Many professionals are fearful of the employment issues linked with automation and company-wide digital transformation. Currently, these shifts toward digitization and automation are neglecting to take staff members into account, according to a recent study from the University of London.
In the study, commissioned by Microsoft, 61 percent of respondents said they had anxiety around company change initiatives that introduce new technologies. The study also found employees were worried about the effect of automation on job security (59%), and the ability to handle changes (49%). Furthermore, greater than 50 percent of company leaders said their industries will deal with disruption.
“In last 12 months, we have been hearing that the biggest challenges businesses face in digital transformation are issues around culture and bringing people on the way,” Clare Barclay, chief operating officer at Microsoft UK, recently told Computer Weekly.
Company leaders have to look into the anxiety that individuals with copious experience in their field may have when confronted with automation of particular facets of their work. While feeding into a fear of change is risky, the blend of human expertise and automation can drive untold innovation.
The Face of Automation
When you think of workplace automation, you might picture large robotic arms welding cars on an assembly line. However, automation takes all kinds of forms and can be found in almost every workplace, from HR programs that scour resumes for keywords to self-checkout kiosks at the supermarket.
Automation is most effective when it comes to replacing repetitive tasks. With more advanced machine learning algorithms coming to market each year, it becomes easier to replace tasks with more variables and less repetition. For instance, some media outlets are using automation to write recaps of sporting events like football games.
While company leaders have to deal with cultural change linked to automation, the study found less than a quarter of companies are actually doing so. One company featured in the study said it had effectively embraced automation by creating diverse teams from all parts of the company, from various locations and from top to bottom. The company was able to effectively leverage every viewpoint in overcoming obstacles.
Among the more substantial conclusions from the study is that younger employees are more afraid of digital disruption than older staff. The study discovered that people most afraid of digital transformations in the workplace belong to the 18-24 age range. People who reported the least job-related anxiety were ages 55 and above. Barclay noted younger generations don’t have the benefit of experience in trying to grapple with issues related to change and the unknown.
Clearly, anxiety around automation is something organizations have to confront. That being said, there is tremendous opportunity for people just beginning their careers. There will be fewer transactional jobs for today’s younger professionals, and businesses have to seriously consider any skills gap and training needs.
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