Don’t fear the robots. They have only come for some of our jobs, and they’ll create others.
A number of experts have made dramatic predictions in recent years about the impact automation will have on the American workforce in the coming decades. A 2013 report by Oxford researchers and a 2015 report by McKinsey both suggested that just under half of U.S. jobs could be targeted for automation in the near future.
But Forrester Research recently offered a slightly less dire projection, predicting that our robot peers will result in a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025. The renowned technology consultant reasons that while 16 percent of current human-occupied jobs will be eliminated by automation, new robotics will also create a large number of jobs that will soften the blow.
Similarly, a report by the World Economic Forum at the beginning of the year focused on 15 developed countries, projecting that they would lose 7 million jobs by 2020, but gain 2 million as a result of a number of technological advances, including the areas of genetics and robotics.
Forrester does not frame the coming technological changes as fundamentally different than those that have taken place throughout much of the last century. After all, machines have been replacing people for years.
While the implications of technological change always provoke deep anxiety, there is a wide divergence of opinions on what to do about it.
In a recent blog post, the Society for Human Resource Professionals examined the paradigm shift that increasing automation is imposing on workplaces. Fewer employees will be able to skate by with one crucial job skill — one that might one day be replaced by a machine. More and more, people will have to present a comprehensive set of work skills, including an ability to work well in teams and be creative.
Angela Hanks, who researches workforce development policy at the Center for American Progress, told SHRM that employers face a major obstacle in getting workers ready for their changing roles.
"How do you prepare people for jobs that are not really there yet?" she asked.