This week's selection of must-read articles about the world of work considers the true meaning of digital transformation, a possible solution to the UK's productivity puzzle and the people for whom we should spare a thought this Christmas.

#1. You’ve Heard of Robots; What Are Cobots?


How will robots fit into the future world of work? In many industries, robots perform vital tasks but they have to be separated from humans, for safety reasons. Until now. Cobots – collaborative robots – are designed to work alongside humans and make their tasks easier. According to Forbes, cobots are already being used in heavy industries, such as automobile manufacturing, and the next stop will be ‘softer’ sectors. Supply chain, warehouse work, and logistics are all ideal for the rise of the cobots. Will your coffee shop soon be staffed by cobot baristas? Forbes says “this is an inevitability”.


Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

#2. Is ‘digital transformation’ just another buzzword?


The future is digital! But how do you embrace the opportunities and what does digital transformation really mean? This HR Zone article breaks the term down into four simple lessons, based on the findings of a recent Harvard Business Review report. Older businesses can find digital transformation challenging but they need to consider how people use technology, the mindset of their employees and how they can help them develop the skills they need to take advantage of new technology. Throughout all this it’s important to be realistic: digital transformation is a process that has been going on for decades, and it has a long way to go yet.


Photo by Leighann Renee on Unsplash

#3. Could the UK’s productivity puzzle be solved by robots?


How do you stay competitive in an increasingly globalized world? In the UK the productivity fell in 2019 at its fastest rate in five years. Is Brexit uncertainty to blame? Skills shortage? Poor management? Whatever the cause, a poll by automation company V1 suggests that the answer is more robots, or indeed, cobots (see above). According to them, 62% of employees believe that robots would boost their productivity, supporting them in mundane tasks and freeing them to work on “higher-value activities”. More than three-quarters of those surveyed (77%) said they would be happy to work alongside robots if it meant less manual work.


Photo by Lenny Kuhne on Unsplash

#4. American Factories Demand White-Collar Education for Blue-Collar Work


An investigation by the Wall Street Journal has found that manufacturing workers are increasingly likely to need higher education to do today’s jobs. What was previously often considered “unskilled” work now requires more advanced skills, such as managing complex machinery, writing computer code or solving complicated technical problems. More than 40% of manufacturing workers now have a college degree, compared with 22% in 1991. At the same time, The Adecco Group’s own research shows that the youngest generation, the so-called Generation Z, believes that future CEOs may no longer need college degrees. It appears that while jobs in manufacturing will require more college-educated workers, the management will have to invest more in soft skills. This only underlines the importance of lifelong learning for all workers.


Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

#5. HR third most likely profession to work on Christmas day


And finally, this time next week Christmas will be over for another year but if you work in HR, that might be a good thing. According to a new survey, one in 10 HR professionals in the UK expect to be working on Christmas Day, behind only healthcare workers (19%) and those in arts and culture (11%). “The majority of Christmas Day workers are in the public sector, and this work is often necessary to keep the country moving,” said Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester and leader of the study. If you’re celebrating Christmas this year, take a moment to consider those who are at work.


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