There continues to be a lot of discussion around old economy jobs, new economy jobs, if there will be low skilled jobs, and if there will be any jobs at all considering the advances in automation.
I believe all of these questions miss the point.
The real point is: where will jobs be located?
The answer points to a huge shift taking place. Our small and midcap businesses are not ready. Our state and national policies are not ready. Those seeking jobs are not ready. And business owners are not ready. That’s a lot of unreadiness needing to be solved quickly. The solution first requires that we have a vision of what tomorrow’s business structures will look like.
The majority of business writing pertains to large and very large businesses. Multinational corporations fall into this category. Because of their size and breadth of operations, a lot of research is performed on these companies. Lessons learned inside of these businesses provide insight and answers, but, that insight and those answers are often not very useful to everyday small and midsized businesses.
Small and midsized businesses are not just large businesses only smaller. They are unique and have unique needs. Big systems cannot just be cut down a bit here and a bit there and then inserted into smaller businesses. Unique needs require unique solutions. Which is where we get into today’s changing business strategies and structures.
Large and very large businesses look to optimization and efficiency. You don’t get large unless you can handle volume. Volume, efficiency, optimization, and ongoing cost minimization answer specific customer needs for consistency and lower costs, which in turn leads to more and more automation. Automation done on a large scale is expensive, not very nimble, and is focused on producing huge quantities of similar items. Human jobs will be oriented toward data analysis and incremental adjustments. Low skilled operational jobs will be in line with cleaning, maintenance, and storing of system components. Large companies will continually move toward total automation to turn available products into commodities. Commodities that are not made to be highly responsive to changing consumer taste, opinion, or interests.
But where are our people going to work?
In the small and midcap businesses. These businesses first of all cannot afford to automate totally. They also are not run using the same business model of high volume, low cost, commodity goods. Smaller business models more easily highlight agility, or responsiveness, or some other nimble attribute that orients them to provide value, which is always priced higher than a commodity. Cost center monies and efficiencies will come second to providing value people will pay more for. People will remain in the intersections of company and customer, design and operations, design and customer, operations and customer satisfaction, tech and manual, and so on. Automation will be in the mix, but it will be finely tuned and appropriately placed to supplement the nimble activities going on inside the business. Automation will still be used to eliminate time wasting elements, but with the purpose of making sure people are focused on customer service in all areas of the company in the direction the strategic performance plan outlines.
Executives requirements to interact with ideal customers and then translate what they learn into a performance strategy with their C-level team means even tech CEOs can no longer hide inside the company’s tech. If the business is to expand and grow in ways customers are willing to pay more for, person-to-person interactions will become much more important. Automation will provide data, people will determine how best to adjust offerings, service, pricing, and value.
While these business models seem to be the same ones we’ve been talking about forever, they are not. Digital transformation enables businesses to open up their offerings in different ways to serve new segments of customers that were previously not profitable. Lip service was formerly given to customer service being king – yet internal efficiencies and cost reductions were what actually reigned supreme. If the customer didn’t like the new product/offering, tough. They still had to buy from us because there was more demand than supply. Such is not the case anymore. Large and very large businesses are going out of business due to their unwillingness to accept this reality. There is more supply than demand. Customer segmentation must be performed more carefully than ever before in order to get organizational activity correctly aligned. Customers expect value. And there is no requirement that a business succeed.
Small and midsized businesses already know this. There are fewer barriers between people inside the business and the customers. If changes are not made, business is lost. Gone are the days when 85 different meetings could be held to figure out what is going on. Automation must immediately bring the data, people must skillfully maneuver that data, decisions must quickly be made based on analysis and alignment. More tech needed? Yes, but in small and midsized businesses, more tech means more people as well.
A large unanswered problem for small and midsized businesses centers on what tech needs to be stacked together to enable my business to perform in ways that add value to my customers. And then, once that stack is built, how easy is it to adjust to changing values, and when does that change need to happen anyway? Too much change and you spend a lot of money with little return. Too little, or the wrong change, and you end up spending a lot more money trying to catch up and get your customers back. People needs skyrocket to get all this correct and moving forward in the same direction as all other parts of the company. While small and midsized businesses are not just smaller copies of larger companies, they need to look like big from the outside – no matter how small. Processes must run smoothly. Full internal alignment starts with a universally understood performance plan. Marketing and sales automation must stack and link and perform just like larger company sales and marketing – but without the large departments or huge agency contracts. It’s the tech and people alignment and integration that makes small look and act big.
The immensity of this change cannot be underestimated. Colleges and universities will have to adjust their thinking on who should come onsite for hiring. Policy, product, and service changes will be needed to support the small and midcap businesses picking up future hiring slack. Policy, products, and services appear again in the need for cost effective access to electronic communication networks, smaller data and software systems, tax adjustment…. Do robots really need lower taxes for operations? Or do small and midsized businesses need correctly sized tax policy so that they can hire, buy, and expand?
All the above is not fiction or fantasy. It is coming.
As a small or midsized business owner, you can start laying ground work using the concepts in my free infographic 3 Strategic Keys to Reliable Business Success.
Remember, there is no requirement that a business succeed.
What will you choose?
Keywords and concepts: business performance, jobs, growth, Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky, small business, midCap, SMB, strategy, process, essential business, alignment, results, performance plan, strategic planning, operations, communication, change management
Cynthia Kalina-Kaminsky is the president of Process & Strategy Solutions Her digital Performance Magic course for small and midsize businesses to be released in Sept. helps owners, CEOs, and decision makers easily plot paths to growth by eliminating the internal chaos.