Creatively Addressing Workforce Automation

 

Automated technology continues to replace human workers in a wide variety of jobs and industries. This includes the retail, transportation, manufacturing and agriculture industries, just to name a few. Businesses with a backbone comprised largely of brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to keep up with online retailers, autonomous cars are threatening to replace humans in transport jobs, and automated farming technology continues to make leaps and bounds. Furthermore, according to a Harvard Business Review article, “robots have probably taken about 85% of the 5 million manufacturing jobs that have disappeared from the United States since 2000.” Companies are struggling to find a way to adapt their business models to accommodate the rapid replacement of humans in the workplace. The article further states that: “While our first instinct might be to help employees find new jobs, what we really need to do is is help companies shift into new markets focused on human services and adopt new business models that will allow employees, customers, and communities to benefit from technological change.”

More Than a Store

Providing community-focused human services is one way to combat plummeting brick-and-mortar sales, but it isn’t such a far-out proposition as it seems. Walmart, for example, is already rolling out optometry services, beauty salons and restaurants at various locations. Imagine the various potential revenue sources from offering similar services such as day care, elder care or a community meeting space. Doing so would not only give employees being replaced by robots a new job, but it would make businesses an integral part of the community.

Stock Options

Another tactic some companies are trying is offering employees replaced by robots generous stock options. If an employee was replaced, yet holds stock in the company, they could benefit from the increased value as a result of utilizing automated workers. Consider the example of the Chobani founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, who gave 10% of his stock in the yogurt company to 2,000 employees, while the rest received stock options worth about $150,000 each. This approach provides a financial buffer for employees that will suffer from technological unemployment. This tactic is particularly valuable if a company has immediate plans to automate its jobs.

As reliance on enterprise technology continues to grow and automated workers begin replacing humans, companies have a duty to invest in the potential of their employees. While the knee-jerk reaction might be to simply help employees find new jobs, companies that shift into new markets and adapt their business models to allow employees, customers and communities to benefit from technological change will see a prosperous future in automating the majority of their workforce. Want to discover other leading industry trends? Read this article about what HR teams need most in 2017.