By Guest Blogger Elisha Tropper
The World Economic Forum recently released their Future of Jobs 2018 report which simultaneously hailed and warned about the imminence of what it refers to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This revolution refers to the technological advancement across all aspects of society that will substantially disrupt the labor requirements and, by extension, the workforce and its livelihoods, across all industries. The disruption, according to the study, will ultimately net a positive number of new jobs, but will “entail difficult transitions for millions of workers and the need for proactive investment in developing a new surge of agile learners and skilled talent globally.”
Regardless of which sector of the economy you occupy, it is crystal clear that automation is no longer an option. It must be an essential focus of every single business, from manufacturing and medicine to accounting and transportation. Like transformative implementable philosophies such as Lean Manufacturing and Continuous Improvement, the effective design and execution of automated solutions in any organization can only result from a forward-thinking, company-wide cultural shift. As the WEF study so pointedly observes, the rise in robotics and automation will eliminate human tasks, not jobs.
“As has been the case throughout economic history, such augmentation of existing jobs through technology is expected to create wholly new tasks—from app development to piloting drones to remotely monitoring patient health to certified care workers—opening up opportunities for an entirely new range of livelihoods for workers.” In other words, employees need not fear for their jobs per se; they need to understand that flexibility and continuous training for new tasks will be the new norm – if it’s not already.
For businesses, the challenge is to strike the balance between maximizing current output, investing in new technologies, and preparing its workforce for a future that will require different skill sets and knowledge bases. Just as machine operators incrementally replaced manual laborers along the production line, so too will the developers, programmers, builders, and installers of smart technologies replace the current machine operators. The fact is that the implementation of new technologies drives business growth AND both job creation and the altering of existing positions, but only if the business can provide the proper vision and new-skills-based-training to a motivated and adaptable workforce.
Most companies will face significant challenges as they pursue a new equilibrium. It is inevitable that skill gaps and the disruption they carry will emerge at all levels, from the boardroom to the factory floor. These skill gaps will have the potential to wreak havoc across companies, workforces, and even entire communities. It is up to the management of every company to anticipate what is coming, embrace its imminence, and develop transformation plans that encompass solutions at both the process and people level. The successful companies of the future are those who recognize today the requirements of tomorrow, all the while understanding that both technologies and skill sets are permanently in a perpetual state of flux.
Elisha Tropper is the CEO of Cambridge Security Seals, a Pomona, New York-based manufacturer of tamper-evident security devices.