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Companies Are Upskilling Workers in Response to Job Automation

Nov. 12, 2018
“The bigger impact of automation will be on the very nature of jobs. Therefore, organizations need to not only manage the adoption of automation, but upskilling and transition of their workforce just as well.”

As automation adoption continues to change job roles and demand for new skills, companies face urgent needs to upskill workforces.

A new survey by Capgemini talked to 800 executives and 1,200 employees about how organizations are responding to job automation.

The survey cites Tesla’s Elon Musk who admitted that an overreliance on robotic automation and too few human workers is partly to blame for delays in manufacturing Tesla’s Model 3 sedan. “Yes, excessive automation at Tesla was a mistake,” he said. “To be precise, my mistake. Humans are underrated. We had this crazy, complex network of conveyor belts. And it was not working, so we got rid of that whole thing.”

Research by Professor Daron Acemoglu (MIT Department of Economics) and Pascual Restrepo (Boston University), found that a gap between new technology adoption and the skills to use those technologies is likely to result in diminished productivity gain and inefficiencies.

In fact, the survey found that 58% of companies say automation is not yet meeting executives’ desired goals of increased productivity.

Employees share this view as well. Except for India, China, and France, most employees do not think that automation has helped them to improve their productivity, according to the survey.

In order to capitalize on automation’s potential, organizations need a balance, according to the survey.  “I believe that the loss of jobs owing to automation will be more limited than anticipated earlier,” explained André Richier, policy officer at European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs.

“The bigger impact of automation will be on the very nature of jobs. In this sense, there will be hardly any area of work not impacted by automation. Therefore, organizations need to manage not just their digital transformation and the adoption of automation, but upskilling and transition of their workforce just as well.”

Upskilling has the potential to save $1.2 billion over 3 years, Capgemini reports. Furthermore, it can boost employee morale and output with 90% of organizations with full-scale upskilling initiatives say their workforce is assured and supportive of the automation initiatives

The report goes into detail on how to design and implement a successful upskilling strategy,  however here are the five basic tenants:

  •  Assess your technology investments and the extent of their impact on the workforce
  •  Define the skills you need and when you need them
  •  Make the upskilling program a win-win for your people and the organization
  •  Align learning with organizational strategy
  •  Enable leaders to communicate effectively and manage change

The recognition of upskilling is already apparent with a recent  Capgemini study showing that 29% of employees believe their skill set is redundant now or will be in the next 1-2 years, while 38% consider their skill set will be redundant in the next 4-5 years.

 Moreover, 47% of Generation Y and Z employees believe their current skill set will be redundant in the next 4-5 years. 

The report concludes that “the main barrier to achieving these gains lies with the gap between executives and employees on attitudes towards automation. Organizations must start by making sure their leaders engage with their people, encouraging them to embark on the automation journey as true partners.”

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