ERE Conference’s Final Day: Yes, the Robots Are Coming to a Workplace Near You

Apr 18, 2013
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Screen Shot 2013-03-13 at 10.45.39 PMRemember when the talk was about the great future that was available for people working in plastics?

Fast forward about 45 years, and now the discussion is about the huge changes coming to the workplace because of another trendy and cutting edge concept — robotics.

Attorney Garry Mathiason, chairman of the board of mega law firm Littler Mendelson, kicked off Day 2 of the Spring 2013 ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo in San Diego talking about Advanced Workplace Robots and Implications for Recruitment Strategies. While I admit that the title doesn’t sound like something you want to sit though early in the morning on the last day of a conference, Mathiason quickly said a few things that really got my attention.

Here’s one: “By 2025, robots will have taken over half of the jobs in the U.S.”

Robots Are Reshaping the Workplace

And here’s another: “Robots will change every known profession in the next 12 years. Robotics is the next Internet.”

What? Robots? Taking over American jobs? It’s too early in the morning to digest this!

Mathiason woke me up with this presentation, and should you question its relevance at a recruiting conference (as I did when first reading the title), here are some of the relevant points:

  • Advanced robotics and AI (artificial intelligence) are reshaping the workplace and employment.
  • Sourcing non-human talent is expanding, and the need for changing skill sets is also expanding the role of the Chief Talent Officer as they deal with the need to integrate both human and non-human talent alike.

Why robots? Well, they help to bridge the skill shortage we keep hearing about, and, they reduce errors and mistakes to zero. Hard to beat that. In fact, China says they are now moving away from unsustainable low-cost labor (this has been fueling their economy and 8 percent GDP growth) and will start using more robots instead.

Sobering stuff, and something you need to focus on if you recruit, hire, or manage talent.

I wish Mathiason had shared his presentation slides with everyone on the Spring 2013 ERE Expo website, but he didn’t. You can, however, watch this segment from CBS’ 60 Minutes that he excerpted in his talk and that provides a lot of the background and statistics on how robots are soon coming to a workplace near you — if they haven’t already.

Helping Hire Wounded Warriors

Of course, there were a lot more great sessions at the Spring 2013 ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo,and I took in as many as I could, including:

  • The Consultative Recruitment Department: Transitioning Your Team to a New Recruitment ModelYeah, I know that this doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but Mark Mehler, co-founder (with Gerry Crispin) of CareerXroads, moderated a panel discussion that was really interesting because of the observations of the three great panelists from high powered companies — Kim Warne, U.S. talent recruitment leader at General Electric, Kristen McKenna, senior director, recruiting and staffing, at ESPN, and Christi Goodwin, lead staffing manager, university relations, for AT&T. It was worth sitting in on this session just to hear the observations and byplay between these three smart, high-powered talent managers.
  • Qualcomm’s Corporate Integration Program for Warrior Veterans San Diego-based Qualcomm is known for its cutting-edge technology, so that’s why it was surprising to hear how deeply the tech giant has gotten into helping employee “wounded warriors” — military veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. This panel discussion included Navy Cmdr. George Byrd (who serves as the Regional Wounded Warrior Coordinator for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego), Ed Hidalgo, senior director of staffing at Qualcomm, staffing specialist Gerry Borja of Qualcomm, and panel moderator Brenan German, managing principal, Bright Talent Resources. The premise of the Qualcomm program is simple — community outreach that is designed to help veterans find employment, although not all at Qualcomm. This is especially important given the large number of military veterans who now live in the San Diego area, and Tanner Horsley, an engineer at Qualcomm, joined the discussion to tell how it helped him personally when he returned, wounded, from his tour of duty.
  • Globalizing Your Recruitment Function Global Staffing Solutions Leaders Peter DeVries and Francois Scholtz of ADP discussed the ins and outs of recruiting around the globe, and as you might imagine, its an area that most recruiters need to tread carefully in. DeVries and Scholtz managed to deliver some well-needed focus to a topic that many recruiters fail to focus on, or appreciate.

There were other presentations I wish I had gotten to like the one on Integrating Mobile Into Your Overall Recruitment Approach, by Antoine Jenkins of Walmart – but that’s what conferences are all about: getting what you can, and, regretting that you can’t get it all. Maybe next year, at the Spring 2014 ERE Recruiting Conference & Expo in San Diego or the one this September 16-18 in Chicago, I’ll do a better job of taking them all in.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.