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The rise of the robots shouldn’t make us fear for our jobs

Updated: 18 Jan 2016


Robotics and technical innovation will not spell the end of many jobs as we know it, but will instead help make us more productive and create new types of work and jobs for the future, says recruiting experts Hays. 


According to Hays’s CEO Alistair Cox, it will be humans, not robots, who will continue to differentiate businesses in the coming decades.


Discussing recent media coverage on the technological revolution of smart machines and what this could mean for the future of the labour market, Alistair says: “The more sensationalist headlines predict the demise of the human worker. The more sensible do point to the opportunity for advanced robotics to unleash a massive wave of productivity improvements, akin to the impact of the original Industrial Revolution.”  Alistair continues, “I find it hard to believe some of the more dramatic headlines, many of which appear to discount the importance of personal relationships and intuition, for which everyone in business knows there is no substitute.”


“Yes, machines already carry out many roles and with technology’s rapid evolution this is only set to increase. There’s no denying that when it comes to repetitive motion and basic data analysis, for example, robots certainly have the upper hand.


“Equally, the advances in data science and artificial intelligence are opening up new ways to look at businesses and generating insights that can lead to major productivity improvements. I'm investing in those areas in my own business, but to best equip people with the tools to do a better job, not to replace them,” he said.


According to Hays, there are four reasons why businesses will need people as much, if not more, than they will need robots:  


1.     People become a premium: “It’s too easy to forget that no matter the industry or sector, those at the end of the sales funnel are human,” says Alistair. “Technology consistently re-values skills, and with the digital world permeating every area of our professional and personal lives you should expect colleagues, customers, clients and partners to place an increased premium on quality, relevant, insightful, and ultimately human engagement in the future. We must all be aware that technology can be replicated by your competitors but your people can’t. We should therefore look at robots not as a threat, but as a means of freeing up time, increasing capacity and productivity and ultimately allowing businesses to focus on the human side of what they do.”


2.     You can’t build rapport with a robot: I’ve yet to meet a robot that can motivate a workforce, bank goodwill, return a favour or build a relationship, qualities that enable a business to run smoothly and get things done,” says Alistair. “It’s these meaningful personal relationships and interactions that see employees go the extra mile for a client or each other. Human relationships simply cannot, and will not, be replicated by robots.”


3.     Innovation can’t be programmed or plugged in: “In today’s ultra-competitive corporate world, the battle for innovation has never been fiercer. To be truly innovative requires a level of collaboration, idea sharing and creativity that simply cannot be programmed or plugged in. These moments are often unplanned and happen in the office corridor, over a drink in the evening or when joining a meeting you might not have been scheduled to attend. While there is no replacing hard work, it’s often these unexpected and unplanned moments which lead to businesses standing out from their competitors.”


4.     Human instinct should be trusted: “While technology can execute strategy, planning is best left in the hands of people. Natural intuition cannot be coded and we’ve all seen examples of results that fly in the face of prior data. Ultimately I don't think you can program a culture and an element of ‘gut’ instinct is often required in business, especially when it comes to delegating within a team or future proofing your organisation through new hires and training.”


According to Alistair, the rise of smart machines will also mean that people and their unique skills will become more valuable. “We’ll need a whole lot of human skill and intuition to really leverage this technology to drive productivity in our businesses,” he said. “The trick is to make sure we recognise that we will need different skills, either individually ourselves or within our organisations. 


“So, instead of spelling the end of many jobs as we know it, I believe the rise of the robots will help make us more productive, thereby creating new types of work and jobs for the future.”


For more, please see Alistair’s latest LinkedIn Influencer blog.


Hays, the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.


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About Hays

Hays is the leading global specialist recruiting group. It is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide.


Hays Specialist Recruitment (Shanghai) Co., Limited ("Hays China") operates across the public and private sector, dealing in permanent positions. Hays China’s eighteen specialisms span Accountancy & Finance, Banking, Architecture, Construction, Education, Engineering, Executive, Finance Technology, Human Resources, Hays Resource Management, Information Technology, Insurance, Life Sciences, Manufacturing & Operations, Oil & Gas, Property and Sales & Marketing.


Hays China operates four local offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Guangzhou. It is the local representative office for Hays plc, which is a global company. As at 30 June 2015 Hays employed 9,023 staff operating from 240 offices in 33 countries across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2015, Hays reported net fees of £764.2 million and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £164.1 million. Hays placed around 63,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 200,000 people into temporary assignments. 23% of Group net fees were generated in Asia Pacific.


Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA.

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