Popular movies like The Terminator have helped instill a certain level of fear that the introduction of robots into everyday life will lead to widespread unemployment and ultimately a planet-wide robot uprising that will spell the end of humanity as we know it.
In recent years, the complexity, range, and quantity of tasks that robots can execute is astounding, and already, different types of robotic automation are taking on new tasks in the workplace - from data entry to customer support. Naturally, there is fear that with the growing number of tasks that can be automated, there will soon be no place for the average employee.
But contrary to popular belief, robots are not a threat to the existence of humans in the workforce. Rather, they’ll help individual employees maximize their own skillsets and potential, while allowing companies to accelerate progress and execution.
A recent study from ISG Research concluded that the productivity gains being made with the implementation of enterprise robotic process automation are resulting in higher productivity, but not at the cost of jobs. Rather, integration of these systems is enabling business to shift employees to deal with higher-value assignments, and process larger amounts of work.
Robots are the new entry level co-worker
The rise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a great example of a process that integrates robotics into the workplace without rendering humans irrelevant. RPA software replicates computer-based clerical processes, performing them the same way a human would. As businesses grow, the increased amount of “busy work” increases exponentially, including tasks such as basic data entry. Regulatory policy checklists can be simple to follow, yet cumbersome and often riddled with careless errors when left in human hands. Traditionally, increased workload of this type has been accommodated by hiring new, lower level staff upon which these tasks can be offloaded, or by outsourcing these tasks to offshore workforces to take advantage of lower labor costs overseas.
But these solutions fail to address the underlying issue for employees- clerical busy work is boring work and fails to maximize the potential of the workforce.
Using robots to handle the most mundane assignments will free up human workers to focus on more important and creative tasks. One study showed that 43% of US workers are bored at work, and that largely has to do with the fact that slow-moving tasks like filing and data entry are monotonous, despite being vital for the functioning of the business. Carrying out “Procedure D Subsection 42”to assist with a customer complaint is important for the company, but is unlikely to stimulate and truly engage an employee’s mind eight hours a day.
Why are workers bored? When asked, 44% feel that they are carrying out unchallenging work that doesn’t maximize their education. By freeing up workers from tasks that are bringing them down and assigning new responsibilities, satisfaction can be increased by engaging workers in more creative and high level tasks without worrying about the competency level of those carrying out the critical, lower level tasks.
The same data showed that disinterested employees are twice as likely to leave, making it clear that having people do boring jobs not only creates unhappy employees, but can put the sustainability of businesses at risk. Additionally, boredom can easily leave to inattentiveness and therefore more errors, and studies have shown that happier employees will be more productive at work. At the end of the day, automating clerical processes will allow employees to work in more creatively engaging roles and give businesses a way to cut costs while rendering a happier, more productive workforce.
The robots took my job, so I got a better one
Skeptical? Just look back at history. Every time a major technological advance disrupts the way business is conducted, it paves the way for better jobs, even if it means losing a few along the way. The ebb and flow of industry has continually led many to find their positions and skills no longer of value. A carriage driver in the 1800s needed to learn the skills necessary to drive a new car in the early 1900s, but ultimately the driver is better off and can adapt. Similarly, following the Industrial Revolution, there was a sharp decline in the number of workers necessary on farms and yet that change led to many more and better jobs created than lost. With increased efficiency in both agriculture and manufacturing, employment in those fields dropped, and the service industry, an economy based on creating one on one interaction, expanded.
When a cutting-edge technology like RPA “displaces” workers, it also leads them to the next opportunities that are made possible through the very existence of the technology. With the rise of skilled automation will come an increased demand for those who are capable of programming robots, create task scenarios that the robots will use, and help corporations incorporate automation into their workflows. In addition, by having robots automate the lower-level tasks, humans can be more efficient and effective in fulling theirs. The workforce of the future is a hybrid one, merging the efficiency and accuracy of robots with the intelligence and ingenuity of humans to accomplish great things.
When a new disruptive technology looms on the horizon, it’s easy to shun it rather than embrace it. Looking at the worst can be the easiest way to comprehend the future: “The robots are going to take all our jobs!” “It’s the first stage of the robot apocalypse!” Let’s be clear, we’re talking about roles that most humans would be more than happy to give up, and no one is advocating that the entire human race be left unemployed. Instead, it’s time to look at all the good robots are already doing and can do in the future to help humans progress and fulfill their untapped potential.
The author is the CEO of Kryon Systems
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on June 20, 2017
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