Have No Fear Even If Robots Are Here

The spread of automation and artificial intelligence has raised the alarm for some, but most U.S. workers aren’t afraid their jobs will disappear—especially since they are willing to retrain for new positions. Not only that, but many workers tend to hold a positive outlook, believing their jobs and lives will improve with the spread of AI in the workplace.

While employees may feel confident, human resources departments will have to work hard to ensure that the continuing transition to the age of information technology and machines will be a smooth one. With the rise of automation, organizations are struggling to optimize workforce capabilities and manage talent, according to Bhushan Sethi, Principal & Practice Leader, PwC Advisory Financial Services, People & Organization.

"It’s definitely one of the biggest concerns that HR and business leaders have when they look at the future of work," Sethi told Bloomberg BNA.

An estimated 38 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the workforce of the future. And while 60 percent of workers surveyed said they think long-term, stable employment will no longer exist by 2030, 37 percent say they are excited about the possibilities, and 36 percent say they are sure that they will succeed.

"A lot of people are recognizing that jobs will significantly change. They have shifted to think more about training, relationships, and potential. They are looking at the hiring process, promotions, and learning," Sethi said.

Employees are eager for new opportunities, and automation is creating an incentive to learn new skills, according to Alan Stukalsky, chief digital officer of Randstad.

Many organizations don’t have a formal training plan, instead taking the approach of encouraging employees to learn as needed, Stukalsky told Bloomberg BNA. It’s less expensive than a formal plan but still helps to improve employee engagement, he added.

"It’s the continuous learning, and in particular, the ability to gain more insight into the company that millennials are looking for. Employees are much more adaptable at getting that knowledge themselves and being more proactive," Stukalsky said.

The user experience.

Digital technology is disrupting the workforce, and HR needs to adapt if a company is to succeed, according to David Mallon, head of research at Bersin by Deloitte.

Workforce expectations are changing, with a greater emphasis on employee experience, Mallon told Bloomberg BNA.

"We are actually creating a better experience for the worker. Seeing the employee as a customer is a key part of it. The hardest part for HR is to have that mindset," he said.

Organizations that focus on internal development, promote learning, develop more teamwork, and use HR to lead the digital transformation of the work experience tend to be higher performing, according to Bersin research on HR operating models.

Where it will stop, nobody knows.

All industries are affected by this rapid technological change, according to Rebecca Henderson, CEO of Randstad Sourceright. Jobs are going away, and no one knows what the jobs of the future will be or how to prepare employees, she told Bloomberg BNA.

Even so, most C-suite and human capital leaders are optimistic, and are expanding their investment in HR, according to the "Talent Trends Survey" from Randstad Sourceright.

Companies will have to help employees recalibrate their skills as needed, Henderson said. "If companies don’t invest in training, the skills gap will widen. Immigration restrictions will create more of a gap," she added, referring to policy shifts occurring under the Trump administration.

During the recruiting process, organizations might need to focus more on skills and experience than formal education, particularly as skill requirements shift and change, Henderson said.

For example, one company’s website has potential employees write code, then they are evaluated and matched with jobs, Henderson said. If they want to progress, they can go back to the site to learn more skills, then be assigned to another job—no degree necessary. "It’s changed recruiting," she said.

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