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Will Increased Productivity Cost Jobs?

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Barbara Jones of Stellar Business Automation asks one of the most difficult questions about business consulting: what happens when people are afraid that increases in productivity will cost them their jobs?

This topic is consistent with Barbara’s extensive background in instructional design. Training requires change, which means resistance. Training requires adapting the mind to new ideas. Learning new skills means accepting that old ways are obsolete and new approaches are more effective.

The revelation is that training enables us to avoid obsolescence can be frightening, because learning new skills is not always the easiest option. A Reader’s Digest article reminds us about the recent history of work:

In 1972, telecommunications companies and other businesses employed 394,000 telephone operators. Today, that number is 52,000, an 87 percent job loss. Another casualty are clerks who process loan applications. They’re easily replaced by software that does the routine math, and so their ranks are expected to fall by 24,000 over the next several years. And, with self-serve gas stations, ATMs and e-tail sites, productivity is on the rise throughout a broad array of service industries…In the near future, even the trip to work will be revolutionized by computation: Certain New York City subway lines will be driven by computers instead of train operators.

Even the words used in these old jobs seem antiquated: telephone operator, gas station attendant and book keeper. It might seem like our value as employees is dependent on the arrival of the next gizmo or software application to do our work for us. This belief creates fear, and that fear provides power for a resistance to change.

Telephone Switchboard

© Flickr user shimgray

AccelaWork’s Indianapolis business consultants invite stakeholders to take a different view of themselves, their work and their organization. We believe that companies, non-profits and government agencies make hiring decisions because they believe in the capacity of individuals. You are more than the sum of your tasks and responsibilities—you are a force for creativity, a source of commitment and limitless potential. A machine might enable you to finish rote tasks faster but it cannot replace brilliance and instinct.

Not everyone believes they are valued at work, and many employees harbor a secret resentment or suspicion for upper management. That’s why great change models focus directly on the stakeholders, not on company leaders. Sometimes it’s better to pursue tactics over strategy, especially when fundamental organizational change needs to occur from the bottom up. No one is better positioned than the employee to lead and implement new ideas in their own workflow. Great leaders empower this transformation. Contact us for more information.

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  • John Gilmour

    Along these same lines you might enjoy the book “It’s Your Ship” by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff.

    John Gilmour

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