How to stop digital transformation from stealing your job

Digital transformation efforts are proliferating the enterprise, resulting in the elimination of many jobs. Here's how to prepare.

Why employers need to build workers' digital skills At the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, Rod Adams of PwC discussed why companies must train their employees on new technical skills.

With nearly 80% of organizations undergoing digital transformation initiatives, businesses are setting their sights on innovation. The purpose of digital transformation is to use technology to advance business processes, making operations more efficient and effective.

Technology is infiltrating all industries and aspects of life, including the hiring process. Some 15% of job seekers now land their jobs through social media. Many of these jobs are also new positions, created as a result of digital transformation efforts. Positions like database engineers, software integrators, and data scientists are all the result of technological improvements in business, said David Ciccarelli, founder and CEO of Voices.com. The majority of the current most sought-after jobs didn't even exist a decade ago, he added.

SEE: Digital transformation: A guide for CXOs (Tech Pro Research)

"Digital technologies are progressively transforming companies which have now access to a wide range of digital systems that can manage—or help to manage—their interactions with different actors of their network," said Margherita Pagani, co-director of the masters in digital marketing and data science program at Emlyon Business School. "Yet these systems are impacting also the processes inside the companies making them more efficient and allowing to add new value layers."

However, many workers are concerned that automation may be too effective, negatively affecting or replacing their jobs—and unfortunately, this concern exists for good reason.

The jobs in danger

When it comes to the jobs that could be replaced by digital transformation, "no position is really safe," said Cody Swann, CEO of Gunner Technology.

The jobs expected to be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) or other automated processes are those that typically involve long, monotonous, manual actions, said Ciccarelli. The positions that involve "pushing pixels," or data re-entry and the like, are also on the front lines of digital replacement, he added.

However, just because something involves a lower skillset, doesn't mean it should be replaced by AI, said Swann. "People look at replacing customer service, which is obviously a low-skilled job, but it's a job that should not be replaced by automation," Swann said. "No one wants to talk to a chatbot when they call customer service."

Also, automation isn't only reserved for low skill jobs, Swann noted. For example, "diagnosticians are very highly skilled positions, but a robo or an algorithm can do that much, much better," he added. "[Automation] can analyz[e] all of that input, which a human being can't possibly do."

The same can be said for a high-level position such as litigator: AI or machine learning could analyze a large volume of legal cases much faster than a human could, Swann said. "So when I'm looking at jobs that I think will be automated, I look at what I think should be automated," he added.

How to keep your job safe

"To the person who says, 'It's never going to happen to me,' it's definitely going to happen to you," Swann warned. "Don't take that attitude. Really look at how you can harness [your job] to add value to it."

The first step is to look ahead, rather than staying stagnant in your current position, said Ciccarelli. Think about the data your company is currently gathering, and what insight could be gleaned from the data. "Then, put forth recommendations, or ideas," he said. "Look for ways to create a stage opportunity to get yourself in front of the right people that might lead to your next promotion."

The best way to prepare for digital transformation is to educate and upskill yourself, said Swann. "Subscribe to RSS and Twitter feeds to keep up on the news. Keep up on the trends, and try to look forward," Swann said. "It doesn't hurt you to get skills that will still make you better. The great thing about digital transformation is the education, and the re-education, that is readily available through sites like Udemy, LinkedIn Learning. There's so many sources with free and/or cheap education options."

At the end of the day, if you want to keep your job safe, you must have both the motivation and mindset. "You really have to be a self-starter. You have to proactively find these courses and you have to set aside time for it," Swann said.

Some companies even compensate education efforts, Swann added, or provide rewards for new certificates or skills. He recommended approaching your company about various learning opportunities and how to access them.

To learn more about the skills companies are looking for, check out this TechRepublic article. And for companies considering providing resources to employees, learn about how to build workers' digital skills here.

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