January 18, 2019

No, robots aren’t going to make you unemployed

By Luke Christou

We’re inundated with reports on how automation is going to lead to widespread job displacement, with robots taking on the role of human workers across numerous industries. However, it seems that the machines might need us more than first thought.

New research conducted by ManpowerGroup has found that nine in ten employers plan to increase their headcount for the third consecutive year as a result of automation.

While some roles are becoming automated, different human roles are required to keep these systems running smoothly. Some 16% of companies expect to increase their headcount in the IT department as a result, while just 20% of employees said that they expect a decrease in the number of people that they employ in the next year. As well as IT roles, businesses are also expected to increase headcount in front of house and customer-facing roles, where machines are unable to offer the same level of communication, negotiation, leadership and adaptability as their human counterparts.

“This is not an either – or, human versus machine,” said Jonas Prising, Chairman and CEO of manpowerGroup. “I’m convinced: organisations and individuals really can befriend the machines and collaborate in harmony to create a stronger, better society.”

ManpowerGroup’s Humans Wanted: Robots Need You report looks at changes within organisations, including their hiring practices, job creation and approach to upskilling. The report is based on a survey of 19,000 employees across 44 countries, who were quizzed on their views on the impact of automation on the job market.

Talent demands

As widely debated as automation’s impact on the job market is the lack of talent in the IT industry.

A recent report by Modis and General Assembly found that 80% of decision makers in the tech and engineering industries believe that there is a talent gap. Many organisations are struggling to find employees with the skills they need to survive in an increasingly technological business landscape, with more than 40% of job applicants lacking the key technical skills needed to perform the advertised role.

However, this could prove to be a good thing for those fearing automation.

According to the ManpowerGroup report, “companies are realising they can no longer expect to find just-in-time talent, on tap”. Instead, 84% of organisations stated that they will be upskilling their workforce by 2020, a significant increase on the 54% that said they would in 2018.

“The focus on robots eliminating jobs is distracting us from the real issue,” said Prising. “More and more robots are being added to the workforce, but humans are too. Tech is here to stay and it’s our responsibility as leaders to become Chief Learning Officers and work out how we integrate humans with machines.”

“Learning today cannot be done as it was in the past. That’s why at ManpowerGroup we’re reskilling people from declining industries like textiles for jobs in high growth industries including cyber security, advanced manufacturing and autonomous driving.

“If we focus on practical steps to upskill people at speed and at scale, organizations and individuals really can befriend the machines.”