These days, there’s no shortage of predictions for what the future automation, machine learning, and big data will bring to industries across the globe. Every year, it feels like we’re on the cusp of finally inheriting the world The Jetsons predicted—complete with self-driving cars and robotic service providers. But these new innovations aren’t exciting to everyone. For some workforces, they inspire white-knuckle, lump-in-the-throat anxiety. And you’ve heard the one about robots coming for all of our jobs, right? Yeah. Me too.
But as a Recruiter, it’s hard for me to get too worked up about the prospect that the robots are truly going to replace me or my field. After all, the advent of sites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder was supposed to put me out of a job years ago. That’s what we all feared anyway, but I’m still here. I’d even be willing to wager that all of those job-aggregating sites helped people see just how valuable a human touch can be in a career search.
It’s undeniable that technology changes will alter your company or your industry, but that change doesn’t have to be bad. If your industry is seeing a surge of innovation, take it from someone whose been there: Keep the robots on your radar, but don’t fear them. In fact, if you pay careful attention to the tech innovations in your field, you could actually pick up some cues on where and how to refine your workforce to safeguard for the future.
Robots can’t lead teams
It’s important to remember what robots can’t do. Humans will always have the edge on things like the strategic or change as well as the management skills to develop and grow your workforce. In a new world where somethings can and will be automated, leadership skills will reign supreme—and robots won’t be able to catch up.
And one of the most important skills to be training your leader population on now is change management. Leaders who understand how to position lean manufacturing, for example, as a positive for workers will have a strong advantage. Because the truth is, automation or machinery doesn’t always lead to layoffs. It might, instead, lead to safer work on the floor or higher production. Workers may find they can produce more with less work or that they need to be trained to oversee the machines on the floor, rather than being on the floor themselves. Find leaders now who can lead and inspire your teams through the changes that these innovations will bring.
Somebody’s got to maintain all of these machines
In most cases, the manufacturing industries that are looking to innovate their work with new automated tasks have already integrated a heavy dependence on machines and even automation, and in every case, these machines or robots need someone to check the machine, to maintain it, to program it. And as I mentioned, someone’s calling the shots on where to invest and when to scale. Someone’s vetting technology based on industry trends and negotiating the purchase.
It sounds logical, but the time to start planning for a more tech-savvy workforce is now. Manufacturing companies (and other industries) that are stacking their leadership teams with people who understand how and when to operationalize these innovations as well as how to coach their teams to embrace technology in the name of more efficient work will come out on top of the so-called robots. After all, its people that are going to be accountable for the strategies and the outcomes these innovations deliver.
I don’t want to sound too cavalier to those who are concerned about the future of their livelihood. This isn’t to say that we can’t or won’t be changed by the innovations we’re seeing today. But as someone who survived the changes digital innovation delivered in Recruiting, I try to remind my clients that new technologies should help them rather than striking fear in the heart of their workforces and to encourage them to consider how they need to be recruiting and training their talent to stand these changes up and maintain them. These innovations can be a good thing. Simply put, we need to be adaptable to the changing landscape, but we’re never going to get rid of people.