Sunday, December 8, 2013

Jobs, Technology and Bruce Springsteen's Advice

Last week, amid several positive economic reports in the U.S., thousands of fast-food workers protested their minimum wage pay - some chanted, “We can’t survive on $7.25” hoping for significant increases.  Note: while these workers are not unionized, the Service Employees International Union, with about 2 million members in the health care, janitorial and other industries, provided support for the protestor’s efforts. 
  • Separately, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos announced on “60 Minutes” that the firm was researching how to use drones to deliver packages.  
  • Google announced that Andy Rubin, who previously led the firm’s Android smartphone efforts, is heading a project to create next generation robots to automate manually intensive manufacturing tasks such as those in electronics assembly. 
  • Apple announced it would use its iBeacon network technology at 254 U.S. retail stores to allow customers with iOS 7 devices to 1) learn about products in the store, 2) obtain updates on orders and 3) interact with sales staff.  
MY TAKE
  • Regarding the restaurant industry – As workers seek higher wages, McDonalds and others continue to integrate technology into their processes (via kiosks, mobile devices apps and automated servicing).  The longer-term risk for these workers is not low wages but elimination of their jobs.
  • Regarding Apple, Amazon and Google – their efforts have the potential to improve both the customer experience and operational efficiency while reducing human involvement in many work tasks.
  • Note: while Amazon’s drone idea has been cited as impractical in the U.S. because of government restrictions and navigation challenges in densely populated areas, their use will likely continue to grow in many regions around the world.
  • Bottom linelacking initiatives by policy makers or activism by workers, technology will continue to change the market for both skilled and low skilled workers.  With this in mind, consider the guidance from Bruce Springsteen - “It's just winners and losers, and don't get caught on the wrong side of that line."

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