Intelligent machines replacing humans in the workplace is no longer science fiction. Research from McKinsey & Company reports that as much as 45 percent of the individual work activities can be accomplished with artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, and computer automation that is available today.
The agriculture industry is being transformed by driverless tractors guided by satellite GPS systems. Surgeries are performed remotely with robotic assistance. Baxter and its sibling Sawyer, the workplace transforming robots from Rethink Robotics, are giving mature-market manufacturing companies a cost-effective tool to compete through flexible automation.
The impact, while not universal to every job, is not confined to the nonprofessional ranks. The McKinsey research suggests that up to 20 percent of the activities routinely performed by CEO’s can be automated as well. Likewise, some jobs—such as home health aides—are unlikely to see very little of their jobs automated for the foreseeable future.
You can rest easier about the coming changes to how you work if you plan on retiring in the near future. Everyone else must answer this question: “How will you remain relevant in a world where there is no market for repetitive work?”
This isn’t a “skills gap” problem contributing to unemployment. Boston University economist James Bessen writes that there is little evidence to support a major link between the shortage of skilled workers and todays’ unemployment rate.
This is a worker irrelevance problem for the future. We are quickly nearing the day when fewer people will be needed to perform work as we know it.
There are no guarantees, but there are actions you can take today to increase your relevance tomorrow.
Embrace what’s coming.
Mindset and thinking matter. You are the architect of your own experience or perception of every situation.
Complaining about machines taking jobs away from humans doesn’t really matter.
To quote the Borg from the Star Trek: Next Generation series, “Resistance is futile.” History is full of examples of technology replacing the need for humans.
The alternative is to take responsibility for your own thinking about the impending change and start becoming comfortable with the prospect of a machine augmenting a significant portion – and in a few cases all – of your current work activities.
Embracing change doesn’t necessarily alter its impact. It does allow your brain to more quickly focus on how you respond in a positive manner.
Develop strengths that add value.
What are your strengths? More specifically, in a world where repetitive work is done by machines, what are your natural talents that that add value?
For instance, are you naturally gifted at establishing relationships with others? Are you good at solving unique problems? Can you look at seemingly unrelated pieces of information and recognize how they all fit together?
Automated passenger kiosks in airports reduced the number of customer service agents needed, but it didn’t totally eliminate them. There are still people needed and available to solve problems. Likewise, there are jobs that possibly could be automated, but society wants them to be performed by humans.
Two excellent resources for identifying and developing your strengths are Strengths Finder®, pioneered by the Gallup organization, and CoreClarity, an organization that helps individuals and teams uncover and build on their unique talents.
Ask what else and what if.
Your organization will need new ideas to flourish in the future. Machines, at least for now, excel at repetitive work not ideation. Asking “what if” spurs the uniquely human creativity and innovation necessary to uncover new possibilities.
Job relevancy requires more than creativity, however. You must also identify new areas in which value can be added. That is where asking “What else?” comes in.
What else do you need to learn to succeed in your job? What else can you do to help your organization stand out in a crowded marketplace? What else can you do to create more value for customers?
Important questions remain.
Will organizations use technological innovation to increase value to customers, or will they only see cost savings? Will society prepare future generations to flourish, or will they relegated them to low-value, low-wage jobs?
No one knows for sure. The one certainty is that your action today will guarantee your success tomorrow.
Randy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority on helping organizations achieve positive results in a world of accelerating change. To bring Randy to your organization or event, visit www.penningtongroup.com , email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 972.980.9857.