The future of employment has been all the talk in the media in recent months following a number of massive technological advances in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (Ai) and Robotics.
Whilst automation has been impacting the production and manufacturing industries for some time, we are now seeing technologies emerging which will massively impact services industries.
Pizza Hut has made headlines of late with trials a fleet of walking, talking humanoid robots to take orders and process payments called "Pepper". Pepper is a humanoid robot developed by Japanese technology firm SoftBank that can read and respond to human gestures, expressions and tone of voice, allowing customers to communicate with the robot "just like they would with friends and family".
Imagine a fleet of robots with no sick days, unlimited work hours, no personal issues and which can be trained in 5 minutes via simply inserting a chip?! Interesting, exciting and scary all rolled into one if you ask me. But it is coming regardless. So what does this mean for the future of service industry work?
In 10 years time will RosterElf be used to roster your robots and not actual people?
There is no doubt, Ai and advanced robotics will massively change many workplaces and jobs will need to change. Some estimates from leading economists in the field say that somewhere between 9% and 40% of workers in the West could lose jobs to automation over the next two or so decades. So if you are an employer or employee, this means you need to starting thinking about the change coming and how you can respond.
Employees need to focus on growing and expanding their skills and experience beyond simple and repetitive tasks to ensure their abilities are increasingly in demand. This could include management training and a focus on real and meaningful customer service.
For businesses, the change has massive cost saving potential and should be seen an an opportunity to automate repetitive tasks and instead re-deploy the workforce into activities that add tangible value to the business and grow the bottom line. For instance, in hospitality, technologies like Pepper can enable the repetitive tasks like order taking to be done effectively and at a low cost so employees can focus on providing real and meaningful interactions with customers.
To be honest, no one really knows the future other than its coming. Like most technological advances, Ai and robotics will no doubt be a mix of positive and negative for both business and society. The most important thing is for everyone to recognise the change in the wind and ensure they are both prepared and flexible in their response.
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