The question of technology putting people out of work has long been a concern for many workers. New technology comes with innumerable benefits: it increases productivity, maximizes efficiency, and it offers convenient solutions to problems humans have been tackling manually for centuries. Yet while most of us are tremendously grateful for the technological advancement we all benefit from, the prevalence and growth of technology have also felt ominous for many.
The cautionary tale about jobs becoming obsolete as a result of automated technology has become true in many ways. From driverless trucks that put millions of drivers out of work to self check out options cutting grocery store cashier jobs, the idea that technology poses a threat to employment is not exactly a myth. However, there is a flip side to the prominence of technology in our workforce that often fails to be mentioned in popular discourse.
First, it’s important to consider that the International Federation for Robotics has found that less than 10 percent of today’s current jobs can be completely automated. The idea that all of our jobs will become obsolete is unfounded, and distracts from the real potential technology has to offer all of us. While some jobs will no longer be necessary, technology also offers new opportunities for workers.
Technology Can Minimize Tedious Work
Workers today often have to spend their days completing repetitive tasks that either bore them or cause them to entirely resent their jobs. Technology can ease up this burden of mundane tasks, and can also more accurately complete them. For example, dispensing technology is a helpful alternative to having a worker dispense liquid manually, allowing for much more accuracy and efficiency. Technology can also handle data much better than human workers, which could free them from having to spend valuable hours out of their workday calculating and organizing data.
The reduction of this repetitive work does not mean a reduction of the jobs that go along with them. Eliminating these types of tasks could encourage companies to offer higher-wages and higher-skill work for their employees. Since the company will be saving money with technology, they will have more to devote to training workers and offering a wider variety of roles.
Workers Will Stay at Jobs Longer
At jobs with seemingly endless menial tasks, turnover rates are exceptionally high. Workers come and go quickly, in search of the next job that comes with fewer tedious engagements. When a job entails mostly manual labor and repetitive checklists, workers stay at them for shorter periods of time.
With technology potentially replacing a lot of these menial tasks, workers will be given the opportunity to acquire more stimulating tasks and will develop their skills further. This will lead to better retention and better employee satisfaction rates. Additionally, workers will be enthusiastic about the opportunity for growth within the company, further contributing to improved retention rates.
The most significant appeal for workers to stay longer at these jobs, however, is the potential for higher wages. A common argument against this point is that low-skilled workers will be replaced by people with qualifications for this higher-wage work, but many companies have taken down this barrier by creating a pathway to qualification for their low-skilled workers, whether that includes funded educational endeavors or certifications.
Technology Can Improve the Health and Safety of Workers
In addition to performing tasks workers aren’t interested in, automated technology can also minimize risk to workers by replacing them in situations that may pose risks to their health and safety. For example, technology can be used in the chemical industry to prevent workers from having to expose themselves to radioactive material or chemical spills. Robots can also perform intense physical labor to minimize the risk of injury for workers.
This, too, ties into an improved worker retention rate. When workers aren’t putting their health and safety on the line every day for their job, they are more likely to stay in their positions and avoid seeking alternative employment. By allowing technology to perform these dangerous tasks, companies are protecting their workers and incentivizing them to remain at their company.
Workers Can Interact With Automated Technology
Just because automated technology might take on the tasks a worker previously carried out does not mean that workers will have nothing to do with the technology or robots. In fact, new responsibilities for the worker might involve managing or overseeing the technology, operating the machinery, or generally supervising what goes on with the newest technological change to the workplace. This will help workers build new skill sets and take on new responsibilities at their companies.
Ultimately, the criticism technology in the workforce faces is not entirely unwarranted; people have been and will be displaced by automated systems. However, in the grand scheme of things, technology offers tremendous potential, not just for large companies to improve their outputs, but for their workers as well. This side of the story is little known but provides a sense of optimism as the world continues to evolve and jobs evolve with it. While it might be intimidating, technology actually will support more careers than it threatens.