When The Irish Tiger was at its strongest, the infrastructure of business was changing. Technology and automation were becoming the foundations of the modern business world.

In the aftermath of the economic crisis – with a healthier respect for debt – the Irish, along with every other country to one extent or another, is in the process of another great shift.

Changing the Workforce

 Automation and IT/AI developments have brought about changes to the workforce of the country, with significant ones to come.

Some jobs no longer exist, while others are moving from the imagined to the actual. Where there was once a typist, there’s now an SEO Specialist. Extensive research is being undertaken to foresee how these changes can be met with positive results, and whether that is indeed possible.

With effective social policies and technical advice to steer technological change for our benefit, automation and IT/AI technology can be empowering for social development.

“A comparative analysis of the impact of automation on occupations in Ireland” was the name of a 2018 research project by the Irish government, which yielded some interesting information on the state of the situation.

First, there seems to be a correlation between education and automation. The more educated you are, the less it affects your position within your industry, or the sector you’re in. Second, where you’re located makes a significant difference. The more rural the area, the more change is expected to be seen. For tractor drivers in winter, that might not be such a bad idea. 

Choose a Low Risk Area

 The report showed low, significant, and high-risk areas. [i]

High-risk areas indicate occupations that are already shifting out of existence, or are becoming automated, such as labourers and plant workers.

Low risk areas include those with ‘the human touch,’ managerial roles, and the upcoming creative arts industries.

Science and engineering professionals are safe, but factory workers who have been assembling for generations are being replaced.

Finally, though technology has entered the classroom, it hasn’t replaced the teacher.

Millennials are leading the way

The youth of Ireland, especially those in urban areas, are adapting well to many of the changes the IoT has brought about. Using apps and online banking for services is one area, online shopping another.

The reason for this preference seems convenience. Smartphones are ubiquitous and apps for mobile payments easy to download. Urban areas with high tech adoption rates are fast becoming cashless societies.

The Irish in rural areas who have connectivity issues might not have access to the modern conveniences their urban peers do.

 How HR can help the shift

HR can make this shift smoother by creating systems for the evaluation of the workforce, in order to have employees exactly where they’re needed, where their skills are best used, and where their placement is to everyone’s advantage – on location, or remote.

Adapting to the change automation brings and trying to thrive because of it – not fearing it, nor making an issue of it – might be key.

When you can strategize your business model to balance the strengths of AI systems and the appeal of the human touch, it is possible – not just optimistic – to have an enhanced business, whatever your product or service is.

Contrasting opinions on whether automation will cause more damage than do good have been reported recently. What it might depend on is how changes brought about by automation are met by the government and the public, and how businesses strategize to cope with it.

 The human touch

Optimistically speaking, technological progress leaves creatives and hospitality specialists to excel at being human. What is this ‘human touch’ being referred to since AI was developed?

Two kinds of AI exist, narrow and general. The first is machinery that responds to instructions, while the second is tech that can ‘think’ independently and function autonomously. The former is in daily use, while the latter is still being developed, despite ethical storms that exist around it.

What this ‘human touch’ happens to be is humans can do what narrow and general AI are still trying to learn and execute. Programming is done in youth, with reprogramming possible at later stages of development. We can be flexible with the rules and adapt to situations using empathy as well as intelligence. A situation that could escalate between a human and a chatbot could be resolved – or even avoided – by another human.

Thus, though we’ll all deal with chatbots, know that a human supervising these bots is necessary for optimal services.

The future of the workforce

The best-case scenario is the technological processes we put in place function to free us from the mundane. In so doing, updated systems could open a new world of possibilities, leaving humans to explore more of their own scientific and creative endeavours.

If that sounds like hyperbole, it’s only because businesses choose not to be prepared. From IT services to bespoke systems, whatever your company may need to be compatible with the tech-based business world we’re in, you can find it online.

Job loss might be inevitable, but job creation is on the rise. The increased IoT allows for workspaces to be remote and freelance work possible. The results of research indicate professionals, managers, and proprietors will not be at risk, nor will sports occupations and those in teaching and educational professions.

The continuation of automation is inevitable too, but the future of the Irish workforce is in the hands of those planning for the future. The youth choosing what to study, the HR department strategizing, entrepreneurs finding solutions, thus creating new services – this is how present concerns become future realities.

Being prepared means being informed, willing to adapt to new technology, and letting go of anything that can be better done by a robot.

[i] https://igees.gov.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Automation-and-Occupations-Technical-Paper.pdf

By Chelsea Cook, who is a content creator for various businesses. She’s fascinated by technological innovations and cutting-edge solutions that help make the world a better place.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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