly work together, companies can dramatically increase productivity and progress forward much faster than their competitors.

Businesses that think beyond the digital frontier and bring their employees along for the ride by investing in them will be the ones that thrive and survive in a new digital frontier.

Many businesses have foolishly rushed into adopting the latest shiny tech solutions at the expense of its people and used it as a transparent cost-cutting exercise. Ironically, the short-sighted approach of using automation to remove human employees could put brands on a similar path to Thomas Cook, Kodak, Blockbuster Video, and Toys R Us.

The next decade will involve the rise of the hybrid workforce where humans and technology complement each other in hybrid teams across the globe. Welcome to a new digital world where a Doctor’s ‘bedside manner’ will become crucial in AI-dominated healthcare.

If you are serious about future-proofing your workforce, you must prove that you mean it when you say your employees are at the heart of your business. Leaders must retire the short-sighted approach of leveraging technology to automate processes and make people redundant.

By thinking bigger and beyond the next few years, you can build a future where a hybrid workforce thrives and unleashes a potential that was previously thought of as impossible. We have all seen first-hand what happens when even the most prominent brands fail to adapt to a world of digital innovation.

Understanding the threats and opportunities on the road ahead is just a small part of building a smart and efficient business fit for a digital world. Ensuring your staff has a new set of skills and capabilities to work alongside automation rather than fearing it will help secure future growth.

The need to transform your company culture with a digital mindset and supporting continuous learning can no longer be ignored. The speed of technological change is driving a rising expectation to deliver work faster than ever before. Leaders are tasked with investing in upskilling their existing workforce while also inspiring new digital talent too.

Motivating employees to embrace rather than fear technology is the employer’s responsibility and should be a priority. It’s time to redesign how we work and finally retire analog mindsets from the workplace.

In a digital world, we need to equip modern workforces with the skills to think differently and work in new ways. Technology will only take your company so far. It’s your people working seamlessly alongside it that will help you see the art of the possible.