Automation use picks up steam, but only 5% of employers are fully prepared
- The use of automation by U.S. businesses, including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, will drastically increase in three years, and most employers aren't completely ready for the change, according to Willis Towers Watson (WTW). In its Global Future of Work Survey, the global advisory, broking and solutions firm also found that employers will be less reliant on full-time employees and more dependent on the contingent workforce. WTW surveyed 909 companies worldwide, including 119 in the U.S.
- Other survey results show that U.S. companies anticipate automation accounting for, on average, 17% of work during the next three years, up from the current 9% and the 5% of three years ago. And while 94% of U.S. companies are already using AI and robotics in some capacity, less than 5% are fully prepared for the increase coming in the next three years. One third, however, said they are somewhat prepared.
- Some steps employers are taking to prepare include identifying emerging skills; matching talent to new work requirements; and supporting development in what will likely be flatter, more agile organizational structures. WTW also recommends that employers deconstruct jobs and decide which tasks to automate, and also identify employees to upskill in advance of automation taking over their positions.
The study's findings of growing reliance on contingent workers and increasingly automated work aligns with other recent job predictions. Just as employers, in general, have moved towards automating many more functions, they're also accepting contingent workers into jobs that were once considered the domain of full-time permanent employees.
HR might have to do some catching up and take a good look at the report's recommended steps. Not only will automation force employers to think differently about training and succession management, but it also may require a renewed focus on developing leaders and managers. HR, with training and development expertise, can lead that effort.
The challenge for HR right now is to anticipate which new jobs will emerge, which will disappear permanently and which will require human co-pilots. Recruiting efforts and priorities also will change, as HR shifts its hiring to focus on jobs that don't yet exist.