Kiva Allgood, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sarcos Technology and Robotics Corporation.
A new year is on the horizon, which makes it the perfect time to not only reflect on the successes and lessons learned from the previous 12 months, but to also look to the year ahead and prepare for what’s to come.
2022 was a year of highs and lows. As the world began to move on from the thrusts of the Covid-19 pandemic, business leaders were forced to figure out how to adapt to a new normal of how we get work done. Supply-chain issues and a shortage of workers also created pain points across industries.
However, the pandemic served as an accelerant to business progress as companies were forced to learn and adopt new ways of working at a pace we hadn’t experienced before. C-suite willingness to embrace new technologies, systems and faster adoption of new operating procedures remain high.
As we head into 2023, we are facing new headwinds, including an unpredictable economy, undervaluation of companies and massive layoffs across the technology industry, along with the continuation of worker shortages in skilled labor industries such as construction and manufacturing.
As a CEO, these challenges certainly keep me up at night, yet I am confident we will weather this storm, just as we did when the pandemic hit. To prepare for what’s to come in 2023, I have my eyes on four key workforce trends that I believe will shape how we work in the future.
1. The skilled worker shortage will continue.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as of October 31, 2022, there were more than 10 million job openings in the U.S., but only around six million unemployed workers.
While certain high-tech sectors have recently been hit with layoffs, there are many industries in which labor shortages persist, particularly when it comes to manual labor jobs. I expect this trend and dichotomy to continue into 2023 and the industrial sector will continue to experience labor gaps due to early retirements, lack of able workers and prevalence of occupational injuries.
As a result, business leaders will need to continue to look at new ways to get work done, including the integration of more technology into their workflows that can attract new and younger workers to industrial and skilled labor positions.
2. Robotics will continue to augment the human workforce.
According to a World Robotics report, an all-time high of 517,385 new industrial robots were installed across work environments in 2021.
Next-generation robotic systems, particularly those that augment human workers, can address labor shortages by enabling larger, more diverse pools of workers to enhance output and efficiencies while keeping them safe from injury and fatigue or from operating in dangerous environments. Advancements in computer capabilities, the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies in structured and unstructured environments, success-based training and cybernetics help to make robots a technologically and financially viable and effective solution to address these worker shortages.
While most industries are still several years away from seeing a widespread deployment of fully autonomous robots, supervised autonomy is one way for organizations to bridge the gap and allow robots to perform certain tasks autonomously while keeping a human worker in the loop.
3. Hybrid work models are here to stay.
Flexible work environments are here to stay and will continue to evolve well into 2023. Employers have a larger pool of candidates to hire from now given that geography is no longer a gating factor. Collaboration tools and technologies such as teleoperation for training and execution are improving every day, allowing for more cohesive and productive teamwork.
The technology industry fueled this change coming out of the pandemic, and the industry will need to continue making advancements and improving workflows in the new year.
4. Innovation will evolve into productivity.
The definition of “innovation” is changing with the times and the many new challenges we now face.
Traditionally for businesses, innovation has meant bringing a new product or solution to market and then continuously improving upon it. Now, I view innovation and productivity as one in the same. Given the current climate—more consolidation across industries, ongoing supply chain issues, lack of access to capital, etc.—the tech industry is likely entering a new stage of innovation that is anchored in how work gets done.
This may include the electrification of legacy products, which traditionally were only able to be operated using hydraulics or fossil fuels. Leaders in their respective industries are becoming more educated on the environmental and economic benefits that using electric-powered products can have on their bottom line. Finding the right engineering resources and expertise and talking to those who have gone through the transition are the right first step for those wanting to electrify their legacy products.
So much extraordinary progress was made by the technology industry in how we accomplish work this past year. Given the challenges we faced, our tolerance for taking risks was at an unprecedented high, and that accelerated our access to technology which would improve productivity and allow people to connect with their co-workers from anywhere in the world.
Now, we face a new set of challenges as we head into 2023. But with these challenges come opportunities. And I am confident that industries will embrace these challenges and usher in a new era of workforce collaboration, efficiency and productivity.