How can companies reduce human-robot conflict in an automated workplace?

Studies show that robots could take over 20 million jobs by 2030 – and this is solely in the manufacturing sector. Millions of more jobs will be taken over by robots in other sectors too.

Already today, a large part of the world’s jobs are partially automated. The time isn’t far when robots and humans will need to work hand-in-hand. While this development will certainly bring in many benefits, there is the most obvious problem of human-robot conflict that will afflict companies.

So, how can employers prevent conflict between people and automation and ensure organizational success? Here are four things employers can do.

1. Keep people in the loop about technological advancements

The arrival of automation can make the workplace a very ambiguous place to be in. There may be a lack of clarity and transparency which can increase feelings of frustration, anger, and fear in people. This is where management communication can help.

Team leaders and project managers should actively keep their teams in the loop about how automation will assist in the job. They should also keep people informed about future technological advancements that the company plans to implement.

Employers should also be open about the areas/activities which automation and robots won’t touch and which are solely the domain of human employees.

2. Get staff to specialize in behind-the-scenes operations

The biggest reason for conflict between automation and humans is fear. People are afraid that they will become completely redundant with the arrival of state-of-the-art automation. But employers can eliminate this fear by encouraging people to specialize in back-end jobs, which robots can’t do.

For example, there’s no guarantee that automation will lead to 100% fool-proof work. Robots may have trouble understanding customer support queries or speech patterns. Robots may become faulty or slow or inefficient.

3. Have people develop complementary skills

Let’s face the facts. While robots can learn many skills, there are certain things that are too intrinsically human and which robots or automation can’t mimic (at least not so well). Employers need to encourage human staff to develop these complementary skillsets, and then allocate work which utilizes these skills to them.

These skills include systems thinking, creativity, meta-skills, imagination-based development, empathy, and so on.

4. Streamline & allocate jobs using workforce management software

A great way to ensure there is no human-robot conflict in the workplace is to define which jobs belong to people and which to automation. Job allocation, implementation, and tracking should all be done using workforce management software.

This software will help companies collate and organize big data pertaining to tasks being performed. It will help employers monitor which jobs are being done by whom and what their completion rate is. It will also help identify potential bottlenecks and areas of conflict and allow employers to take effective action to prevent these issues from escalating.

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