Written by: Adelina Stefan, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Advances in technology have changed the purchasing power of the world, meaning past luxury goods are now affordable for almost every family in industrialized countries, and therefore greatly improving the quality of life.
It all started at the beginning of the 20th century, when Ford realized that focusing people on just one single task could improve the speed of production. Since then, almost every handcrafted job has been substituted by a set of repetitive tasks that are able to create the product much faster, avoiding unnecessary learning and shifts.
In the second half of the 20th century, companies started using automated robots to do all of these repetitive tasks. Robots are faster than humans, make fewer errors and work round the clock without asking for a raise or getting sick, so they are “cheaper” than traditional workers. And now, with the improvement of AI, the same thing is happening to low-skilled jobs that imply simple decision-making or communication between humans (telemarketers, consumer attention services, etc). We can say that most probably, in the future, cooking, delivering packages, or driving taxis, amongst others, will be fully automated by autonomous AI.
Even though this is an advance for humanity, as it will make all these services more affordable for every person in the long-term view, the destruction of these jobs has huge consequences for some people. While these jobs start disappearing, new jobs are being created, such as AI Scientists, R&D, to name just two, to supply the new necessities. On the other hand, people who have been working in the old jobs will not be qualified to work in the emerging positions.
To help families in this situation, there are three main possibilities:
1. Reskilling and redeploying
As processes improve, more investment on behalf of the company would be required. Instead of changing the process, companies would need to pay for training old employees, which would lead to innovation becoming even costlier. Reskilling and redeploying workers enables businesses to maintain a productive workforce and create a continuous learning culture while helping individuals to develop their capabilities by adopting the latest technologies to sustain their employability. The main motivation for companies to innovate and automatize work is, in essence, to save money, so making these processes more expensive would lead to less innovation and stagnation of development. To avoid that and to encourage the growth of the country, the State could step in to alleviate the issue of unemployment levels, which lead us to the next two options.
2. A life-time financial aid from the government
This option implies that the country’s population must contribute to the sustainment of people without work. This option could work if the amount of unemployed people were just a few hundred, but currently, depending on the country, there are millions of unemployed people. However, this option rewards people for being unemployed instead of rewarding them for preparing to work again in other positions. In this option, we are providing fish to people instead of teaching them how to fish.
3. Financial aid from the government to prepare for new jobs
This is the hardest option to implement, as not only do we need to ensure that people use this money to study and control that just the eligible people can opt for it, but also it is fundamental to guarantee that these people will have jobs right after finishing their studies. With this in mind, a new technological infrastructure must be created, where AI could take data from different companies to predict the necessities two years ahead. This is a collaborative solution that could solve the current problem and reduce the number of unemployed families by investing in new technologies and promoting the development of the country.
As companies continue to automate their processes with AI, where does this leave the worker?
This leads us to the next 2 key activities for the future of work:
4. Proactive vs. reactive planning to build an agile and flexible workforce
In these uncertain periods with the lasting impact of Covid-19, many people around the world have felt uncertainty and emotional distress due to the pandemic, and thus, building a resilient business strategy has become even more important. Companies must stay agile and proactive in their planning to ensure business continuity and recovery. It has become clear that flexibility will continue to be one of the driving trends of the future of work. By increasing flexibility in the labor force, companies would be able to scale their resources based on their unique needs and trends in the industry and unique needs. Hence, it is important for employers to assess their current roles and identify the ones that can become more flexible.
Trust is crucial during times of crisis. Employers need to be honest with their employees regarding where the company stands and how they can plan to successfully emerge from the crisis. Communication needs to be clear, brief and straightforward, while ensuring that the words are followed by actions in order to build greater trust within the teams and build a sense of inclusiveness and resiliency.
5. Embracing diversity and building an inclusive culture. The role of language and cultural integration
By recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, companies will have a wider selection of talent to choose from. As a Cultural Expert & Expat Career Coach, in my research published in 2018 on cultural diversity and HR practices, cultural diversity proved to be a source of creativity and innovation, but also a force that may lead to conflicts of beliefs, behaviors, and misunderstandings in communication, which request managers to adopt new strategies that will enhance business sustainability.
Some ways to increase diversity at work are: creating job descriptions to appeal to a wide range of candidates, encouraging blind applications, raising awareness internally of a diverse culture through employee training and coaching, and creating an employee voice through forums for improving business performance.
Intercultural training has become of increasing importance in today’s diverse workplace, being essential for effective and relevant communication, breaking down cultural barriers, and building awareness of cultural norms. It is very important that the assignee's family is happy with the relocation.
Many conflicts occur due to issues with the spouse – the assignee normally relocates for improving skills and focuses on a development project, whereas the spouse cannot adapt to the host culture and can hardly find a job. This creates a huge pressure on the relocating family, which of course, affects the business relationship as well. In many cases, the expatriation fails because the spouse or children do not manage to integrate. Hence, to avoid such issues, intercultural training should be designed for the entire family in order to ensure the family’s smooth integration in the novel cultural setting, providing them with sufficient support, and minimize the effects of the culture shock.
A good way to facilitate integration is by having the spouses and children learning the local language through a language school with experience in relocation, such as Eszett Business Language Services. These spouse support services should also include tutoring for children. The language classes can be done face-to-face, in-company, or online with a live trainer.
There is not an easy-to-create solution to these complex issues, but by contributing collectively, we can face this situation successfully by implementing change, looking ahead while focusing on education and training. By knowing our strengths and the strengths of AI and diversity, we can see that together, man and machine, the future is bright and creative.
Adelina Stefan, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Adelina Stefan is a Professional Certified Coach & Intercultural Facilitator specialized in Career Development, with a deep expertise in international HR recruitment and selection and Training and Development. Having worked for 10+ years across cultures, Adelina seeks to catalyze individuals’ potential, helping them create and implement their unique career blueprint and, at the same time, achieve a healthy work-life balance. She specializes in working with ex-pats and mid-to senior-level executives dealing with challenging work environments that can affect their performance and well-being. She supports organizations in building a corporate coaching culture by highlighting individuals’ maximum potential and engagement to become dedicated and highly successful employees. Her practice includes Career, Life, Executive, and Agile Coaching for individuals and developing and implementing corporate Human Resources practices for improving intercultural relations.