The Robotic Revolution – Hand Over Your Job, Please | DCR Workforce Blog

The Robotic Revolution – Hand Over Your Job, Please

Robots, automation and artificial intelligence will replace 5.1 million human jobs by 2020, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). This will significantly impact our society, our economics, our employment and our HR functions. Job displacement in some areas will be offset in job gain in other areas, according to “The Future of Jobs” report.

However, the jobs replaced will tend to be low-skilled positions, while the jobs created will lean toward high-skilled positions, creating an ever widening labor gap. For example, the report predicts that mobile internet and cloud technology, along with big data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) will render many office and administrative jobs redundant yet programming and equipment operation will increase.

Overall many professionals will require a new skill set to stay relevant and fresh within the new ecosystems they’ll have to operate in. Social skills such as emotional intelligence, persuasion and teaching will be premium skills along with collaboration.

The robotic revolution

History tells us that anytime there is a technological revolution, there are clear winners and losers. Due to previous advances in technology, workers in fields such as elevator operations and ice-cutting had to retire or find new work because technology made their jobs obsolete. Similarly, clean energy has caused oil, gas, wind and solar companies and their workers to be winners, while creating losers in the form of coal miners.

A survey by the Pew Research Center reveals that 65% of respondents believe that robots will be able take over most jobs within the next 50 years. And 10% are workers who are losing their jobs to an automated workforce

Yet another report from Citigroup and Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that almost half of U.S. jobs are at risk, with household service robot workers and automation expected to drastically reduce the need for human workers. The report notes “the bulk of service occupations, where the most U.S. job growth has occurred over the past decades, are now at risk. Already the market for personal and household service robots is growing by about 20% annually – a trend that is likely to continue.”

The Boston Consulting Group also recently reported that investment in industrial robots would grow 10% per year through 2025 in the world’s 25 biggest export countries, leading to lower costs and higher efficiency. Replacing manufacturing workers with machines could cut labor costs by up to 90 percent. Today, there are an average of 66 robots per 10,000 workers worldwide.

Global Robotics Market

global robotics market

Source: The Boston Consulting Group

Robots in the workplace

We’re approaching a time when machines are outperforming humans in even cognitive tasks such as playing the strategic games of chess and go. As a society, we must confront the question if they really can do almost anything we can do and we’re seeing more robots in the workplace, what’s left for us?

Some say we’re able to have more leisure time, but time without money to do things is not very valuable. Additionally, humans are designed to work, to build, to do.

Early indicators suggest that big business stand to reap the most rewards from the robotics revolution, through cost savings, efficiency and the reduction of human errors. But it also will cause losers in the form of employees losing their jobs to new technology. For instance, truck driver is one of the most common occupations in over half of American states. There are currently approximately 1.8 million truck drivers in the country, earning a median annual salary of $40,000. These jobs are typically available to individuals who lack skills or college degrees. Yet some industry analysts predict that the robot revolution will cause truck drivers to disappear, especially with the impending self-driving cars, big rigs cannot be too far behind.

The impact of the robotic revolution is not just applicable to blue collar work and robots replacing human workers. Already, several white collar professions are losing out to robotics. For example, the Washington Post is using robots and algorithms to write tweets and snippets about the 2016 Summer Olympics. And robot doctors are being tested all over the world to take over routine surgeries such as tonsil removal or appendectomies; in 2015, approximately 570,000 “robo-surgery” operations were performed. A report from McKinsey Global Institute found that up to $9 trillion in global wage costs could be saved if automation took over knowledge-intensive tasks such as analyzing consumers’ credit ratings and providing financial advice, called “robo-advice,” which would cause huge upheavals in that highly skilled profession.

The rise of working robots and the upcoming robotic revolution pose a variety of questions for the American economy as a whole, and particularly for HR professionals who will have to deal with a whole new type of workforce.

Keeping the “H” in HR

Human resources has traditionally been the department of the business whose whole purpose is to manage a company’s arguably biggest asset – its workforce. But now with the workforce poised to consist of not only humans but also robots, we envision that there will be some necessary changes needed for the HR function.

HR professionals, along with other management executives, will need to consider various questions and issues that will arise due to the robotic revolution. For example, what will U.S. businesses do in the face of this trend? Will they reinvest some of their cost savings due to robotics back in the business to create new jobs for human workers, or will they just be added to their bottom line? And who is in charge of overseeing robot workers?

And how will the robotic revolution impact education for the upcoming generation of workers? Will students need to focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Match (STEM) or will they find more use in vocational training and technical skills. Nano-degrees in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are water cooler topics in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

What are you doing to stay relevant in the robotic revolution?


Disclaimer:
The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Neha is responsible for developing and overseeing marketing strategy and brand identity at DCR. She and her team collaborate on marketing and sales strategies and product development for new initiatives.