The future of work: hype vs. reality

A number of news sources have been sharing articles about robotics, automation and the disappearance of jobs. And some are downright scary — like The Guardian’s “Robots will take our jobs. We’d better plan now, before it’s too late,” that ran Feb. 1, 2018. A simple web search on the term “robots taking jobs” reveals over 33 million hits.

So, what’s the truth? Should we be gearing up for a man vs. machine showdown? Before we get to that answer, let’s review the facts.

This is not a new fear

The fear of automation is more than 500 years old. The education and workforce development team members at my organization often point out that Queen Elizabeth I rebelled against automation because she had “too much regard for the poor women to forward an invention [an automated knitting machine] which, by depriving them of employment, would reduce them to starvation.”

There are countless examples of situations in which automation and technology were expected to negatively impact humankind. But for the most part, it hasn’t.

Automation has eliminated jobs, but it has also created new jobs. Thousands of people have titles like automation executive, database specialist and social media manager that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. Again, we haven’t seen a significant increase or decrease in the amount of work available worldwide as a result of automation.

Disruptions may be on the horizon

However, the pace of automation is increasing, which means there is a shorter interval between new technologies that affect our lives or change our jobs.

Longevity in humankind continues to increase. It’s not unrealistic to find today’s generation living into their 90s, and it’s likely that our children could easily live to be 100 years old or more. And therein lies the challenge — and the fear — about automation, as we see it at our organization. Human longevity, coupled with the increasing pace of automation, means that someone’s job may change multiple times or even be eliminated during their working life span, and that didn’t happen to our predecessors.

Are you doing your part?

As a leader, how have you responded to changing jobs within your organization? Do you have an ongoing education plan for your most valuable asset — your employees?

As a dealmaker, do you recognize that the companies you work with may have jobs or skills that will become obsolete? How do you value the commitment these companies make to ongoing training?

The answers to these questions and more will be explored during our lunchtime panel discussion at ASPIRE Pittsburgh 2019, Thursday, March 21, at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown. I’ll be moderating this panel discussion, and I hope you can join us to learn how dealmakers and organizations are responding to the “future of work.”

 

Suzy Teele is the head of Marketing & Communications at Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing, the nation’s leading collaborative in robotics and workforce innovation. Structured as a public-private partnership, ARM works with 200 member organizations to accelerate the advancement of transformative robotic technologies and education to increase U.S. global manufacturing competitiveness.