HR & Management

5 ways to future-proof your job in the age of automation

6 min read

30 May 2018

In the First Industrial Revolution, production line workers lived in the fear that they would be replaced by machines. Now, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the rise of artificial intelligence has created anxiety over job loss. Redwood Software's Neil Kinson shares five skills we'll need to outperform robots in the age of automation.

The fear of job loss from technological advances is a problem that has been around even since the invention of the wheel. In the First Industrial Revolution, production line workers lived in the fear that they would be replaced by machines, who could perform tasks more efficiently and at a cheaper cost. Now, as we have entered the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the rise of robotics and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence has only strengthened our sense of anxiety over job loss.

According to a report by payroll firm ADP, a third of workers feel that their job will be automated within the next decade. Similarly, the research shows that one in ten fear they will lose their jobs to automation within just two years. Clearly the rate at which technology is advancing is impacting the way employees feel about the future of their roles.

The reality, however, is that automation is not a change to be feared. Workers across all industries can gain a lot if they are able to see the bigger picture and respond to the opportunity robotics can bring. If implemented correctly, automation can carry out the repetitive and mundane tasks so that employees can focus on the activities that will drive real business value.

However, ensuring automation makes you irreplaceable, as opposed to replaceable, does require you to plan ahead and be proactive on both a professional and business level.

Here are five ways you can ensure that you will still have a job as we enter the new age of automation.

1. Be proactive and know your industry

Businesses today are faced with the constant pressure of having to adapt to the evolving technological landscape, or risk falling behind the competition. The situation for employees is no different and just sitting back and seeing what happens will not be the way to ensure your job is safe.

By taking a proactive approach, you can look to educate yourself about how automation is impacting your industry and how it will continue to do so in the future. Reading business and technology publications can be a good starting point, so you can identify what you need to do to make your role fit within the bigger picture.

2. Embrace the change

According to a recent study by PwC, a third of existing British jobs are at risk of being taken over by robotics within 15 years, with the most at risk industries being waste management, transportation and manufacturing. However, the report demonstrated how automation will not lead to greater unemployment. Certainly, job roles will change, but automation will actually create new jobs.

Like we have witnessed throughout history, those who embrace the change and approach uncertainty with a positive outlook are often those who succeed.

The first step is changing your perception of robotics as an enemy to a friend.

3. Develop skill sets for the future

It is clear that automation will not have the same impact across every industry and on every role. However, there are a number of skills that will always be hard to automate, and the demand for these skills will only increase as automation continues to sweep across businesses.

In a recent survey by LinkedIn, it was revealed that 57 per cent of business leaders believe soft skills are the most important qualities they look for in new employees. Skills such as leadership, effective communication and collaboration will win over any employer and by improving and refining these attributes, you will have a CV that will stand out amongst the rest.

4. Be flexible and keep up-to-date with the latest technological advancements

Automation is still a very new technology and it is likely that your organisation will experience both the ups and downs as it is rolled out across various functions. The more knowledgeable you are with what challenges and opportunities others are experiencing – from a professional and business perspective – the more you will be able to adapt and make automation work for you, rather than against.
As automation becomes an integral part of the success of a company, it’s important for business leaders and workers alike to become part of the change and understand the opportunities it can bring.

5. Become an automation expert

Once you have a better understanding of automation and have started developing the skills you need to excel at a professional level, the next step is to make this known to your employer. By asking the right questions and by sharing your knowledge, this demonstrates leadership and the senior team will see you as an indispensable part of the organisation as they put automation strategies into place.

Neil Kinson is the chief of staff at Redwood Software.