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Shalini Natraj

Shalini Natraj heads Human Resources for Target India. In this role, she oversees all the HR functions - generalists, talent acquisition, organizational effectiveness, pay and benefits, mobility, compliance and operations, along with communications and community relations.

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Should You Worry About Robots Stealing Jobs?

Assess what is happening in the market, the jobs that are under threat and how the situation could impact you. Talk to mentors and leaders in your organization to understand what you need to do to keep your job relevant 5- 10 years down the line.

According to stats shared by the World Bank in October 2016, nearly 69% of jobs in India could be under threat because of automation. The number is worrying in a country where 91% of the population is currently below the age of 59 (India Census data-2011).

Despite this, the reality remains that automation isn’t a new phenomenon and has been impacting lives for a while now. Most of the perceived threats that automation has posed in the past have made industries more productive and efficient in the long run.

Every change is an opportunity

Automation is not necessarily a threat to jobs, but an opportunity for professionals to upgrade their skillsets. It has after all led to much better success rates in surgeries, fewer plane crashes, better irrigation methods and increased productivity in factories to name a few. We have lived and survived all of this.

As technological advancements are made, newer jobs are eventually created due to the changing environment. Take the example of Facebook, a social networking site that started as a simple webpage in a college dorm room has today created thousands of jobs. Hence, instead of worrying about change, we need to embrace it and prepare ourselves to take on new opportunities.

Doing more meaningful work

The biggest self-defense against the threat of automation is finding and doing meaningful work that adds a unique value to the job function or organization. Bots in most situations do mundane tedious jobs, thus giving humans the opportunity to do more meaningful jobs. They give us the mental space to do better things and use our cognitive abilities more effectively.

For instance, jobs involving a lot of data entry and repetition could easily be done by bots. Even if bots do take over such tasks, humans can complement these efforts by providing value in terms of managing and ensuring the quality of the tasks performed. For teams to succeed in a co-existing model (human and bots), employees need to understand the upstream and downstream activities of all tasks assigned to them. This will allow them to use their cognitive abilities to create a clear-cut difference between the work done by bots and them.

Understand, upgrade and upskill

It is very easy to get carried away with all the things we see and read about automation. Before professionals and students start to lose sleep over the changes taking place in the job market, here are a few things to bear in mind:

Understand the reality: Assess what is happening in the market, the jobs that are under threat and how the situation could impact you. Talk to mentors and leaders in your organization to understand what you need to do to keep your job relevant 5- 10 years down the line. Network with peers in the industry and participate in meet-ups/conferences to get insights about your profession and how you could improve yourself to stay relevant.

Upgrade your thought process: Maintain a positive attitude even if the facts seem upsetting. Act on your perception of the reality and make a decision to upgrade your skillsets to embrace the reality. Every change is an opportunity to grow as an individual and professional.

Upskill: Based on your conversations with others in the industry, upskill to the latest technologies and skillsets required in the industry. Technologies such as machine learning, NLP (Natural Language Processing), etc. are some of the skillsets you may need in many areas of work. The ability to derive insights from large amounts of data or using technology to do so, will also be an important skillset to have regardless of the work you are involved with.

Professionals regardless of the industry they operate in need to rise to the challenge that automation poses in order to succeed in the future.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house


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