Organizations embracing the ‘automation first’ era experience greater productivity, enhanced customer experience, and improved workflows. The vision of a robot for every person is becoming real and a top priority on many companies’ agendas. New technologies, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), also drives the demand for specialist skills. According to the LinkedIn 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, “Robotic Engineer” is number two on the list of the top 15 emerging jobs in the United States (U.S.).
The future of work is here – but what should organizations do to make sure no one is left behind? What are the possibilities created by the digital world? What education trends are shaping the future of work? These were some of the topics addressed during our fireside chat with Jamie Susskind, author of Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech; Claudia Pedersen, global learning consulting director at UiPath; and Dan Oros, Romania head of marketing at Google. UiPath Chief Evangelist Guy Kirkwood was the moderator.
Discussing technology and the society
Discussing education and the future of work
On a quiet afternoon in November 2019, this group gathered to discuss some of today’s most challenging questions posed by the future of work. Here are seven of their main reflections:
1) Current technological breakthroughs are comparable with the invention of writing thousands of years ago
The invention of writing 5,000 years ago had a profound impact on the world. It has allowed humans to communicate information more effectively and more efficiently. Writing has also allowed us to store and pass information throughout generations.
According to Susskind, “we generate more data as a species now every couple of hours than we did from the dawn of time until 2003 and more and more of that data is caught and captured and stored”. He argues that such technological progress “could be as important, a turning point for humanity, like the invention of writing was or the agricultural revolution. Because how we store and communicate information and process it is fundamental to how we organize ourselves as a society.”
2) Businesses that are reluctant to implement new technologies risk losing a competitive advantage, causing a negative impact on their workforce
Pedersen explained, “Services will evolve, products will evolve, and so, for those types of businesses that are not considering automation or any type of technology that is disrupting now, they might end up in the nearby future not being competitive enough. And that has an impact on the workforce as well.”
Pedersen isn’t alone in her concern. According to a study prepared by the European Political Strategy Centre, the European Commission’s in-house think tank, “job creation is projected to be highest among firms that are able to rapidly turn around their operations and continuously reinvent themselves.” Companies that remain stuck to legacy paradigms and refuse to consider adopting automation or other new technologies will lose competitive advantages in the market.
3) Education and workforce training will pave the way for future economic growth
“How countries and states choose to organize their education systems is going to have an enormous impact on their future prosperity,” said Susskind.
As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, along with rapid advances in technology, the development of digital competences and skills are crucially important for the future of work.
According to a report published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group, “fostering continuous reskilling and lifelong learning across the economy will be critical in order to maintain a labor force with the tools needed to fuel inclusive economic growth and to ensure that companies can find workers with the skills needed to help them succeed and contribute their full potential to the economy and society.”
4) Lifelong learning and self-led learning as a new approach to education
Traditionally, we completed our studies before entering the workplace. Then, we followed a fixed path in our careers that culminated in retirement. Nowadays, workers change jobs much more frequently than they did in the past. At the same time, tasks within a job transform constantly.
Going forward, the future of work proposes a new paradigm: for you to progress in your career, you need to constantly upskill. That said, we are swiftly transitioning from the “study-work-retire” model to a “lifelong learning” model.
“I really believe in the power of the individual to shape their life and community and environment. I would like to see that aspect of the self-led learning, where we evolve from depending on others to prescribe us the learning environment to an environment where you learn and pick by yourself; where you are disciplined enough and motivated enough to have your own trajectory and you also contribute to that.”
- Claudia Pedersen, global learning consulting director, UiPath
Employees should be empowered and incentivized to adopt a “self-led” approach to learning. As part of this process, employees get to personalize their learning journey, by diagnosing their needs and formulating their own learning goals.
5) Companies are actively contributing to the learning ecosystem through courseware and communities that were not available in the past
Industry leaders like Google are committed to investing in education offering a wide range of free courses through Google Digital Workshop.
“For the last three years in Romania, we’ve provided digital training to more than 100.000 students and companies. We believe that through digital skills they can succeed and then create much more value, for them and for the companies,” explained Oros.
At UiPath, providing free automation training to students and the workforce through dedicated programs is part of our overarching goal to democratize RPA.
For more information about how democratizing RPA can transform your organization, we invite you to read our article Your Right to Robots: Why the Future of Automation Depends on RPA Democratization.
6) Developing workforce trainings with a human-focus dimension reduces employee anxiety that stems from new technology
As a best practice, companies should explain digital transformation initiatives to their employees and address any employee concerns directly. We also see many organizations investing in employee groups and forums that offer places for employees to share their experiences with peers in their departments or across departments.
Pedersen suggests organizations look at change management through the lens of human-focused learning by examining “every detail of the human experience and understand what they need and how much [employees] can absorb.” This level of introspection helps make automation skills easily accessible for anyone.
7) Trust is emerging as a core value in our relationship with technology, at every stage – design, production, use, including training
According to Pedersen, “employees need to see the technology, test it, visualize it in a safe environment, hear from other people, and be encouraged by what we call technology ambassadors within our customers. At the end, you need to reward people for completing their learning journey through certification or badges.”
Building trust should be an ongoing effort from the employers’ side.
The future of work is now
Throughout the fireside chat, it became clear that while the participants’ insights offered a kind of framework for success with the future of work, the same advice applies to organizations’ success today. The future of work is also happening now.
Communication, building and nurturing trust, and offering opportunities for reskilling and upskilling employees are essential for overcoming resistance against new technologies and should be prioritized accordingly. In the words of Susskind:
“Digital technology is an extraordinary gift to humanity. The comfort, prosperity, excitement, interest, and opportunities for human flourishing that it brings will always be so powerful that to try and resist it in a kind of Luddite destruction way is never going to work … Don’t try to turn the clock back to the last industrial revolution, because it won’t work. But do try and channel what into something that works for everyone”.
To learn more about the impact of automation on the future of work, get your free copy of the Forrester Consulting report The Future Of Work Is Still Being Written, But Who Is Holding the Pen?