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There’s lots of talk about what the future of work will entail. While much of it is speculation, one thing that’s nearly certain is that it will involve lots of automation. In their never-ending quest to accomplish tasks more quickly, accurately, and at lower costs, companies are looking for every opportunity to automate processes.
The impact of automation and intelligent technologies on the future of work is global, according to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of UiPath.
Organizations have been undergoing digital transformations for several years, the study noted, “but one technology has truly lived up to the transformative capability: automation. It is transforming businesses and directly impacting bottom lines as a result of improved productivity.”
Naturally, the growing hunger for automation is leading to a rise in the need for people with related skills.
In fact, industry research shows there is soaring demand for professionals who have such skills. For example, freelancing website Upwork in its 2019 index of the hottest skills in the United States (U.S.) freelance job market, noted that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) skills ranked third among the fastest-growing skills in the first quarter of the year. Only U.S. taxation and Hadoop skills finished higher on the list.
Organizations are becoming more automation savvy, the Upwork report said, and that helped RPA skills earn its high ranking, and a spot on the index for the first time.
Labor markets overall are tightening, and for many skills employers are increasingly struggling to find available workers in their local areas, Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork said.
In its 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, LinkedIn placed robotics engineer second in its listing of the top 15 emerging jobs in the U.S., with a 40% annual growth rate. “Robotics is an industry on fire,” the report said. Careers in robotics engineering can vary greatly between software and hardware roles, and LinkedIn said its data shows that engineers working on both virtual and physical robots are on the rise.
As part of the research for its study, The Future Of Work Is Still Being Written, Forrester conducted an online survey of 270 decision makers from operations groups, shared services, finance, and other lines of business from the U.S., France, Germany, and the U.K from October to December 2019.
Among the key findings was that automation is advancing faster than the enterprise knowledge required to support it. With emerging artificial intelligence (AI)-based technology, organizations must adapt their change management approaches to consider culture, skills, and organizational structures to best realize their full potential.
To help organizations plan for the workplace of the future, Forrester grouped more than 800 occupations tracked by the National Bureau of Labor Statistics into 12 automation personas. Enterprises will have a mix of personas, according to the study. To succeed, they need to plan for changes at the persona level, because automation will affect each persona differently.
Automation skills best practices
What should your company be doing to find the automation skills it needs for now and in the future? The Forrester study makes a few key recommendations.
- Proactively address the 12 work personas. That means organizing, surveying, and personalizing programs within the various categories, including what Forrester calls digital elites, mission-based workers, digital outcasts, and different forms of knowledge workers, cubicle employees, location-based workers, and physical workers. These profiles and needs will diverge materially as automation advances, it said.
- Plan a structural change in how your business recruits, retains, and manages workers. “The workforce will be a mix of full-time employees and talent with no formal ties to a company,” according to the Forrester study. “Workers will move from role to role and across organizational boundaries more freely than ever,” and organizations need to be prepared for this shift.
- Build new digital certification programs from within but leverage expert partners for help. Look to automation service and platform vendors to augment your internal programs.
- Devise a formal process to identify employees with “constructive ambitions,” the study found. Higher pay and more job security will fuel ambitions for these workers and they will learn new skills. Give these workers an opportunity to adapt to new automation.
As Forrester noted in its research, automation offers incredible value to businesses. “Automation isn’t futuristic—it’s here right now, and it offers tangible business benefits,” the study stated.
“Automating repetitive, rule-based tasks enables employees to focus on higher-value activities that require advanced skills, improves employee engagement, and translates to happier customers.”
The sooner organizations figure out how to close the skills gap, the sooner they’ll be able to reap the maximum benefits of automation.
Bob Violino a freelance business and technology writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.