Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about the implications of automation and robotics for the workforce. Our belief is that this revolution will come faster than most suspect. Today we are discovering ways to automate a greater portion of the work human beings do than was never thought possible before; for example, we are already seeing experiments with robotics and AI in the insurance industry, finance, and other fields of knowledge work that were considered automation-proof just a few years ago.
Given the speed of this change, and its potentially massive workforce management implications, we have posed a question that every HR executive should have an answer to: Given that automation, robotics, and AI will significantly impact the skill sets required for your jobs, how will you manage it?
In answering this question, HR executives are faced with a choice when it comes to handling the new skill sets employees will need to be effective in a more automated work environment: fire the employees who no longer have the right skills and replace them with new ones who do, or retrain current employees in the new skill sets they require.
The UK insurance company Aviva has identified a smart way to get ahead of this challenge and involve employees in the process. This week, the Sunday Times reported that the insurer is asking all 16,000 of its employees to raise their hands if they think their job could be done by a robot instead. The benefit of this move is that if the employee is right, then the company will invest in (re)training them to update their skill set for a new role. This proactive approach has the potential to benefit employers and employees; it will be an interesting strategy to keep monitoring.