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Yorkshire North East

Technology is moving faster than we think

12 Apr 2019

Technology is moving faster than we think

Have you ever stopped to consider if, and when, your job will be replaced by artificial intelligence? There are already scores of jobs, at all levels, in the process of being made redundant.

Automation could sweep up a million and a half jobs in England alone, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It analysed 20 million jobs in England, finding that 7.4 per cent were at high risk of being replaced by technology such as algorithms or robots.

Those at lowest risk include higher education teachers, senior professionals in education and medical practitioners. It’s not such good news for waiters, bar staff and shelf fillers, who are deemed to be at greater risk.

The YO! brand is rapidly moving in to the hotel space with YOTEL and now has 1,000 ‘cabins’ in three countries, and a further 4,000 planned or ‘in build’ in ten locations – all with self-service check-in.

I was lucky enough to hear from Judith McKenna, chief executive and president of Walmart International, at last week’s Odgers Berndtson and PWC Annual Board Dinner. The University of Hull graduate was clear that companies can’t see automation as something for the future. She says the future is now. Hailing from Middlesbrough, Judith is responsible for largest workforce in the world at 700,000 people, that is with robots removed!

Judith underlined that technology is moving faster than many of us realise. It wasn’t long ago that a robot couldn’t tell the difference between a computer and a piece of fruit. Now it can tell you the difference between different types of apples. We now see automation and algorithms coming together at pace.

Judith underlined the importance of people and the ability to continuously motivate this mass workforce across the globe. This is performed through Walmart’s core values and Sam Walton’s 55-year old, simple vision and mission of helping customers to save money and live better by providing them with convenient access to affordable items.

Whilst I have serious concerns about our lack of agility in the skills arena, we also need to view automation as an opportunity. More than ever before must we focus on upskilling and reskilling our people in industries that are being disrupted by automation, which is pretty much every sector. Not just fin-tech and med-tech how about construct-tech, re-tech, logi-tech and the rest?

A report by McKinsey in 2018 found that as well as technology skills, there will be an increased need for workers with finely tuned social and emotional skills - skills that machines are a long way off mastering.

Companies will need to provide continuous learning opportunities to ensure that staff are flexible and agile with transferable skills that can be deployed across the business. This must go hand in hand with more flexible working conditions, which will work for both employer and employee.

The trick is to understand how automation and knowledge come together. That’s what our judges will be looking for in the Innovation category at our Director of the Year Awards. Last year, Prof Adam Beaumont, founder of AQL, scooped our award. If you haven’t got your entry in yet, don’t worry, you’ve still got until the end of next week

Further ahead, on 14 May, we’ll hear from Anna Daroy, IoD Interim Director General, who is speaking at our Open Doors event at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds. That will be a packed week of events in Leeds, Harrogate and York. Many of the events are complimentary so please book here or email us for a human response.

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Natalie Sykes, regional director, Institute of Directors

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