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Will robots steal our jobs?

The ability to adapt to the changing world is the most crucial skill for companies. This was one of the observations made at ReCoTech, a seminar about the future of work held by Sponda and Rakli.

Digitalisation transforms working life, but how? What will we actually do in the future? Will robots eventually steal all our jobs?

The ReCoTech seminar by Sponda and Rakli attracted around 70 people to Sponda’s new coworking space in Ruoholahti, Helsinki, to discuss the changing nature of work.

Tides of change

According to Miia Lasaroff, Business Unit Manager of Sponda’s Coworking concept, developer of office spaces of the future and one of the speakers at the seminar, important factors for the transformation of working life include technological development, urbanisation, networked structures and the transformation of the work culture.

Miia Lasaroff

In practice, these changes are already taking place: middle class jobs are partly disappearing, urbanisation and self-employment are becoming more common and joint innovations are praised over individual achievements.

Companies must wake up and acknowledge these changes. The digital revolution and the transformation of working life can make or break an individual organisation.

Sami Honkonen, CEO of Tomorrow Labs and expert in leadership, encourages companies to rid themselves of excess structures. Traditional hierarchies, strategies and rule-based management approaches do not work in a constantly changing environment.

Sami Honkonen.

 Instead, we need responsive organisations.

“The change is becoming more and more rapid. The ability to adapt to the changing world is the most crucial skill for organisations,” Honkonen says.

Experimenting is one of the cornerstones of responsive organisations. Because we cannot know for sure what the future will be like, companies must be ready to experiment with new things and see how this affects their environment.

New jobs are also created

But what difference do organisational structures make, if a large share of our current jobs will disappear in any case? What is the point of discussing the changing nature of work or responsive organisations?

Marjaana Toiminen

On the contrary, discussing these themes is vital, argues Marjaana Toiminen, CEO of MindMill Networks. While it’s true that technology makes some jobs unnecessary, it also creates new jobs. In Toiminen’s view, this side of things receives too little attention.

“The threats of automation keep a large number of consultants busy. Focusing on the threats seems to be the most popular angle from which to approach the future of work,” Toiminen says and points out that how we talk about the future also shapes the future.

She calls for “less buzz and more insight and wisdom” in the discussion. Toiminen cites experts who argue that the current transformation actually creates more new jobs than it destroys old jobs.

This is why the discussion should touch on topics such as the lack of experts, skills mismatch and the opportunities of employees to change fields or re-train themselves.

Meanwhile, a recent study classifies the majority of Finnish SMEs as “digi dropouts” or “digi lost”. This worries Toiminen a great deal.

“A lot of hope is placed in SMEs in terms of employment. What will happen to companies that fail to follow the trends? They don’t even have time to notice the robotisation. This is what we should worry about, not the robotisation.”

Towards service businesses

The end result of automation remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: the new working culture requires new working spaces. Business premises must meet the new challenges better.

Miia Lasaroff believes that the traditional property business will become more service business-like. Users want more than just physical space. In the future, the focus will not be on the property but on content.

“The important question is, how much value and experiences the space can offer to its users,” Lasaroff says.

Published 20.11.2017