Surviving (and thriving) in the automated workplace

Bot

Americans are deeply divided about the impact of automation on the workplace, even as they recognize its inevitability, according to a new survey.

Roughly one-third of respondents (34%) to the American Staffing Association (ASA) Workforce Monitor survey say “automation will be a positive development for the workforce in the next 10 years or more,” while 31% say it will be negative (and 35% offered no opinion).

This stands in contrast to a recent survey of U.K. workers, which showed that nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) believe automation “has increased the number of roles on offer.”

The survey of U.S. workers shows that more than four in five Americans (83%) “think that increased automation will revolutionize work,” with a near-equal number (82%) believing that workforce automation is inevitable. (To the 18% of respondents who disagree that automation in the workplace is inevitable, it’s already happening!)

Speaking of denial:

  • Nearly three-quarters of respondents (73%) to the U.S. survey “do not believe that their work can be easily replaced by robots or artificial intelligence”
  • 85% say that “the human factor outweighs any benefits from mechanizing their job”

Many CEOs and CFOs might have a different opinion about the irreplaceability of these respondents, as well as the value of their “human factor” (relative to, say, cutting costs).

At least most of the U.S. survey respondents are realistic about one thing.

“The ASA Workforce Monitor found that nearly nine out of 10 (87%) Americans believe that to succeed in this new world of work, additional training will be needed,” said Richard Wahlquist, ASA president and chief executive officer.

Training’s a good start, but the truth is that workers also will have to be more proactive about providing added value to the enterprise. The easiest people to replace with automation are the ones who are “just going in and doing their jobs,” which is another way of saying “mailing it in.”

How to beat the bot

To thrive in the automated future, employees need to adopt a stakeholder mentality in which they are always aware of the goals and objectives of the enterprise. This enables more strategic thinking, which results in better decisions and better outcomes.

The ability to collaborate also can increase an employee’s value in an automated world. A member of an important project team generally is a lot harder to replace than the person who sits by themselves under headphones every day.

More training, a strategic mindset, and the ability to collaborate effectively all can help enterprise employees increase their value in the automated workplace. What other skills or traits would be useful?

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