Are Employees Being Prepared For Automation?

I’ve written numerous times about the possible impact automation will have on the workplace, and on the need for education to take center stage, both in the workplace and across society as a whole.

Whilst most of the narrative on this topic has been around how to retrain those whose jobs have been automated, there is also likely to be significant retraining required to ensure humans have the skills to work alongside machines.

Alas, a recent study from workplace company ADP suggests that this kind of training isn’t likely to be offered by many workplaces.  Around half of the workers surveyed for the report said that their employer wasn’t providing any opportunities for them to reskill, either to work more effectively alongside AI or to retrain into new areas entirely.

Gauging the workforce

The study is part of ADP’s The Workforce View in Europe 2018 project, which aims to provide a snapshot of how employees feel about various workplace issues.  The latest survey highlights the concerns many employees have about their ability to adapt to the changing technological landscape.

This concern is greatest among younger workers, especially those in industries such as IT and telecoms, although these sectors were also among the best at investing in training and development.

“Automation may seem like an issue for future generations, but our findings show that machines could replace thousands of employees in as few as five years,” ADP say.  “Artificial intelligence and robotics are progressing at such a pace that machines will soon have the capability to do the job of humans in a whole range of professions and industries. And while this might be good for efficiency and productivity, it could leave thousands facing redundancy and change the face of the workplace forever. However, the fear is often worse than the reality.”

It’s an approach echoed in a recent report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation think tank.  It argues that AI-based technologies will provide a tremendous boost to society and their development should not therefore be slowed down to protect a relatively small number of workers.  Instead, much more should be done to help those people adapt.

Indeed, more proactive policies to this effect will also have the added advantage of reducing any backlash against the new technologies, and of course temptation among policy makers to restrict them.

Whether the support for such adaptation will materialize however remains to be seen.