The Future of Work

By Jing Ertl-Yang

New technologies will revolutionise the way we work and live - especially the rise of AI, robotics, machine learning and IoT. Imagine that your colleagues are robots. Undoubtedly, working with robotics will be prevailing soon, and automation will play a critical role in the future of work. Despite the increasing uncertainty and unknown issues on automation, CIOs need to be prepared for the future of work, recognising the impacts that will transform organisations, harnessing the technologies to increase productivity and tackling the challenges of adoption of emerging technologies.

Automation enables companies to drive greater productivity, reduce cost and make employees more engaged in their workplace. While robots replace mundane and repetitive jobs, employees will be able to spend more time in high-value activities and focus on more critical and creative work. Moreover, it can protect employees from working in an unsafe environment. Therefore, many organisations are investing in it to gain a competitive edge, and if acting slow, they may be left behind.

However, the fear of automation continues to rise as organisations are concerned about the massive changes brought by new technologies that will disrupt their all structures, and employees worry about if they will lose their jobs - replaced by robots. It will have huge impacts on our society, economy and, not to mention, work. Forrester predicts jobs will lose by 29% by 2030 with 13% job creations to compensate. The World Economic Forum forecasts automation will displace 75 million jobs but create 133 million jobs worldwide. Though both positive and negative attitudes towards the job markets, it is certain that we cannot ignore the significant impact caused by automation on the workplace.

Organisational Structure

Automation will reshape organisational structures and even business models, pushing leaders to rethink their business structure and culture in order to quickly adapt to the new digital environment for all the employees. It will alter not only the way we operate systems but also the way we interact with customers, thereby creating a new business model. Introducing an advanced technology like robots could be really exciting but significantly disrupts business operations if organisations are not well-prepared and cautious about each step of adoption they execute.

It is imperative for a CIO to collaborate with a CEO, CMO and leaders from across companies to create a thoughtful strategy that navigates an organisation to overcome the challenges of adopting automation. Communication is one of the biggest issues when a new technology or policy is introduced. The usual problem is that users are unable to follow guidebooks or training lessons to operate their systems due to the mistaken information and lack of terminology knowledge. Cross-functional teams can provide broader perspectives to implement initiatives and eliminate confusion and misunderstanding between IT and operational staff. A successful, considerate strategy will connect employees across from the company.


Employees will be on the top of the agenda as automation and robots will be in vain without humans' proper operating. In other words, higher-level skills are required to perform relevant automation and humans should be in the loop. As a result, IT leaders should closely work with HR executives to define the necessary skills to adopt new technologies and to create a program to mitigate skill gaps. Companies must upskill their existing employees or hire qualified candidates with digital skills such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

As the anxiety and fear of adoption of intelligent technologies might be across an organisation, leaders ought to inspire their employees to acquire new skills and to embrace new technologies and to adapt to a new culture, building trust and a stronger community. Furthermore, they should hear from the employees' feedback and maximise their value.

Human and Machine collaboration

Workers may feel insecure about the rise of intelligent technologies that could compete with them in jobs or the way to work with technologies because of the complexity and required skills. However, automation provides an opportunity to rewrite their career and have critical thinking skills; employees can do more creative tasks and gain valuable insights from automation and AI to make a better decision. Technologies will benefit humans in many ways in work. Robots will not replace humans; humans will not replace robots. The truth is that we can work together to achieve tremendous success in productivity and innovation and gain a competitive advantage to fuel business growth.

According to Accenture, investment in AI and Human-machine collaboration could increase revenues by 38% by 2022. Indeed, the combined power of human and machine is strong, and it will be a win-win situation.

Automation will be a major force to drive the future of work and have multiple implications in our society and workforce. As with the implementation of automation, CIOs will play a prominent role in leading organisations to overcome the challenges of adoption and to adapt a new culture and organisational structure in a new digital era. Organisations need to evolve with technology and build a learning culture to be prepared for this revolution.

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