Ironman isn’t Ironman without the suit, but the suit has no power without the man. That is the future of robotic development, people and robots, working together hand-in-hand to accomplish more than we ever thought would be possible.
Gartner predicts that by 2025 one in three jobs will be done by software, robots and smart machines, but that is not an ominous prediction. And in fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, artificial intelligence will create more jobs than it eliminates.
The next generation of robots isn’t working to replace people, it’s working to improve the lives and jobs of people. We see that in the industrial world, where robot design is pivoting from giant mechanical arms that take up factory floors, to smaller, more collaborative bots, that are designed to work alongside people. While these collaborative bots only make up 3 percent of the market today, they will make up 34 percent of the market by 2025.
In today’s world, to suggest that automation will eliminate the need for human workers is proving to be as ridiculous as suggesting that tablets will replace laptops. With the United States enjoying a 3.8% unemployment rate, the job market is more booming, and employees can be more selective about the roles they want to take. Locked in the battle for top talent, companies are looking to find ways to get more efficient and effective, rather than cut headcount.
Deloitte recently published a study confirming this fact, in that the majority of organizations leveraging automation are focused on the benefit of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their workforce, rather than the motivation of replacing people. In most cases, as it becomes easier to accomplish formerly manual tasks through automation, organizations will take advantage of the extra bandwidth by retraining employees to manage more valuable or rewarding activities. And this suits the millennials just fine.
Millennials are Shaping the Nature of Work
When it comes to the workforce, no group has more to gain from the rise of robotics than millennials. As the most educated generation, millennials expect a lot from their time in the workforce. With different motivations than their parents, including a relentless focus on creating memorable experiences in all areas of their lives, millennials prioritize job opportunities that will allow them to develop their skills for the future, and find a rewarding career path.
Millennials crave opportunities for advancement and challenge, and they will not stay in roles that don’t offer it. The average job tenure was already in decline, but millennials will only accelerate this trend. A recent LinkedIn survey found that millennials were 16% more likely to switch industries and 50% more likely to relocate for a new job than non-millennials. Industries and jobs that have historically offered little room for advancement will be overlooked, as millennials expect to be trained on technical skills in their area of expertise, and want the opportunity to lead while pursuing creativity and innovation.
We see that drive for education and self improvement in the rise and success of online training companies like Udemy, Khan Academy, and Pluralsight, who was recently in the news for a strong IPO. And we see that the industries embracing innovation and automation -- like technology, healthcare, and financial services -- are the industries attracting the most millennial talent.
As companies in a variety of areas -- including retail, government, and education -- feel the squeeze of the millennial talent shortage, automation won’t be a proactive move to reduce the workforce, it will be a reactive move to ensure the tasks that need to be completed are getting done -- as it’s harder than ever to find millennials who will do them.
Robots are True Partners For The Millennial Workforce
In many industries, robots can do the jobs that millennials don’t want to do. This can be leveraged in making manual labor jobs safer (for example, imagine using a voice controlled device to manipulate a damaged power line from the safety of the street, rather than manipulating the power line directly) but can also be leveraged in jobs where labor already is skilled, but wants to uplevel those skills further.
For example, Pepper, Softbank’s humanoid robot, was launched very successfully at ATB Financial as a greeter that could provide clients with basic information about services and unsecured information like mortgage rates. This freed up human employees for more complicated interactions, customer support, and management tasks.
For companies in all industries, there are areas where humanoid and assistant robots can be leveraged to supplement the efforts of more skilled employees, and as millennials make up a larger percentage of the workforce, we expect to see companies in more industries taking advantage of automation as a way to provide learning and growth opportunities for this newest generation, who’s top goal is finding meaningful work, and continuing to learn over the course of their career.