Monthly Archives: February 2017

Have employees been thinking about automation in the workplace?

Despite popular perception, most U.S. workers aren’t worried about being replaced by a robot, new research finds.

The study from Randstad US revealed that more than three-quarters of employees aren’t scared by the prospects of an increased amount of automation in the workplace.

Many workers are actually embracing the influx of automation. The research shows that 30 percent of the employees surveyed think automation will make their jobs better. In addition, as long as they are being paid at least their same current salaries, more than half of U.S. employees are more than happy to be retrained to learn the skills needed to work in tandem with automation.

Linda Galipeau, CEO of Randstad North America, said the study’s results should come as good news for companies that are trying to implement more automation in order to spur on productivity and innovation.

“It is evident from our research that not only are workers not afraid of losing their jobs to automation, they are more than willing to retrain to leverage the efficiencies and benefits of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the workplace,” Galipeau said in a statement. “As we have known for quite some time, the success of organizations in the future will depend greatly on their ability to strike a balance between valuable human insight and interaction with technology.”

Despite the belief that automation will push many workers out of a job, the vast majority of executives disagree. Just 6 percent of the company leaders surveyed believe increasing automation will have a significant impact on workforce planning and shifting the talent needed. [Looking ahead? The job skills you’ll need in the future]

To ensure that their jobs don’t get replaced, Galipeau says employees need to make sure their skills complement the automation being put into place.

“It has become necessary for today’s employees and job seekers to continually cultivate, develop and update their skills to work successfully alongside AI and automation,” Galipeau said. “In conjunction with retraining and upskilling efforts, workers should focus on growing unique human skills that AI and robots are unable to replicate, such as strategic and abstract thinking, complex communications, creativity and leadership competencies.”

Many organizations are looking forward to seeing how increased automation can improve their operations. Nearly 85 percent of executives believe AI and robotics will have a positive impact on the workplace in the next three to five years.

Automation and robotics have already taken hold in a number of businesses. Nearly half of the executives surveyed said automation and machine learning has either transformed or had a positive impact on their businesses over the last year, with 45 percent saying the same about robotics.

Galipeau said the reality is that automation and AI are not only here to stay, but will grow substantially in the coming years.

“As business leaders invest in digitization, automation, AI and other emerging technologies in the workplace, they must continue to evolve their workforce alongside these advancements,” Galipeau said. “While the productivity and efficiency benefits of automation are unequivocal, the need for skilled humans to operate, utilize and advance technologies is equally unmistakable.”
The study was based on online interviews with 5,300 U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 65.

Explore the Ups and Downs of the Gig Economy

The rapid rise of temporary work arrangements, collectively known as the gig economy, has offered people flexible working arrangements and a way to make extra money with the push of a button. This rising sector of the American economy has been lauded and denounced with equal fervor: Proponents say the gig economy creates additional opportunity, while detractors claim gigs represent a specific type of exploitation.

Regardless of perspective, gigs are disrupting longstanding industries and changing the relationship between worker and employer. As the gig economy becomes more prevalent and spreads across more industries, the waters have become muddier. Here’s a look at what the gig economy means for workers and companies as well as how to land a “good gig.”

Gig work comes with a set of pros and cons for workers. To start, gig workers benefit by gaining more latitude over their schedule and the type of work they create. That independence is refreshing for some workers, said Steven Soares, senior vice president of technology at professional staffing service KForce.

“For those working in the gig economy, this lifestyle provides more flexibility in that those working a ‘gig’ can work where they want, how they want and when they want,” Soares said. “This appeals to many, including our large millennial workforce.”

The other side of the coin isn’t so glamorous. Gig workers also run the risk of inconsistent employment, meaning they must either chase down their own freelance work or hustle in the on-demand space. [How will automation impact workers in the gig economy?]

“When working in the gig economy, sometimes you do not feel the stability that you have if you were to work for a company,” David Zamir, founder of home service gig company Nana.io, said. “You do not know if you will have daily jobs, and this uncertainty is not for everyone.”

Another drawback, Zamir said, is that gig workers have to keep track of their own taxes.

U.S. SEC Expands the “IPO On-Ramp” Provision of the JOBS Act

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is expanding a popular provision of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act that allowed “early growth companies” (EGCs) – generally those with annual revenues under $1 billion – to file materials related to an initial public offering (IPO) confidentially before officially filing public materials. Now that process, known as Title I nonpublic draft registration statements, is being extended to all companies considering going public with an IPO.

The benefit of a nonpublic draft registration statement is that companies can decide to pull back on their IPO – whether its due to changing market conditions, revisions or any other reason – without signaling to the public at large that the company hesitated to move forward with its public offering, David Hooper, corporate attorney at the firm Barnes and Thornburg, told Business News Daily.

“Before [the] JOBS Act, if a smaller company was going public and made their filing … available for everyone to see and the IPO was later pulled, that was a pretty negative connotation on the company itself, and the market typically looked at that as there must be something fatally wrong with this company,” Hooper said. “But oftentimes companies may pull an IPO for other reasons. It’s seen as a significant benefit to those companies to give them the freedom to potentially terminate an IPO process – or revise, or delay, or test it – to see if market would be able to absorb the offering or have an adverse reaction to it.”

According to Ernst & Young’s JOBS Act update, 87 percent of the emerging growth companies (EGCs) that have filed IPO registration statements since Title I was enacted have taken advantage of the confidential registration statement SEC review process. Now that the process is open to all companies considering filing IPOs, the SEC is hoping to see more companies going public.

“This is an important step in our efforts to foster capital formation, provide investment opportunities and protect investors,” said the SEC’s Director of the Division of Corporation Finance, Bill Hinman. “This process makes it easier for more companies to enter and participate in our public company disclosure-based system.”

While the SEC’s new policy expands confidential filing from EGCs to all companies mulling a public offering, it does not exempt larger companies from other disclosure requirements not applicable to EGCs. For example, Hooper said larger companies still require three years of financials, while EGCs only require two.

“The relief that was provided to the non-EGCs is limited in certain aspects as it compares to the EGCs … so a number of other provisions in [the] JOBS Act for EGCs doesn’t necessarily apply to relief to other companies,” Hooper said. “If you’re a company with $5 billion in revenues, you still have to provide the full disclosures that you otherwise would have had to provide.”

Ultimately, though, Hooper said market conditions at large and by sector tend to drive the amount of IPOs seen in a given year. While the changes make it easier, there are many factors to look out for; still, Hooper said, he expects the SEC’s policy update will give the number of IPOs a boost.

“Under these current market conditions, I think this provision would have a positive effect on [the] number of IPOs coming to fruition,” Hooper said.

The SEC echoes those sentiments. SEC Chairman Jay Clayton said in a statement the overarching goal of the policy update is to streamline the process by which companies go to the public market for capital. While larger companies are still required to abide by the more stringent disclosure requirements, they will have the flexibility to test the waters with a nonpublic draft registration statement – a noncommittal investigation of the IPO process.

“By expanding a popular JOBS Act benefit to all companies, we hope that the next American success story will look to our public markets when they need access to affordable capital,” Clayton said. “We are striving for efficiency in our processes to encourage more companies to consider going public, which can result in more choices for investors, job creation and a stronger U.S. economy.”

The Right Way to Respond to HARO Requests

Have you ever seen a small business owner or entrepreneur quoted in the press and wondered how they managed to get that sort of coverage? Chances are, the businesses you see mentioned in the media got their start through HARO.

HARO, which stands for Help a Reporter Out, is a website and daily digest that connects journalists with potential sources. Journalists submit queries, which are sent out by email three times every weekday. The people signed up to receive HARO emails – typically entrepreneurs and publicists – can then reply, or “pitch” themselves or their clients, as sources for stories.

This is obviously a useful service for journalists, but it’s also a great way for growing businesses with a limited marketing budget to get much-needed publicity.

“HARO was one of the first things I did to help get my small business some attention after my website launched,” says Kristi Porter, the solopreneur behind Signify Solutions. “I had about six successful mentions within less than three months.” Those mentions appear in the form of “as seen in” credits on the Signify Solutions website, which Porter says has increased her credibility, along with sending traffic to her site.

But just because you reply to a HARO query doesn’t mean you’ll end up in the press. Dozens of potential sources reply to every digest, which means it takes something special to stand out.

So how can you successfully pitch your business through HARO?

With digests going out three times a day, there are plenty of opportunities for you to pitch yourself as a source. But responding to any and all queries, regardless of whether you have something relevant to offer, is only going to waste your time and frustrate the journalist on the other end.

Many queries will ask for sources with specific professional or geographic qualifications, such as a mortgage broker who lives on the West Coast or tech startups owned by women. The first key to a successful HARO response is to make sure you match the query and have something relevant to say.

That may sound obvious, but according to Susan Johnston Taylor, you might be surprised how many responses skip that important step. Johnston Taylor, a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and The Atlantic, has been using HARO to find sources since it was a Facebook group without a website. These days, with so many businesses trying to generate media coverage through HARO, she says it’s not uncommon to receive multiple emails that start, “I know you’re looking for mortgage brokers, but…”

Those are the responses she ignores.

“If you’re not relevant to this query, wait for the next one,” she said. “Don’t try to shoehorn yourself in.”

Bob Herman, co-founder and president of IT Tropolis, says he is quoted in about five articles per year from HARO pitches but is very selective about replying to queries – even if they match his field.

“Pick your battles,” he advised. “Choose the stories where you have real expertise and … insightful information.”