There has been a lot of talk in the media recently about the rise of the robot, focused mainly on the prospect of people being forced out of the workplace – the victims of Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation.
An article by the Financial Times is a case in point. Published back in November 2017, “Robot army is transforming the global workplace” includes a comment from the chief executive of Deutsche Bank, John Cryan, that “a large number of people will lose their jobs as a result of changes in technology”.
It also cites research by McKinsey, which found that about 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations could be automated.
So it’s no surprise that people are quite fearful about what the future may hold, even though greater automation of existing jobs is actually likely to lead to a lot more roles being created for the people who held them.
HUMAN TO HYBRID
We’ve conducted ground-breaking research into this transformed world of work, and the questions it raises for organisations and their employees. Human to Hybrid: the next workforce frontier examines the implications of advancing technology, particularly the widespread adoption of AI and automation in the workplace.
These advancements will dramatically alter the way that work is resourced, and the shape, structure and function of the human workforce. Technology and robots will take on more of the repetitive and mundane work, while people’s skills, vision and rational and creative thinking will provide the competitive edge.
THE EMPLOYEE VIEW
So how do the employees who took part in our research view this? On the whole, they feel positive about the prospect of being part of a hybrid workforce: they believe it will lead to more interesting, meaningful and varied careers. But they are uncertain about how the future will play out, since they have no control over it and little understanding of how their employers will approach the transition to a hybrid workforce. This makes them concerned about issues such as job security, impact on their workplace culture and the skills they’ll need to be successful.
So they’re looking to their employers to reassure them, and to provide learning and opportunities to help them prepare for change. And they’re prepared to leave their jobs if they don’t get it: 51% said they will choose to leave their organisation if it doesn’t manage the transition to a hybrid workforce properly.
They acknowledge the general fear of a technologically-optimised future: many felt that media coverage of the potential impact of AI and automation on the jobs market has created an unnecessary sense of fear among working people. And 59% admit to having some level of concern about what automation means for their role and profession.
But the risk of losing their job to a machine is not their biggest concern. They are more worried about the cultural implications of being part of a hybrid workforce, and about potentially having less human interaction.
They also say they are concerned and sceptical about issues including accountability, recognition, diversity and career progression.
BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY
Overcoming this anxiety about what a hybrid workforce will mean for people personally and their job roles more widely – and the resistance it inevitably creates – will be a major challenge for employers who want to make the most of the opportunities offered by a hybrid workplace.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Employees also recognise that they will reap significant benefits from being part of a hybrid workforce: they believe that it will provide them with more opportunities to learn new skills, achieve greater flexibility, and do more interesting and varied work.
They recognise that technology will increasingly take over many of their more mundane and repetitive tasks, and free them up to focus their efforts on higher-value work. They welcome the idea of developing their skills to be able to do this, boosting their own future employability, and are demanding more learning opportunities, along with transparency from their employers and inclusion in decision-making.
Organisations must recognise these different attitudes towards the changes that are happening and make sure that their Human to Hybrid strategies takes them into account. That means exciting and motivating those who are eager to embrace the changes and reassuring, engaging and educating those who are worried by them.
What is Human to Hybrid?
For the purposes of this research, we defined Human to Hybrid as ‘‘the new dynamic where humans will work in a fully digitised and technologically-optimised environment, and increasingly work alongside robots and AI, over the next ten years”.