Navigating Scale in a Competitive Workforce

Navigating Scale in a Competitive Workforce

Taking small steps has never been difficult, unless you are Neil Armstrong, of course. We tend to do really well with incremental changes. Going from 1 to 1 million is much harder and might seem impossible at times, but soon it may be the norm.

The workforce is changing, and there is more competition than ever. Fears of replacement are still echoing throughout multiple industries, and workers do not trust the exploration that companies are engaged in, to enhance worker production. But the truth is, whether we like it or not, competition is greater than it ever was before and workers need to understand how to navigate it.

There have always been skill gaps and learning curves, especially around technology advancements, but COVID-19 has exponentially increased the competition at a higher pace. The competing work force of today is an assortment of drones, robotics, cameras using A.I. and machine learning, and of course other people. In yesterday’s world, a worker that lost their job, would simply apply for another; but in today’s world the competition has jumped local and state lines. One could argue that even domestic versus international has increased as well. No longer are you competing with like candidates in your area, but you are competing with everyone. Remote work policies are increasing, and companies are realizing the mass amount of savings in office spaces, facility staff, physical security contractors, etc.

Automation has been a key propellant since the early 1900’s and has not slowed down since. As companies automate, productivity is increased. As companies innovate, profits are increased. The key takeaway is that both automation and innovation both come from workers/people, not machines.

If workers become less of the workforce, innovation may suffer and if machines become more, does it create a catastrophic dependency of reliance? Furthermore, even when we use technology to increase or enhance workers productivity, does that reliance eventually lead to replacement, whether intended or unintended?

People are the problem with scale!

People take time to grow, to mature, to learn, to have experience. People are also very bad at unlearning. It is much easier to rewrite a line of code than it is to retrain a worker with bad habits. Additionally, it takes a lot of time to transfer the productivity of a worker with great skills and habits. But even more than that, each person has different work ethics and experiences, and biases that factor into this. Elon Musk may think he has figured out knowledge transfer with his company Neural Link, but while he is solving the problems of tomorrow, we still need to solve the problems of today.

So, how do we scale, when scaling is hard?  Well, we take small steps. We look at these new challenges with a new lens.

  • Increasing productivity can also decrease workloads. This in turn may allow workers to work less hours but be more productive while keeping current pay rates.
  • AR/VR advancements can upskill the workforce today and give greater opportunity with less need for prerequisites, evening the playing field for workers of all backgrounds
  • Just because machines have become smarter, doesn’t mean we have not. The creative is something that machines find difficult to produce. Innovation may be easy to discover, but applying it is something totally different.
  • COVID-19 has really redefined the essential worker and has given a sense of confidence in the ability for companies to carry on through challenging times; and in many ways, has opened up more opportunity for workers to challenge themselves, their motives, their purpose, and their goals.

Scaling 1 to 1,000,000 maybe hard for people and easy for machines, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. Will reliance turn into replacement? Will software maintenance become the new trash collectors and plumbers in our society? Will workers become babysitters for technology? No one knows, and that’s ok. But either way, the future will not look like we think it will. We are unique, we are different. We must embrace this and learn to use technology to enhance our individual value. That is the creative, that is the unscalable, that is the unwavering human nature to exist.

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