A recent article in Forbes is entitled “The Unexpected Rise of the Human” and cites the unexpected benefits of having robots fill in for part of the work force so that humans can do the more advanced work that they are inherently suited for – when invited to step up and do so, that is.
It’s now possible for businesses to assign higher-value activities to their human employees, while at the same time, engaging technology to handle repetitive tasks. Thus, the new idea is that businesses have opportunities to leverage intelligent automation in order to push the envelope well beyond their normal capabilities. A few years ago, AT&T, in their annual assessment through strategy systems building, looked at emerging technologies and the changing marketplace and were surprised to realize that their workforce was not aligned with their future prospects. That discovery led to the recognition that nearly 250,000 employees did not have the skill sets for the production of the future. Thus, they began a frantic endeavor to “reskill” their workforce for the future. This is not at all an unusual situation – it’s how my company, Change Strategists, works when we are engaged with our corporate clients. Once the work of setting out future direction through the systems strategy building process has been completed, we are then involved in assisting our clients in the reskilling of their employees for the acquisition of better skill sets along with arranging for more appropriate work placements within the firm. Competencies for each specific job are clearly set out and employees can start to work on updating their current skills to match those needed for the future employment in their current positions or for jobs that they would prefer. In other words, employees are encouraged to obtain a cadre of transferrable skills that will serve them well, both at the present, as well as into the future. Generally, having so-called “pivotal” skill sets will allow employees to more easily transfer from a current position to a better and/or desired position. Boxed is a company that sells bulk groceries online and, over the past few years, has worked to automate as much as possible. Last year, they realized they could do without 75 workers in their old positions. So they told their employees, “We are going to retrain you – you don’t need a college degree – what you need is a willingness to learn.” And, indeed, that’s what has happened – a retrained workforce that can manage the technology and work cooperatively with the face of the future.
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