The use of digital technology is becoming more and more prevalent in the workplace, but what are the real effects on employment?
We know that digital technology affects all areas of our lives. We can manage our lives almost entirely through our smartphones, they are everywhere from arranging meetings to paying bills. Technological innovations have also found their way into the workplace, completely reversing styles.
The way digital technology is being integrated into the workplace can worry workers. As the technologies that enable artificial intelligence (AI) and automation are able to replicate elements of our work, it is easy to see what causes this inconvenience. Half of UK workers believe they can be replaced by automation, artificial intelligence or robots in the next decade. 61% are concerned about MI.
While it is inevitable that digital technology and MI will replace some low-skill manual labor, the good news is that it will create more jobs than it eliminates. According to the World Economic Forum, technology will replace 85 million jobs globally, but will create 97 million new jobs by 2025. In addition, it improves skilled positions and enables employees to be more efficient and productive.
How is MI and Automation Changing the Workforce?
As with any industrial revolution, digital technology is likely to replace jobs that are low-skill and easy to automate. The British Central Statistics Office (ONS) anticipates jobs at risk of automation including waiters, loaders, bar staff, kitchen and catering assistants.
On the surface, this is worrying, but these roles account for 7.4 per cent of all jobs in the UK alone. The cessation of physical labor has always been a byproduct of technological development. These professions have become unnecessary due to technology and have been replaced by jobs that are in higher demand.
The roles with the lowest risk of dismissal include dentists, teachers, and doctors. In addition, senior executives and managers should be classified in the low-risk group for automation purposes. All of these roles have natural human elements that make them indispensable and irreplaceable. Some roles that are considered medium risk are likely to be automated in the long term, including truck driver and construction worker. This means that these functions are vital but can be made more efficient, allowing employees to work more efficiently.
The real challenge of digital technology
The fact that digital technology creates more jobs than it eliminates means that the biggest concern is not the net loss of jobs, but the lack of digital skills.
Soft skills, including critical thinking, problem solving, stress tolerance and self-management, will be in great demand. This is good news because these skills are human in nature. So, while some soft-skilled roles will not be required, robots cannot replicate the essential qualities of the future.
However, the Institute for Learning and Working said the UK was on the verge of a “catastrophic” skills shortage, especially in digital skills. Understanding everyday technical skills, such as performing tasks using a mobile phone or computer, is the greatest need. Furthermore, there is a growing demand for expertise in areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud software, and automation. However, what we see is that knowledge of those who leave school and university is incomplete in both key areas.
Why are emerging technologies good for employees?
Technologies such as artificial intelligence and automation not only create more jobs but also allow individuals to be more productive in their current and future roles. Increasing efficiency is again a safety concern in the workplace. If your work can be done in half the time, why do you keep working full time?
Research has shown that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, workers were spending more time doing their jobs. The 2019 CIPD survey showed that three out of five British workers spend an extra 10 hours a week at work. One-fifth of them said they were overworked at work and “under excessive stress,” and another two-thirds had health problems at work. Similarly, although working from home has led to a better work-life balance for many, in the UK, employees work an average of two extra hours a day and don’t check out before 8pm. Therefore, if they can increase efficiency, they can help fatigue workers.
By automating or eliminating repetitive, manual elements of work, they can focus on key areas of the role. This greatly increases productivity, which leads to an increase in the value of the output. It is essential for any business, but reduces the amount of stress placed on the workforce and gives them a better work-life balance.
Use everyday technology to increase efficiency
Take the medium-risk role of a heavy truck driver as an example. At first glance, we might not think that much automation is needed. But other than going from A to B, drivers have a great deal of responsibility. An essential part of their role is to ensure that the merchandise reaches the right person. If paper documents are collected, their incorrect placement will not only be dangerous, but can lead to further data entry, data loss or administrative process.
These processes make a difference whether a driver finishes work on time or goes to the office and spends an extra hour or two a day managing. To avoid this, simple solutions such as delivery programs that generate electronic certificates help reduce the burden on the worker.
Similarly, managers in any type of business can benefit from effective business management tools that use artificial intelligence to support their strategic decision-making. These tools never make decisions for them, but allow the development of smart and well-grounded action plans.
The development of technology always brings concerns about the future of people in the world of work. But these fears were never realized. People as groups were not replaced by computers when they became prevalent in the workplace, and AI will not completely replace human labor. It only increases efficiency, allowing better performance and better quality. This is good news for managers because workforce efficiency is key to profitability. It leads to an optimal work-life balance for employees.
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