The True Impact Of Digital Technology On Your Workforce Efficiency – FE News


We know that technology has impacted all areas of our lives. We can manage almost our entire life through our smartphones, from booking appointments to paying bills. Technological innovations have also found their way into the workplace, completely revolutionizing the way we work.

As technology is embedded in workplaces, it can disrupt workers. With technologies like artificial intelligence and automation capable of replicating elements of our jobs, it’s easy to see why. Half of UK workers believe they could be replaced by automation, AI or robots in the next decade. Another 61% are concerned about AI.

While it is inevitable that technology and AI will replace some low-skill manual jobs, the good news is that they will create more jobs than they will take away. According to the World Economic Forum, technology will displace 85 million jobs globally but create 97 million new jobs by 2025. Additionally, it will improve skilled roles and enable employees to be more efficient and productive.

How will AI and automation change the workforce?

As with every industrial revolution, the jobs most likely to be eliminated by technology are those that are low-skilled and easily replicated with automation. The ONS predicts that the roles most at risk of automation are waiters, shelf fillers, ‘elementary sales occupations’ (manual roles which may include vendors and cart collectors), bar staff and kitchen and catering assistants.

On the surface, this is worrying. But these roles only account for 7.4% of all jobs in the UK. The elimination of manual jobs has always been a side effect of technological advances. We no longer have roles like lift operators, bus conductors or traditional switchboard operators in the UK because we no longer need them. These occupations have been rendered redundant by technology and replaced by more in-demand jobs.

The roles least likely to be fired are dentists, teachers, and doctors. Additionally, senior managers and directors are at low risk of automation. These roles all have innate human elements that make them essential and irreplaceable. Some roles considered medium risk, including truck drivers and construction workers, will likely see some of their work automated. This means that these roles are vital but could be made more efficient, allowing employees to accomplish more in their working day.

The real challenge of technology

The fact that technology creates more jobs than it eliminates means that the main concern is not net job loss, but rather a digital skills gap.

Soft skills including critical thinking, problem solving, stress tolerance and self-management will be in high demand. This is good news, because these skills are inherently human. So while some roles with soft skills will no longer be needed, the most important traits in the future cannot be replicated by bots.

However, the Learning & Work Institute said the UK was on the verge of a “catastrophic” skills shortage, particularly when it comes to digital skills. Day-to-day technical skills, such as understanding how to perform tasks using a mobile phone or PC, are in high demand. But specialized skills in areas such as AI, cloud software and automation are increasingly in demand. What we are seeing, however, is that school and university graduates are entering the labor market without skills in these two key areas.

Why emerging technologies are good for workers

Not only will technologies like AI and automation create more jobs, but they will also enable people to be more productive in their current and future roles. Increased efficiency again raises concerns about job security. If your job can be done in half the time, why would you continue to work full time?

Research has shown that before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, workers in the UK were working too long hours. A 2019 CIPD survey showed that three in five UK workers put in 10 overtime hours a week. A fifth said they were exhausted at their job and under “excessive pressure”, while a further two-thirds experienced work-related health problems.

Likewise, while working from home has resulted in a better work-life balance for many, employees in the UK are working an average of two hours overtime a day, with the majority not logging off until 8pm. With that in mind, an increase in efficiency has the potential to solve this overwork crisis.

If you can automate or eliminate the manual and repetitive elements of a job, you can focus on the key areas of a role. This greatly increases productivity, producing a more valuable result. This is essential for any business, but it also reduces stress on the workforce and provides them with a better work-life balance.

Use everyday technology to improve efficiency

Take the example of the medium-risk role of a truck driver. At first glance, you might think there isn’t much to automate. But beyond getting from point A to point B, drivers have a lot of responsibilities. A key part of their role is to make sure the goods get to the right person and to record proof of their deliveries. If they collect paper documents, not only is there a risk of misplacing them, but it can lead to additional data entry or administrative processing.

These extra processes can mean the difference between a driver finishing on time and going home after their last job of the day, or going to the office and putting in an extra hour or two a day. Implementing something as simple as electronic proof of delivery software can significantly reduce that extra work. These solutions come with a mobile app, allowing drivers to capture proof of delivery with their phone and send it directly to back-office staff to speed up billing and accelerate cash flow.

Likewise, senior executives of any type of business can take advantage of powerful business management tools that use artificial intelligence to support their strategic decision-making. These tools will never make the decisions for you or lead your business on an upward trajectory, but they will allow you to make smart, informed decisions.

Technological advancements always come with fears about the future of humans in the labor market. But those fears never materialized. Humans as a group were not replaced by computers when they were introduced to the workplace, nor will artificial intelligence completely replace us. What it will do is make us more efficient, allowing us to get more done during the workday. That’s good news for leaders, because workforce efficiency is key to profitability. It also offers employees a better work-life balance. Win-win.

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