Redefining the Workforce: When Robots Pay Union Dues and Learn Too

This is a guest blog by Susan Harper as a companion to the Voice America interview with Dale Meyerrose, PhD, Redefining the Workforce: When Robots Pay Union Dues and Learn Too


What are the current statistics of our work force? As leaders, it is important to be aware of trends within the work force.  In January of 2019, the US economy had 7.6 million unfilled jobs and not enough applicants to fill them.  It is a trend that has been increasing 5-8% for the last two years.  It is predicted by Korn Ferry, a global organizational consulting firm, that these numbers will get worse before they will get better.  Korn Ferry has also predicted the US will lose $435 billion dollars in lost productivity due to the lack of available talent.  This is not just a US problem as every industrialized economy will experience this lack of work force but most likely on a smaller scale.  This labor force shortage is a real concern for leaders as the potential to leave revenue unrealized due to the inability to have a work force to complete the work.

How do leaders find a solution for this work force shortage? In our current culture, not only is the work force changing rapidly, but also the nature of work is being changed by technology.   Recent statistics suggest that half of all the current work force will be affected by automated work force in the next four year.  The digital worker, an RPA (Robotic Process Automation) will automate the repetitive elements of the job and leave the highly valued, cognitive functions for the human work force.  Leaders need to be looking for ways to train their work force to be prepared to step into the highly valued, cognitive functions and leave those repetitive tasks to the automated work force in order to effectively use their work force rather than be in a work force shortage.

What are some of the tasks RPAs (Robotic Process Automation) can accomplish? RPAs can simulate human work activities such as sending emails, logging into applications, entering data, auditing activity, searching through data and compiling search results.  Identifying these tasks in each job would allow modern jobs to become more flexible and keeps the work force from being bogged down by repetitive, mundane tasks.

What does it look like to employ RPAs? A digital work force can be employed by any size of business.  It is best to employ these RPAs integrated with your human work force.  These RPAs would be credentialed to do specific tasks and then educate and train the RPAs just as you would do with a human work force.  Also, there is a point where the RPA may need to be “retired”, while this doesn’t mean a pension it does mean planning to replace outdated technology.

What view should we take of best practices of employing the digital work force? Rather than focusing on individual tasks and solutions, leaders need to focus on the enterprise-wide solutions to make the biggest impact.  Consider what your enterprise most often does and how to automate that.

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Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

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