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TEAM (Technology + Employees = Advanced Methodologies)

Posted by Peter Colley on 09-Jan-2018 09:27:00

Part 1: Automation: Blazing Trails or Destroying Jobs?


In some areas, automation is seen as a godsend by people. Rather than have to wait for cashier to work through a queue of people in a supermarket, shoppers can head to a row of self-help machines, where waiting time is dramatically shortened. Mass production has never been so prominent thanks to machines working off an assembly line, manufacturing large quantities of products. In some restaurants, rather than wait for a courteous waiter to be available to take your order, you can simply type it in at the bar to be automatically sent into the digital air. You could say that automation is taking us forward at a breath-neck pace. 

Others may say that automation is a threat to people. And not in the world-domination threat the Terminator franchise would have you believe, but the threat to people's livelihood. Many capable people looking for work and perfectly capable of doing many of the things a machine does are unable to find an ongoing job. Even the lucky ones who have had long-standing careers in the manufacturing or logistics industry don't necessarily have the label of 'Ultimate Job Security'. And it may not be too long before they find themselves replaced 

In fact, in PwC's 2017 edition of their UK Economic Outlook report, it was reported that up to 30% of UK workers were at risk of losing their jobs to automation, with 2.25 million jobs in retail and wholesale – the sector employing the most workers – and 1.2 million in manufacturing, both sectors under heavy threat due to advances in AI (Artificial Intelligence). 

Automation also relies heavily on a set process, a rigorous routine that goes through the daily practice of 'rinse and repeat'. For a process to run on a continuous basis, there must be NO room for error. If a machine breaks down, the whole chain of work is disrupted. And unless you have a machine that has mastered the art of self-repair, you're going to need reliable human hands to get back on track. 

One of the biggest drawbacks of automation is that it is (for now) nigh-impossible to replace an entire workforce with an automation line. But that does not mean the substituting of employees for automation cannot sow seeds of discontent. Employees may feel disengaged from a company that is driven by its products rather than its people. Are you really going to want to work for a company constantly wondering whether the axe is going to come down on your head, likely brought down by some newfound mechanical wonder? 

However, we believe here at Workvine that it's not about simply replacing what has come before. And we're certainly not dancing to the tune of "The Old Ways Are the Best." Instead, we feel that technology should be driven by the human element. And while automation has proven to be a potential detriment to the job market, it is simultaneously created the demand for new jobs. In 2017, Deloitte released a report stating that even though the development of technology had contributed to the loss of over 800,000 lower-skilled jobs, said development had also allowed for the creation of 3.5 million new jobs, in turn adding £140 billion to the UK's economy in new wages. 

It's about finding the middle ground; letting technology have its moment in the sun without pushing employees into the background. 

The right approach to work is much like driving a car. Autopilot is a fancy feature you can make use of from time to time, but when you need to get towards your destination, you are you going to trust? An autopilot or the driver? 

We feel a finely-tuned approach is required. One that allows technology to drive the future forward while keeping the steady hands of employees firmly on the steering wheel. 

And Workvine have been working on the means to a productive end. One that allows the best of both worlds. All the strengths and none of the weaknesses allowing managers to retain an engaged workforce. 

Stay Tuned for Part 2 of the TEAM series, where we explore Workvine's methodologies to combat these troubling factors! 

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Topics: Workforce communication