Impact of automation: employers plan to increase or maintain headcount

According to ManpowerGroup‘s research, Humans Wanted: Robots Need You,  87% of employers, globally, plan to increase or maintain headcount as a result of automation.

Rather than reducing employment opportunities, organisations are investing in digital, shifting tasks to robots and creating new jobs. At the same time, companies are scaling their upskilling so their human workforce can perform new and complementary roles to those done by machines.

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ManpowerGroup commissioned Infocorp to carry out quantitative research in 2018 surveying 19,417 employers across six industry sectors in 44 countries.

In the UK, employers are more optimistic, 95% said headcount will be maintained or increases as a result of automation. Production and manufacturing, finance & accounting and IT departments will experience the biggest increase in headcounts. Administrative and office support will see the biggest reductions

“As robots enter the workforce, they are transforming jobs, but equally creating more employment opportunities as well,” said Mark Cahill, Managing Director, ManpowerGroup UK. “Every industry needs to accept this revolution is here to stay. Employers need to work out how to manage the shift and get humans to collaborate with machines.

Why is artificial intelligence overshadowing RPA?

Technology firm V1, has warned that companies are in danger of missing out on major operational efficiencies because they are blindsided by AI. Although AI is tipped to transform business, many firms aren’t yet ready to adopt it and should instead be looking towards RPA which is more accessible

Humans wanted

Global talent shortages are at an all-time high, and new skills are appearing as fast as others disappear. More companies are planning to build talent than ever before, and this trend shows no sign of slowing. Upskilling is on the rise, 84% of companies plan to upskill their workforce by 2020.

“Companies need to be able to adapt to quicker talent cycles than they have done in the past,” said Mara Swan, EVP Global Strategy and Talent, ManpowerGroup. “They need to create agile teams, multi-functional and multi-skilled – similar to how many IT departments already work. They need to use quality assessments and data to predict performance and have full transparency of people’s capabilities.

“That’s how they can know an individual’s skills, strengths and styles, beyond just the manager-worker perspective. And that’s how they can know where to move talent around so people can perform to their potential. People will need to do new work with new skills. This will require continuous learning and it’s why learnability – the desire and ability to continually develop one’s skills – is so important. People with high learnability will be able to develop in-demand skills, while those without will need to be developed in their job or helped to move elsewhere.”

UiPath: RPA and the job destruction myth

Guy Kirkwood, Chief Evangelist, at RPA company UiPath: “One of the big myths of automation is that it replaces jobs, it doesn’t. Most organisations go into automation because they want to reduce head count, that’s what they base their business case on and they are all wrong, that doesn’t happen.”

The demand is particularly high for IT skills. According to the research, 15% of UK companies are expecting to increase headcount in IT. Production and manufacturing (15%), finance & accounting (15%) and IT (15%) departments are the functions within UK organisations that expect to see the biggest increase in headcounts.

Growth will also spread to front-line and customer-facing roles – which require human skills such as communication, negotiation, leadership, and adaptability. Unfortunately for some, administrative departments are the most likely departments in UK organisations to see a reduction in headcount.

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Andrew Ross

As a reporter with Information Age, Andrew Ross writes articles for technology leaders; helping them manage business critical issues both for today and in the future