By - Sam Caucci Founder & CEO, 1HUDDLE
So I just got done watching the HBO documentary, VICE Special Report: The Future of Work. If you are a business owner, you are starting up a business, you are an academic talking about business, or you work in a business...you need to watch it.
The documentary tackles a popular question today, “How will robots, automation and artificial intelligence impact workers?”
Along the way we are introduced to an autonomous driving commercial truck, a fast food business that has replaced workers with hamburger flipping robots, and an Amazon worker that feels like he is taking orders from his robot co-worker.
Don’t forget the popcorn.
It’s entertaining, scary, informative, and it plays out to feel more like a a horror film than sci-fi.
So, what’s my problem? I believe VICE missed it. I believe they didn’t tell the whole story.
They took the safe road and went down the same easy path that every other article on the topic seems to go down when talking about work’s changing relationship with the worker that is being brought on by the quick climb of robots and automation.
I am constantly getting asked by business leaders about what is going to happen with work? Are robots going to take everyone’s job? Or, are robots nowhere near the threat some have described? Who is going to win? Employee or robot? And, depending on the day of the week you will hear some say robots will support workers and create new jobs, and you will hear some say robots will eliminate jobs.
I don’t believe anybody knows what is going to happen with work. The jury is still out. I don’t believe anybody knows if robots will replace jobs or support them. But, just walk into your local CVS, Home Depot or Walmart and it’s clear that automation is impacting work.
Work is changing. And, here is what I think VICE missed on a topic that is on the minds of young people, workers, employers, academics and politicians...the future of work.
#1. Workforce Training is Failing
We have been slowly falling behind.
Over the last 15 years there has been little to no innovation in the technology we use to onboard, upskill and develop our workforce. Today, 91% of a companies training investment is wasted on outdated learning management software or live classroom lecture training. These online learning systems allow companies to put things like their employee manuals, training videos and training tests in a single location for employees to access. Remember back in college when you used to watch the video and then take the test? Hope I didn’t give you any flashbacks. Somehow, this is the kind of stuff we are still doing and thinking is an effective workforce training strategy.
It’s slow. It’s boring. It’s ineffective.
I mean, when was the last time you were excited or felt fired up after completing the mandatory compliance module that HR emailed to you?
It takes over 107 hours to build an effective e-learning course on today’s course creation platforms, and this is why the speed at which we are able to react and create new training programs is just way too long for today’s workforce. Especially at a time when we need to be moving fast.
The more simple reason I believe workforce training is failing is because we still have a skills gap! We still have a skills gap at a time when we have more technology, more education, more information and more resources than ever in human history.
A recent survey conducted on CEOs found that 4 in 5 CEOs still say their #1 problem today are related to employees “not being ready” on Day 1. And, it isn’t just CEOs saying this. Today, the majority of young people that graduate from college say they don’t feel like they’re education adequately prepared them for work.
How do we still have a workforce that’s not ready for today’s jobs?
So, at a time when work is changing faster than we’ve ever seen. At a time when more venture capital dollars are being deployed to automate work. At a time when robots are being built to replace repeatable tasks. At a time like this...how can we be confident that we are going to be ready to respond when we aren’t even ready today?
We have jobs changing faster than ever before. And it means companies need to throw away the manuals and cut the cord on outdated software in order to invest in technology that is able to move at the speed that our jobs are changing.
#2. Companies are listening to the wrong stuff
Another reason workforce training is failing has to do with the people in charge of it. HR teams have gotten too big. Sort of like big government. We have a big HR problem today, and it’s time to scale it down.
Companies continue to trust the few people inside of HR or Learning & Development to prepare their employees for work. Unfortunately, these roles are under-funded, overwhelmed and not connected enough to react as quickly as we need.
I recently spoke with a major fast casual restaurant brand that has over 300 locations, 3,600 team members and only 3 people in charge of learning and development. This brand, like many others, trusts a few HR folks that are based 20 floors up in a corner office in Atlanta to build training content and trickle it all the way down to the front-line worker in a location here in New York City. When in reality, it should be the other way around. We should have the front-line worker who’s literally the closest to the customer-employee interaction be the one that is observing and suggesting new best practices back up and across the organization.
This intersection is critical. Customers and employees interact everyday, whether that’s buying a coffee, that’s eating at a restaurant, that’s checking into a hotel, that’s over a service call or that’s asking questions in a store. Why is this interaction so critical? Because as work changes these workers are going to be the first responders to the mania that automation is going to bear down on our workforce. As roles and responsibilities are restructured, reshuffled and redistributed we need our workers at the front-line reporting what is happening.
The #1 challenge listed by CEOs when discussing their business model is employees not ready to work on Day 1. 33% of an employee’s time at work is spent doing things other than work. And, employee turnover at a time of record-low unemployment can be debilitating to a brand.
This whole trickle down training thing isn’t getting the job done. If it worked we wouldn’t have a skill gap and we would have employees who are producing at higher levels, with higher employee engagement, and lower employee turnover. But, this is not the case.
#3. Government is handcuffing workers
One of my biggest problems with the VICE documentary is how weak and vulnerable they made employees look. It was as if the employee had no legitimate course of action to save their job other than hope for a miracle or hope that government saves the day with initiatives like universal basic income, a plan that would guarantee all Americans a $1,000 per month check.
We should also be talking about government regulations that are hurting our workforce.
We need to make it easy for employees to skill themselves up, not harder. If we are serious about tackling skill gaps and preparing workers across our workforce for the jobs of tomorrow then we need rules that support this goal. Unfortunately, today government regulations are handcuffing a workers ability to have any control over their response to the changing nature of the work that make up their career. And, they have made it harder than ever for companies to invest in training and development for their workers.
We need rules that motivate companies and employees to invest in upskilling efforts, but I constantly talk to companies that operate in fear that labor rules limit their ability to invest in employees because of fear of exposure to overtime, working off the clock or using their mobile device outside of work to skill up.
We need more public debate about how regulations that are labeled as protecting employees are actually hurting their prospects for the future. We need to talk more about what viable paths an employee has to upskill themselves beyond just being directed to another apprenticeship, technical school, community college or another lousy state workforce program.
We need to rewrite the rules before it’s too late.
So, what do we do…
This is a problem that is going to fundamentally change the way that companies put people to work. And, we need better software, we need a better way of thinking and we need everybody’s participation along the way if we’re going to tackle this problem the right way.
Work is changing. And more change is coming. There’s going to be some new jobs that pop up and there’s going to be some jobs that go away. And, this is fine. But, what bothers me are companies and politicians that continue to do the same old stuff. The companies run by leaders who say, “this is the way it’s always been done.” And the companies that complain about underskilled employees while being too cheap to invest in more innovative skill development technology.
I’m not cool with that. I’m not ok with that. And I’ll tell you this, the ones that do believe that, the ones that are backward thinking, the ones that are skating to where the puck is instead of where it’s going, those are going to be the brands that just like certain jobs, aren’t going to be here in the next few years.
Now, back to work.
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