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When robotics take over, humans can finally focus

When robotics take over, humans can finally focus Arjen van Berkum BitterBallenBorrel

The latest buzz is the ‘new industrial revolution’. The advances in data science and artificial intelligence are creating new ways to approach businesses that can lead to a major increase of productivity. The insights that are generated by these technologies will give businesses the opportunity to rethink their operational model and the needed human skills. Will it affect the workforce? Will it change the labour market? Yes, we need to accept that and look at the benefits of finally being able to empower the human-to-human approach.

Humans are afraid of change, always have been. Change means stepping outside the comfort zone. Why do we feel threatened by that, instead of feeling challenged by the opportunities it provides us?  We are heading towards a society that will be assisted by smart machines and automated solutions. Will that threaten your job? When you have a job that requires for example repetitive motion and basic data analysis, it probably will be done by robots in a few years. The Randstad/SEO report, “Into the Gap” (2012) indeed illustrates that developments in labour market will head that way. People for the so called middle class workers need to scale up as a knowledge worker or settle for lower skilled jobs. Either way, this will mean a huge shift in the labour market. Where that will leave the affected groups of people? They need to think about what they are good at, what skills can make them an expert and how that can change their role in the business they are in. On the other hand our educational system needs to change drastically, as I earlier stated. It will take some effort, but it will be worthwhile for all parties involved.

Robotics enables organisations to optimise their customer centricity. Big data and analytics derive a degree of predictability that helps creating customer value and really putting your customers first. In the end this will generate the most and longest lasting business value. The opportunity to focus on what really matters in relation to your customer will become more and more leading, requiring a vigorous need for human skills. In this perspective, robotics will stimulate the increase of new jobs. So we should embrace robotics and look at how we can change the way we integrate robots and humans into a powerful workforce.

Let me explain how.

What makes people indispensable

Technology will enable businesses to focus on what is really important to reinforce their core business. The added value of the human workforce will change from handling concrete actions into fulfilling the role of a coach, consultant or advisor. People will be giving a clear steer as to the businesses context and/or output. Robots can never replicate people when it comes to personal relationships and intuition.  We need to see robotics as resources that spare time, increase capacity and boost productivity. Because ultimately it will allow businesses to focus on the human side of what they do. No matter the industry, those at the end of the sales funnel are human beings. Thus, people will not be threatened, their unique skills will become even more valuable. They need to start finding out what their added value can be.

When robotics take over, humans can finally focus Arjen van Berkums BitterBallenBorrel

Building rapport

Client centricity means building rapport with your customers. Today’s businesses are fully set up to be able to meet their customers’ demands. Of course, automation can optimise processes and technology can be very helpful in areas of self-services, which can be practical in some cases. Nonetheless, when it comes to connecting with your customers, building relationships and engaging them to your business or brand for the longer term, you need human interaction. Your customers want to relate to someone; whatever happens, they cannot relate to robots. Humans go the extra mile for a client or a colleague. That extra mile is what will turn customers into loyal customers.

Innovation needs human (soft) skills

Technology is important for the future business, but innovation transcends technology. It is about what can make this world a better place to live in and to work in. To be truly innovative requires a high level of collaboration, idea sharing and creativity. It is simply impossible to programme that or plug it in. Artificial intelligence or automation might be the tooling you need to make an innovation work, but it won’t design the innovation for you. It is the human to human approach that motivates and stimulates to think beyond the borders of today’s operational models and (business) ecosystems.

Teaching tomorrow’s skills today

How do we get people to focus on the advantages of the changes caused by the new industrial revolution? Well, the problem is not that the knowledge we are transferring, is not relevant anymore. We somehow forgot to adapt that knowledge to the evolution our society is going through. This concerns not only the technological changes, also the changes in social interaction that derive from personal ecosystems and the sharing economy. We are failing to set up an educational system according the skills we need today, or even better, tomorrow! This will prepare (future) job seekers for dealing with the constantly changing labour market and the accelerating effects of technology. Also, it will make them more flexible towards allowing robots to integrate with the workforce.

We have a bright future awaiting…  

MD Betula Group

This article was originally published on

About Arjen van Berkum
Arjen van Berkum is columnist, motivator, bon vivant, innovation fan and visiting lecturer at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft). He is founder and Managing Director of Betula Services. At Betula Services they believe in co-creating the best possible value chain. They have the answer to complex issues surrounding Resource Management, driven by innovation, leadership, HR processes and performance management. By making you successful Betula Services gradually phases themselves out – the result of co-creation.

Twitter: @arjenvanberkum

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