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Claims that automation is taking over the world of work feature heavily in the current news agenda, and this technology is without a doubt spreading rapidly across all sectors. Findings from the most recent Hays What Workers Want report indicate that automation is being positively received by science and research professionals and this reaction to automation may have the potential to increase productivity and add human value to our jobs.
Digital transformation is a priority for the science and research sectors as more than two thirds (67 percent) say that it is a primary or secondary focus for their organisation. When it comes to automation specifically, more than half (57%) are investing in this technology at the moment and plan to continue to do so over the next few years.
This investment is being well received and professionals seem to be optimistic about the emergence of automation in the workplace. 82 percent of those in the sector feel that automation allows people to add greater add human value, now, and in the future. A higher proportion (86 percent) says we should embrace automation within the workplace.
Despite the positive picture, science and research employers are still facing barriers on their digital transformation journey as almost two in five (17 percent) admit to not having the skills needed to meet their technology objectives. When it comes to automation technology in particular, science and research employers cite lack of skills in the current staff to be their biggest barrier towards its successful implementation.
Employers are facing a shortage of skills across the board, most notably in sales, data science and project management skills in their current teams. To make investment in automation a success, project management and data analytics are the technical skills most needed from life science professionals, according to employers.
Certain soft skills are also in demand by employers. Most notably, the ability to coordinate with others and solve problems. The focus on soft skills from employers is largely driven by automation reducing administrative tasks from workers, enabling greater human value to shine through.
To overcome these barriers, over three quarters (80 percent) have invested in their leadership team taking a more active role. Other initiatives include improving staff communication (73 percent) and hiring temporary, contract or freelance staff (67 percent).
It is certainly encouraging that employers in this sector are investing in automation, but there is concern that they may not be getting the best use out of this technology because of the reported lack of skills. But is this enough to ensure automation is smoothly implemented?
To unlock the potential automation has for science and research professionals, employers need to adapt their recruitment strategies to focus on hiring candidates with the right blend of technical and soft skills, as well as a mindset open to embracing change. They also need to promote their automation to current staff as well as at key points along the hiring journey, as half (50 percent) say they would be attracted to an organisation who is investing in automation.
Perhaps the most important aspect, however, is fostering a culture of lifelong learning to ensure targeted skills development. In today’s increasingly mobile society, this means investing in both traditional training formats and bite-sized resources to facilitate learning. Implementing automation into this culture, as well as making strategic hires and promoting investment will give employers the best chance of capitalising on what automation has to offer for their workforce.