Automation and Jobs: The Skills Revolution Is a Necessity

Zdeňka Linková Aimtec
21. 1. 2020 | 6 minutes reading

Automation replaces people. But does this mean we’re losing jobs? The media might make that seem at first to be the case, but what’s the real situation? Should we worry about massive redundancy and thousands of the unemployed? The jobs experts at Manpower and their study named “Humans Wanted: Robots Need You” tell us the opposite. Companies are seeking employees despite automation – new positions are being created with entirely new work tasks. After all, robots can’t get by without people. Thus we can expect a shift towards completely new activities and the need for a different approach to employees.

A few figures to start with:

  • 87% of the world’s employers plan to retain or even raise their current employee count due to automation.
  • That means that 49% of the jobs in manufacturing will have to change in the next few years.
  • This will naturally lead employers to change or increase the qualifications of up to 54% of their employees.

All this taken together means greater demands on employees – but also on HR and on entire companies. That’s because it’s becoming clearer and clearer that hiring can no longer be “Just-in-Time”. Instead, companies will need to build talent and retain employees who have soft skills in addition to their specific technical skills. And the ones who can above all learn and adapt to new situations and the evolution of technology.

“We’re all concerned with how robots will take people’s jobs, and yet we aren’t dealing with the most important thing. There are more robots serving in the workforce today, but there are also more people. For three years now, our studies have been showing that most employers plan to increase or retain their current employee count as a result of automation. Technologies are here to stay, and we as leaders have to envision ways to interconnect people and machines,” states Jaroslava Rezlerová, general director of ManpowerGroup Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Industry 4.0

New challenges for employees within Industry 4.0. Source: ManpowerGroup Czech Republic.

Automation means growth

The companies that are automating the most intensively are creating the most jobs. Companies that digitalise grow, and this growth creates new types of employment. Companies that are already taking advantage of automation and undertaking their own digital transformations will confirm with utmost certainty that they will be adding employees.

Automation also changes what skills companies need from their employees. The biggest changes are expected in the area of manufacturing positions:

  • 25% of employers worldwide (22% of those in the Czech Republic)confirmed for Manpower that they will be employing more people in the near future,
  • while another 20% (15% in the Czech Republic) stated that they will be employing fewer people.

This means a growth in job positions, which comes hand in hand with a significant shortage of skills in this sector. There will also be global growth within positions where workers are in direct contact with the customer, in engineering and in managerial positions. These all demand soft skills such as superb communication, negotiation, the ability to lead and manage and the ability to adapt.


From work consumers to talent builders

In the past (and in some places even at present), manufacturers often created low-qualification positions where training was fairly quick, and thus their factories were mere work consumers. As manufacturing and logistics become ever more intelligent and full of smart handling equipment, automation and software, those positions are going away. Automation isn’t a tool for getting rid of people, but rather one for enabling people to move up to more sophisticated activities. After all, it remains true that digitalisation needs people. And people are the ones who understand internal processes, have technical skills and know how to take automation to a new level and develop it constantly.

“For both companies and individuals, having the right skills is a path to growth and adaptability, and we thus have to support people’s ability to learn, and support continuous learning for all our employees, not just those who would build their skills no matter what. Teaching has to be done differently than in the past. We have to help people learn to deal with automation and develop the new skills needed for working with machines. We need short teaching courses and cycles, so that we can catch these opportunities at a time when technologies are fundamentally changing the business models of companies and entire markets,” says Jaroslava Rezlerová.

More and more, the role of HR and of companies overall will be to develop the talents of both existing and new employees, for whom long-term career growth is important. During hiring it is now necessary to uncover potential and talent, and not just check off a list of education and experience requirements. That’s because we all stand before new challenges posed by advanced technologies such as augmented reality, simulations, big data and cloud computing, which are entering manufacturing and logistics more and more even though they are right at the start of their eras. As they expand, an expansion of skills will be needed as well.

 “Coming to terms with the decline of certain sectors and offering people a meaningful perspective for a better life doesn’t have to be all that hard. For example, we’ve retrained hundreds of people from the faltering textile industry who had difficulty finding employment into specialists for work with composite materials. This system is now running in several countries of Europe, and here in the Czech Republic, we are now focused on job roles connected with the robotisation of manufacturing, such as setters, electrical engineering experts, robot programmers and CNC machine operators,” says ManpowerGroup Czech Republic’s general director Jaroslava Rezlerová.

Manpower’s complete “Skills Revolution” study, along with other Manpower studies, is available at Manpower's Workforce Insights portal.

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