25 January 2018

Should you fear for your job?

Many have a fear of losing their job to a robot. But could this anxiety be misplaced? and which sectors are the most at risk?

These days, small talk over lunch in the office canteen often ends up on the subject of digitisation, robotics and artificial intelligence. And more often than not, what follows is a discussion about which jobs will inevitably be replaced by robots.

According to a study by the IT consultancy Avanade, almost a quarter (24 percent) of the national workforce in Denmark worry that within five years their jobs will be taken over by a combination of robots and artificial intelligence.

But are these fears misplaced? Is there really any need to worry? For although some job functions will no doubt be automated, companies are likely to retain their employees and make use of their competencies elsewhere – often in more engaging and fulfilling ways.

There will always be a demand for jobs such as quality assurance and transformation of data to knowledge.

Says Alexander Richter, a researcher in digitisation and management, and Head of I4L at the IT University of Copenhagen:

See also: The Future is Now: But Think Carefully Before you Digitise

"But as digitisation also makes the work procedures more transparent, the employee who works as an intermediary for information will be exposed."

The abolition of routine
The manufacturing sector already uses robots to do routine jobs, and quite soon the service sector will follow suit and introduce robotics for a similar purpose.

In collaboration with Oxford University, Deloitte UK has composed a list of the job functions most at risk of being totally replaced by digital systems and robotics within 15 years. 

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The chart highlights those jobs and functions, which are characterised by standardised routines e.g. telephone salespersons, typists and related keyboard-using occupations, as being the most vulnerable to automation.

Employees must be able to keep pace with change
If you as a leader consider that certain jobs will become redundant in step with digital automation, your next step should be to examine your employees’ competencies and skills with a view to engaging them elsewhere.

Maybe, for instance, your company could benefit from its employees’ knowledge of other areas of the organisation. Or perhaps they could undertake some form of higher learning to increase their education level.

But before you get that far, the first step should be to figure out what the company needs will be in the future.

See also: The EGN Digital Dictionary for Executives and (other) Tech-novices

“As a leader, you don’t know all the systems and functions in the organisation. Therefore, you should listen to the employees to make sure that the technology you are planning to implement actually works in practice, and to ensure that you have the right people to manage it,” says Richter.

“And then you must conduct the implementation at a pace where the employees can keep up with the transformation. Otherwise they will become insecure, which results in resistance,” he concludes.

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