Digital transformation is happening and the impact on jobs is evident across many industries! Either jobs will be impacted because a company digitally transforms and certain skills are no longer needed OR due to a company having to close its doors as it can no longer compete against digital businesses.

I have been involved in a number of digital transformation initiatives over the years and have witnessed the impact that digitisation, automation artificial intelligence and customer self-service can have on the skills required in an organisation. The high rate of technological change coupled with increased competition is resulting in skills obsolescence and demand for new skill sets  at a faster pace than ever before.

There are divided opinions on the impact digital transformation has on the overall job industry:

The more pessimistic view according to the researchers at the WEF, “current trends could lead to a net employment impact of more than 5.1 million jobs lost to disruptive labor market changes over the period 2015–2020.” The Forum estimates that a grand total of 7.1 million jobs will be lost as a direct result of many of our proudest innovations, and that two-thirds of these jobs will be “concentrated in the Office and Administrative job family.” Concurrently, two million jobs will be gained in what the WEF calls “several smaller job families.” Still, it’s a net loss for human beings, at the expense of machines we’ve ourselves created.

A more optimistic opinion from James Besson, an economist at the Boston University School of Law, there are many examples of computers and automation affecting jobs, such as the automated teller machines (ATMs), which at the time spelt doom for the bank tellers, and in America their average number fell from 20 per branch in 1988 to 13 in 2004, however due to the efficiencies achieved, the cost of running a bank branch decreased enabling more branches to be opened in response to customer demand. The number of urban bank branches rose by 43% over the same period, so the total number of employees increased. Rather than destroying jobs, ATMs changed bank employees’ work mix, away from routine tasks and towards things like sales and customer service that machines could not do.The same pattern can be seen in industry after industry, says Mr Bessen: automation redefines jobs, and in ways that reduce costs and boost demand, thus requiring workers to learn new skills.

Regardless of whether you are on the side of the pessimists or the optimists, truth is that nobody know what the impact will be, but how you prepare for the future could make all the difference.

What can organisations do?

 It is critical that companies start to understand what skills they will need for the future and start up-skilling staff to enable the transition of skills within the company.

If companies believe people are their biggest asset, and want to have people who are passionate about working for them, they need to be transparent and prepare the staff for the changes and disruptions that lie ahead.

Organisations also need to start anticipating what skills will be needed for future business and provide the opportunities for the staff to upskill, learn and grow.

  • Provide any insights to employees as to what skills will be in demand in future, where possible
  • Provide the opportunities for go on the relevant training
  • Provide time for staff to learn new skills
  • Provide the environments for new learning and growth

What can each of us do?

 We have to take responsibility for our own lives and recognize the need to keep growing, changing, and learning.

  • Be adaptable, resilient and flexible to change, new opportunities and learnings
  • Utilise the available company training opportunities
  • Access free online training that is widely available (Alison, Khan academy, code academy etc)
  • Network and attend events (e.g. suits and sneakers, Business Networks)
  • Read books and articles to stay informed and current

At Metatrans, our passion is to help people and organisations survive the inevitable digital disruptions and transformations.  Don’t be caught unaware – ensure you are ready!

If you have any thoughts or ideas on how companies and people can transform, leave a comment below, I would love to hear about them.