An interview with Jelena Lukić Nikolić, Associate Professor at Modern Business School in Belgrade, Republic of Serbia.
Keywords: Robotics, technology, artificial intelligence, machine learning, human resource management.
How do you see the future of work from a technological perspective?
Throughout history, technologies have always impacted on working and living. Since the first industrial revolution, technological inventions have caused numerous opportunities, challenges, chances, as well as threats and fears. In the age of the fifth industrial revolution announced by the European Commision in 2021, the development of modern algorithms, machine learning, big data, robotics, internet of things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence led to the appearance and massive application of different types of robots in the work environment.
More and more, robots are becoming part of our work environment and it is certain that they will become our colleagues in the not so distant future. Humanoid robots that are designed for direct interaction and collaboration with people are particularly attractive. They combine human flexibility and problem-solving skills with strength, precision and endurance of mechanical robots (International Organization for Standardization, 2012). Nowadays, we can freely say that technology has become an integral and inseparable part of our life and work.
Picture Credit: Pixabay
What are the benefits of robots at work?
There are many benefits of using robots at work. For employers, the key benefits are that robots can work 24/7/365 without complaining about being tired and asking for a raise. Robots are more cost effective than people, with higher productivity, efficiency, and they do not make mistakes. Furthermore, robots can take over jobs that are dangerous and have high risks for employee health and safety, as well as jobs which are monotonous, routine and boring. They may perform tasks faster and with greater precision than employees. As a result, employees can devote their time and effort to tasks and activities that require creativity, initiative, human judgment, critical thinking, complex problem solving and decision making.
With the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning, robots are getting new features and characteristics. They are starting to conduct some complex tasks and activities with the aim to provide support and help to employees. Consequently, employees have more time to devote to clients, as well as to think about new ideas and improvements.
Although people often feel the fear of being replaced by robots and losing their jobs, the situation is different in practice. Many new jobs and professions are emerging. By searching the sites Indeed and Glassdoor, the following jobs can be found: Robotics Engineer, Robotics Designer, Robotics Technician, Business Robotics Process Automation Analyst, Robotics Application Engineers, Test Engineer for Robotics, etc.
It is interesting to mention that many educational organizations (faculties and research centres) also search for Robotics Teacher, Robotics Professors (Industrial robotics, Mobile Robotics), Robotics Technical Trainer, Computer Science Teacher, etc.
There are also roles regarding overall digital transformation such as Chief Digital Officer, Chief Information Officer, Chief Data Officers, Data Engineer, Software Engineer.
Can you tell us are there some disadvantages of robots at work?
Unfortunately, there is always another side of the coin. The same is true in case of robots. There are many examples of companies in which robots took over jobs from employees where tasks were repetitive, standardized and routine. That means that a certain number of employees have lost their jobs. That is why employees feel fear of robots – they are insecure about keeping their jobs and source of livelihood. In addition, some employees feel fear of salary reduction if robots take over part of their work.
Furthermore, there is always some kind of discomfort that employees may feel in the presence of robots because they see them as mechanical assemblies that are now near them, in their offices. Although Isak Asimov wrote about laws of robotics, according to which robots are completely safe and harmless to people, sometimes malfunctions occur that can endanger the safety. Due to various mechanical and electrical damage, robots may have unexpected and unpredictable movements dangerous for people (Murashov, Hearl, & Howard, 2016). However, by adequate usage and maintenance of the robots, above-mentioned disadvantages and threats can be eliminated or at least reduced.
How can employees prepare themselves for future jobs?
It is certain that robots will become our colleagues and part of our work environment, regardless of our profession. Working with robots is our destiny.
Employees need to prepare and adapt themselves for future jobs. Once again, the need for constant learning and growth is becoming the top priority of every individual.
In terms of competencies, employees need to develop critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, communication, and collaboration.
Among the traits, employees need curiosity, initiative, adaptability, persistence, perseverance, leadership, social and cultural awareness.
Perhaps more than ever before, employees need to be T-shaped experts who will have in-depth knowledge from one field, as well as a wide range of different knowledge and skills from other fields as problems and decisions become complex and more challenging.
International Organization for Standardization. (2012). Robots and robotic devices - Vocabulary (ISO 8373:2012). Geneva: Switzerland.
Murashov, V., Hearl, F., & Howard, J. (2016). Working Safely with Robot Workers: Recommendations for the New Workplace. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene, 13(3), 61-71. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/15459624.2015.1116700
Smids, J., Nyholm, S., & Berkers, H. (2020). Robots in the Workplace: a Threat to - or Opportunity for - Meadningful Work? Philosophy & Technology, 33, 503-522. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s13347-019-00377-4