How not to get replaced by machines at work
| April 13, 2017
I was not exaggerating in my previous article when I discussed how "machines will soon perform more service jobs than humans." My proposition was supported by more than 10 recent examples where service jobs are being replaced by robots or automatic service in restaurants, hotels and other fields in the service sector.
If that is not enough, here is an additional example: "Meet Sally, the robot who makes perfect salads." This machine specializes in only one menu item — salad — yet it can do a better job than most chefs. For example:
- It can make salads within 60 seconds.
- It makes salad with perfect proportions, even with accurate calorie counts.
- It can create more than 1,000 salads from the 21 ingredients stored inside the machine.
- Those 21 ingredients can be changed over time, making it possible for the machine to create even more salads.
- It weighs 350 pounds.
- It has a price tag of $30,000, but can also be leased for $500 a month.
"What? A machine that costs over $10,000? That is too expensive, especially when we consider the high maintenance fees associated with the machines. There is no way that restaurants would use such expensive machines to replace real humans at work." — That was one comment I received from my previous discussion.
Actually, $30,000 is not that expensive if we do the math.
Let's say a restaurant pays a cook $15 an hour ($15 an hour will soon become the minimum wage). Let's also assume the restaurant does not pay any benefits for this cook, even though an employer would usually pay over 30 percent on top of a staff person's base salary as benefits.
Thus, $30,000 is equivalent to 2,000 working hours for this chef ($15 x 2,000 = $30,000). If a full-time cook works eight hours a day or 40 hours a week, those 2,000 working hours are equivalent of 50 weeks of work for one cook (40 x 50 = 2,000).
Because a machine can work 16 hours a day without a break (two shifts), as compared to eight hours a day for a cook, those 50 weeks of work for one cook are now shortened into 25 weeks (if two cooks are replaced by the machine) (80 x 25 = 2,000).
In fact, a machine can work seven days a week without any holiday pay, meaning it can work for 112 hours a week (16 x 7 = 112). Then, it will only take 17.86 weeks, or 4.5 months for the restaurant to get the initial investment back (2,000 / 112 = 17.86; 17.86 / 4 = 4.46).
What do you think now? Does $30,000 still sound expensive to you? Most of all, when machines are put to work, there involves no recruiting or training cost, and machines will never call in sick or want to quit.
So, what can we do if we do not want to get replaced by machines?
If you are with me and convinced that most manual labor will be replaced soon, it is now time for us to make plans for the future. My suggestions include:
Strive to be a leader in the field
People can demonstrate their leadership potentials with a progressive career path on their resumes or through the leadership responsibilities they take in professional or student organizations.
Leaders are visionaries and focus on the big things in life. Leaders set good examples for others, but at the same time they understand the art of delegation. Leaders inspire others and grow with their team. No matter how good they are, leaders never stop learning.
Focus on transferable skills
We need to develop transferable skills, such as leadership, critical thinking and analytical skills, as well as effective communication skills, in addition to the technical skills taught in class or learned at work. The content we learn in class or the ways people do business may change or get updated quickly, but those transferable skills will stay with us throughout our career.
Do whatever it takes to be irreplaceable
The attributes for being irreplaceable may include:
- Being an advocate for our organization and ourselves both online and in person.
- Being a good presenter or public speaker, with or without visual aids.
- Being able to tell stories with pictures, which can be used in business communications, presentations and public speaking.
- Being approachable and being able to anticipate others' needs.
- Being a critical thinker who can make informed, rational decisions, sometimes through an analysis of a data set or a complex situation.
What else can we do so that we will not be replaced by machines at work? Any suggestions?
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