The Robot Revolution - should Shropshire businesses be worried?

Dramatic headlines last month announced massive job cuts over the next two decades thanks to robots taking over our jobs, implying that a Robot Revolution was on its way!!

So, should Shropshire businesses be worried?

As with so many headlines, you have to analyse them carefully. The recent Deloitte’s report, on which many of the news articles were based, “From Brawn to Brains: the impact of technology on jobs in the UK” talks about the ‘profound effect’ technology is having on the UK workforce. However, it goes on to explain that not only are many low-skilled and repetitive jobs being automated, they are also being replaced by a large number of higher-skilled, non-routine jobs requiring dexterity, creativity and ‘softer’ people skills. Not so much Robot Revolution, rather a Low-skill vs High-skill Paradox!

The challenge for UK and Shropshire businesses is to navigate the up and coming technological changes whilst undertaking significant reskilling and upskilling of today’s workforce. Authors, of books such as The Second Machine Age and The Rise of the Robots, warn that businesses should not be complacent and can’t afford to sit back and wait for the next generation’s workforce to bring the necessary skills and technical acumen to the workplace.

The Deloitte report suggests people will have three to four careers during their working life, so a shift from short-term training to lifelong learning will be the norm and flexible careers and upskilling will be key components of tomorrow’s workplaces.

Jobs likely to increase include: non-routine, caring, creative and complex occupations such as health professionals, care workers, chefs, teachers, beauticians, fitness instructors, entertainers, engineers and data analysts.

Jobs likely to reduce include: routine and support jobs such as administrative, secretarial and manual roles, including check-out operators, assemblers and machine operators.

There’s clearly no doubt that all industries and sectors are, and will continue to be, affected by technological advances. For example, despite our local farmers embracing technology in recent years, it won’t be long before self-driving tractors and livestock tracking collars are an everyday sight in the Shropshire countryside.

So, what should Shropshire business leaders be doing?

Firstly, leaders need to take a proactive and strategic view of their current skill and competency levels and not only work out what they need now, but also what is likely to be required in 5-10 years’ time.

They also need to encourage their people to take a more active role in their own training and development and be receptive to opportunities where new aptitudes and skills can be obtained.

They then need to invest in ‘softer’ skills training and development for many of their employees and managers, such as emotional intelligence, active listening, critical thinking and persuasion.

The Deloitte’s report happily concludes that the UK has overall been benefiting from technological changes. However, it warns that the pace of change is only likely to accelerate, so urges business leaders to put ‘automation’ high on their agendas. Only then can UK businesses ensure that they are in a good position to lead the way in integrating human intelligence and machine capability to develop a better future of work, not a Robot Revolution!

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