You are surrounded by them, in your home on your commute, at your work. What are these mechanical slaves? To put simply; machines. Machines can be defined in the most basic terms as anything that reduces human efforts, be it the zipper in your trousers to the innumerous satellites orbiting the earth, helping predict the weather or providing your pinpoint location on a map. Why are we talking about machines? Simply because advanced machine automation, Artificial Intelligence and Connected Products are on the rise and the human workforce has never been in such uncertainty about the future.
‘‘And mark my words, AI is far more dangerous than nukes.’’- Elon ‘Maverick’ Musk’’
In the latest episode of the political satire show, Last Week Tonight, the John Oliver, takes a dig at the effects of automation and the cut down in jobs it will lead to. He states, production rose twice in the US but the workforce has been cut down to 66%. Most people talk about automation as a scary new problem, it is neither new nor scary, it has been there since the industrial revolution. Employers prefer automation as robots don’t hire or ask for leave, neither do they complain. In short, efficiency. He goes on to state that automation will not necessarily replace jobs but tasks. He provides an example of bank teller jobs that were replaced by ATM machines. Their jobs necessarily didn’t go away but were redirected to sales and customer relations. David Autor, Economist, MIT puts forward a scenario, since the 1900s, 95% of the people have lost their jobs in agriculture as machines take over, no one in the 1900s would be afraid of losing jobs in agriculture with new machinery neither would they imagine working in SEO, writing articles on the internet or making a living of Youtube Videos. (MM: Maybe add a link somewhere to the YouTube content of LWT?)
However, one thing that is very important in all this transition is Competence Development and Re-training. The Field Service Leaders have to prepare for the digital, automation and AI battle and start competence development programs for their employees. Competence development moves hand-in-hand with change management as the older workforce is more reluctant to jump on the change bandwagon. Some of the important factors in competence development is first, building trust in the technology using scenarios, case studies and story-telling that will explain what the technology can do, how it improve the customer’s experience and how it can assist the workers and make their life easier. The second step is to form focussed groups consisting of younger and older folks with at least one technology expert. The older workforce brings experience and exposure to customers whereas the younger workforce brings energy and ease of adaptation to new technology. This team has to be complemented by the technology expert training them, clearing doubts and helping the team when they are stuck. The last and most important step is feedback and communication. The changes have to flow top-down whereas the feedback has to flow bottom-up in the organisation. The workforce has to use the technology and provide feedback before abandoning it as automation that will ultimately take up their jobs.
In conclusion. John Oliver assures the future jobs for humans will involve non-routine tasks that require critical thinking, social intelligence and creative problem-solving. In the field service industry, centralisation of data, augmented reality and connected devices will not take away field service technicians, but make them more efficient by complementing their skills, prevent re-work due to inaccessible knowledge and allow the technicians to focus on customer satisfaction.