For more than a century, women have faced adversity in the workplace ranging from unequal pay to lack of promotions and underrepresentation in leadership roles. Today, however, there’s a new challenge for women: the rise of robotics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI). While advancements in technology have been a boon for businesses, they also appear to imperil many of the roles that women currently hold in the workplace. In fact, women may be more subject to technology-driven marginalization than any other group, according to the World Economic Forum: Fifty-seven percent of the jobs that will be disrupted by technology by 2026 are currently held by women.
Fortunately, this situation doesn’t need to be described in terms of “doom and gloom.” Organizations can start preparing their workforces today for the automation of tomorrow. Training professionals should take measures to retool their employees to help set them up for success in the post-digital era. Below are several ways to help lessen the impact of automation, especially for women.
Companies should compare the skill sets of at-risk positions with the new roles that they will need in the future. By mapping these skills, training professionals can identify future roles for displaced workers – and ensure that they have the talent they will need to succeed going forward. For instance, in accounting, clerks perform many tasks, including “number-crunching,” that will soon be automated. On the other hand, with new technologies automating these tasks in the background, there will be a greater need for employees to focus on client relationships and data analysis.
Inevitably, some positions will become obsolete, particularly jobs that do not require a high level of critical thinking. For at-risk employees like cashiers, reskilling is vital. Training administrators can host a series of one-on-one interviews with employees, evaluate their abilities and interests, and identify training programs that would benefit them.
Another great way to address the ways that technology is changing the talent landscape is to strategically redeploy certain positions. Many companies across industries will need to redeploy resources through cross-training initiatives and rotate jobs in house. For example, when the banking industry was first hit by automation, many financial institutions cross-trained bank tellers to become financial banking advisors, increasing their responsibilities and enabling them to focus on developing relationships with clients.
Like internships, returnships allow women who have education and work experience in high-demand fields – but who are currently out of the workforce – to transition back to work. In general, these women return to work on a per-project or part-time basis while fulfilling educational requirements and/or gaining the experience they need to contribute in permanent positions.
By preparing at-risk workforces for technological disruption, companies can help mitigate displacement, create a workforce integrated with technology and ensure their success in the future. By taking these steps – and putting robust diversity and inclusion strategies in place – companies will also extend their impact in the talent market, fuel innovation and increase ROI. After all, a workforce in which diverse perspectives come together is fertile ground for innovation.