A good portion of the dialogue from the previous decade centered around forthcoming automation and what overall effect the robots would have on the workforce.
The conversation has mostly shifted from a fear of humans being replaced to an understanding that jobs will transition, and new roles will be created.
The Emma Coalition, a nonprofit organization started in 2017 by the National Restaurant Association and Littler Mendelson P.C., is hoping that conversation continues to evolve and results in positive action in response to what it’s referring to as the “technology-induced displacement of employees” or “TIDE.”
“One of the first goals was to say this issue is out there and it’s coming and we need people to be thinking about this, because if we prepare for it, we’ll be able to manage this and get through to the other side,” said Jim Paretti, an employment and labor relations attorney at Littler and one of the leaders of the Emma Coalition. “If we just stand around and say, ‘everything’s going to be fine,’ I think we’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
Paretti recently testified before Congress about the issue and outlined how technological disruption impacts employees — from entry-level and skilled-labor positions to middle management and executives. He urged Congress to play a role in addressing future workforce and workplace issues, noting that bipartisan legislation sponsored by senators Martin Heinrich, D-NM, Rob Portman, R-OH, and Brian Schatz, D-HI, would help develop a workforce pipeline for science and technology in the area of artificial intelligence (AI).
Paretti said the wealth of data and analytics available allows for organizations and industries to predict which jobs are most likely to be lost or replaced by automation and what jobs will be created in their place. From that point, he said, it’s about understanding what the resulting skills gap is for those employees and developing proper training to close that gap.
“The magnitude of disruption on multiple jobs in every industry is one of the most critical issues for the next decade,” said Scott Cawood, WorldatWork president and CEO. “It isn’t a question of if we will lose millions of jobs — we will — it is a question of how quickly we can reskill people so that the jobs that are created as a result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be filled.”
From an employer standpoint, Paretti said there’s an obvious business case for taking proper precautions and implementing the right kind of training for employees at risk of being displaced. Investing resources into existing, loyal employees to prepare them for a transition to a new role alleviates the risk of striking out on hiring for new roles.
“Good employers will realize there’s a business case for doing this,” Paretti said. “We have record-low unemployment, yet we have a number of jobs open that employers just can’t hire folks for because they lack the necessary skills.”
The other side of the coin, Paretti said, is employees who are in at-risk positions need to be willing to evolve and develop new skills to make the transition into a new role. What’s more, Paretti suggests that the game has changed for people entering the workforce.
“We have to, as employees, come to the realization that gone are the days of ‘I got my diploma, got my certificate or training and I can just marginally improve my skills and get better at what I’m doing and just keep doing that,’” Paretti said. “I think it involves much more of a willingness to seek out and perpetually be redeveloping yourself and [be] willing to redevelop yourself. Hopefully, your employer will have the resources available to you to do that. It involves a mind shift and there needs to be a self-investment to what I’m doing to prepare myself and how am I improving my skillset constantly.”
Paretti said he’s hopeful that the Emma Coalition’s influence will help facilitate necessary action to ensure the future is more secure for future generations.
“We can all agree now what the problem is or what the potential problems are, so now let’s work toward what the solutions might be together,” Paretti said. “Emma’s emblematic of all of those kids out there today, we need to ensure that the 21st Century is equally an American Century.”
TECHNOLOGICAL DISPLACEMENT ROUNDUP
Automation Will Change the Workforce
Lauren Rosenblatt of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes about how as Pittsburgh establishes itself as a tech hub, it’s also finding itself at the forefront of the automated workforce evolution. Rosenblatt’s article examines how Pittsburgh employers are preparing to navigate the ensuing workforce disruption.
How to Prepare Workers for the Future
Michael J. Miller of PC Magazine attended MIT’s “AI and the Work of the Future Congress” where experts discussed how workers will need to adapt along with automation and how employers can help. Miller’s article is loaded with business leaders’ insights on how organizations and the government should proceed.
Japan’s Increased Reliance on Robots
With declining population and workers in short supply, Japan has fully embraced robots, writes Motoko Rich of The New York Times. However, as Motoko’s reporting finds, getting them to work to “the standard of humans” has proven to be a challenge.
Not So Fast, Automation
In this piece for Forbes, Jim Vinoski explores how automation is impacting the manufacturing sector and provides case studies that show some smaller companies don’t see the payoff in automating just yet. Vinoski writes that there are many central production jobs at small- and medium-sized manufacturers that don’t lend themselves to automation.
About the Author
Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.