How could automation affect your business?

The pace of technological change over the last few decades has been incredible and it sometimes feels overwhelming. In how customer service has changed we looked at the huge impact technology has had on customer service. But what about the rest of your business? There are big changes ahead there, too.

Some experts believe that the effect of automation on the workforce could be catastrophic, and that most jobs we know of today will be done by machines within the next few years. The risk is that there could be a huge increase in unemployment unless governments plan ahead in areas such as re-training, investing in those jobs that must still be done by a human being and perhaps even providing a basic income for everyone.

There are experts who don’t believe the picture is so bleak, though. Dr Andrew Charlton says:

“Despite the recent spate of negative reports, the current speed at which machines are taking over human work is no faster than during past waves of technological change. The annual rate of job loss to automation today is less than 0.5 per cent of all jobs – which is slower than the job losses in agriculture in the 1950s as machines replaced farm workers by the thousands, and even slower than the losses in the 1990s when robots were displacing factory workers in the manufacturing sector.”

In fact, he reminds us to look at the positives such as bank staff now being able to spend their time giving financial advice rather than counting cash.

Nevertheless, automation is a force we can’t stop and we need to prepare for it. The factory workers will need support and training if they are to move over to the jobs that can’t be done by robots. It won’t happen seamlessly or overnight.

Here are a few things you might like to consider for your own small business if you want to take advantage of automation rather than lose out to it:

  • Don’t be afraid to automate repetitive tasks wherever you can. If you don’t have the tech skills you can hire someone to set it up for you. This could well pay for itself because your business will be more efficient.
  • Are you offering a service that will soon be done by a machine? If so, think about what you have to offer that a technical solution cannot. For example, the team behind Canva created a way for small businesses to do their own graphic design cheaply and easily. That doesn’t mean the graphic designers that were working for small businesses are now obsolete, but they do need to be able to offer something that Canva cannot at a price their clients are prepared to pay.
  • Do you need to invest in your own training and development to stay on top of the changes that are coming? Don’t forget to work on your business as well as in it.

If you’d like to know more about the effect of automation on business, take a look at Andrew Charlton‘s books.

Image: tmeier1964


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