Future of work | Brave new world - will technology wipe out the workplace as we know it?

Brave new world - will technology wipe out the workplace as we know it?

The wonders of technology have transformed 21st Century living.

The touch of the button or voice activation now triggers services and processes that have revolutionised every facet of our lives. We are digitally enabled at home and at work. But what will this mean for the future workplace? Indeed, can we imagine a future where places of production no longer require a human touch?

Rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence mean the working environment is set to be a very different landscape by 2030, a recent report suggests.

But should we fear what these advances mean for wider society or should those of us working in the field of human resources begin to consider a ‘brave new world’ and pave the way for new applications of labour?

The ‘algorithm’ of employment versus automated productivity will be challenging, outlines McKinsey Global Institute’s latest report, Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation.

There will be a “rich mosaic of potential shifts in occupations in the years ahead,” it states “with important implications for workforce skills and wages” that will match or exceed the scale of change that has already been experienced in agriculture and manufacturing.

Up to 30 percent of the hours worked globally could be automated by 2030 depending on sector and occupation. Activities most at risk will include physical ones, such as operating machinery and food preparation, with data collection and processing another key area for change - undertaken better and faster by machines.

As a company that produces workforce management software, the irony of this significant shift, is not lost on us. Our own Crown WFM products have replaced the traditional: the filing cabinets full of personnel files, the paper-based processes that schedule shifts, the clocking-on systems which would need to be scoured to manage payroll. We are part of the transition but for a system that offers ‘people solutions’, we are far from bleak about the qualitative role that humans will play in our future workplaces.

Indeed, our colleague Dr Pietro Micheli, Professor of Business Performance and Innovation, at Warwick Business School, who has authored two of Crown’s guides on digitisation, business analytics and automation, is optimistic about the future.

The opportunities to enhance customer experience and integrate service provision could empower those who undertake roles such as managing people, applying expertise, and social interaction – areas where human performance cannot be matched.

“To some extent the technologies are already there, but it’s the culture of the organisation that needs to change. The type of people recruited and deployed for different tasks is fundamental,” he says.

“We will rapidly begin to see the automation of various types of jobs, not necessarily low skilled ones as in the past, but processes and jobs that are data-rich, codified and have to produce a standardised output, For example, in financial services, accounting and auditing firms, intelligent machines will replace humans, as they can undertake the same tasks in more efficient ways.”

The challenge ahead will be for business leaders and HR experts to work together to create a vision of an organisation’s ‘future self’ and actively plan for key modifications applying what we know of the ‘here and now’ using business analytics tools.

Only by looking at the bigger picture will we be able to determine a route map for the future and identify needs in respect of recruitment, people development and the acquisition of automation.
The future can be bright if we are prepared to look far enough into the future.

To download our guides to Digitisation, Business Analytics and Automation and Digital Innovation and Transformation visit: https://www.crownworkforcemanagement.com/digital-whitepapers/?utm_source=HRG

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The UK's leading supplier of Workforce Management solutions to medium-to-large organisations in both private and public sectors. We offer HR, Time and Attendance, Scheduling/Rostering and Workforce Analytics software, working with clients to identify areas for improvement including improved service levels, reduced labour costs and success in the market place.