Are we still linking technological innovation with job destruction? The answer is, for the most part, yes. And, according to Santiago Carbó, professor at the University of Granada and director of Financial Studies at the Funcas Analysis Center, “this is an unfair and highly inaccurate generalization. In reality, the digital transformation process is bringing the opposite: new professional profiles, cost reduction, process optimization and new business opportunities”.
We are talking about the fourth industrial revolution, 4.0: that of information, data, nanotechnology, renewable energies and quantum computing. And it is “disappointing”, in the words of Carbó, that we analyze it as our ancestors analyzed the previous ones. For example in Modern times (1936), Charles Chaplin urged us to abhor the mechanization of work environments, due to its devastating effect on the dignity of the human being. But the truth is that, viewed with perspective, the revolution fordian, driven by the car manufacturer Henry Ford and based on automation and mass production (which Chaplin critically reflects in his film), it ended up exponentially increasing productivity and, therefore, stable and well-paid industrial jobs.
Iván Maroto, Director of Digital Business and Correos Market at Correos, believes that something very similar is going to happen with the current digitization process: “I have no doubt that these changes will yield a very favorable balance in terms of employment: they will destroy little and create a lot. ”. To begin with, he highlights that the demand for “disruptive and transformative technological profiles is already growing: developers of software to web page designers, experts in marketing digital or social networks, data analysts…”. In addition, the new business models will also contribute to “shielding” more conventional jobs, “by making digitalized companies more competitive and profitable.”
A technological train that cannot be missed
For Jordi Comas, strategic consultant and professor at Ramon Llull University, the current process of “automation and digitization of the economy”, which has been perceptible for at least five years and “accelerated in a very notable way due to the pandemic”, can have an effect even deeper transformer. At the moment, it is already changing “the way of producing, selling and competing, and also the habits of consumers”.
In Spain, small and medium-sized companies (with less than 250 workers) account for 99% of the total and 97% of those with salaried workers. Together, they generate around 90% of the employment available in our country. If you work for someone else, it is most likely that you work for an SME.
The lion’s share of this imposing business network is made up of companies pocket-size, up to 10 workers. They all feel the urgent need not to miss the new technological train, to join as soon as possible the transformation process that is already determining, in many areas, which companies prosper and which suffer.
The ideal opportunity to enter this virtuous circle is the Spain Digital Agenda 2025 and, very especially, one of its star initiatives, the so-called Digitizer Kit or Digital Kit. The Agenda, presented on July 23, 2020, is an ambitious plan for the comprehensive transformation of the Spanish economy that aims to mobilize 140,000 million between public and private investment. And the Digital Kit is a program financed with European Next Generation funds that offers SMEs that benefit from it the opportunity to adopt the basic tools to digitize their business. The initiative has a total endowment of 3,067 million euros. In its first phase, consisting of 500 million euros, aid of up to 12,000 euros is offered to companies with between 10 and 49 employees.
The virtues of a pioneering program
For Juan Manuel Corchado, professor at the University of Salamanca and expert in technological innovation, it can be “an important shock, as shown by the large number of applications received”. Spanish SMEs “feel the need to digitize, and to a large extent they are already doing so”. Having aid, “whether financed with European, state, regional or local funds”, is for many of them the window of opportunity and the decisive stimulus.
Corchado believes that it is going to have a very notable impact both “at a basic level, with companies that are going to invest in the launch and positioning of a website in conditions or in the development of a digital store”, as in the cases in which that the aid will be used “for more advanced digital investments and that may be essential, as is the case with companies that are dedicated to areas such as cybersecurity or cryptocurrencies.”
Iván Maroto considers that the aid “is essential for companies that, due to their size and level of profitability, had spent several years postponing much-needed technological investments that now, at last, they will be able to assume.” Maroto says that what is taking place at the moment is “a change in culture that forces companies to adapt to new demands of all kinds, starting with new habits and needs on the part of consumers and a growing demand for sustainability and social responsability”.
For the Post Office manager, “the great challenge is that digitization does not stop at introducing aesthetic changes, such as a testimonial website and an anecdotal presence on social networks: companies must take the opportunity to rethink their model in depth, see what advantages arise from having a solid digital activity and, whenever possible, training all its employees in optimal use of the new tools”.
It is not about “giving them fish, but about helping them get a good rod and teaching them how to fish”. The Digital Kit is the necessary funds to buy the rod. Teaching to fish is a task that digitizing agents can take on.
Digitization and its allies
The Spain Digital Agenda plan grants a prominent role to these new agents. These are social intermediaries with the capacity to help SMEs to successfully complete their transformation programs. Correos is part of this program of digitizing agents. For Maroto, “it is an inescapable responsibility that, as a public company with a vocation for service, we assume completely naturally”.
Two specific initiatives summarize Correos’ efforts in this regard. On the one hand, the eCommerce Solutions program. In the words of Maroto, “it consists of offering our clients the necessary technology to open a store on-line or web page of services, as well as the tools of digital management of orders”. Everything, in a simple, intuitive way and with active advice from Correos. The companies that avail themselves of this service “do not need previous technical knowledge, we study their specific case and make them a tailored suit”.
The second initiative is Correos Market, “a point of sale or marketplace which is made available to all companies that are taxed in Spain and want to offer their products there”. They are not asked for prior investments of any kind nor are they charged commissions. Thus, Correos makes its “2,370 offices, the largest logistics and distribution network in the country” available to the entire Spanish business fabric. It also offers interested SMEs “the opportunity to associate their name with Correos, an institution with 300 years of history and a highly recognizable brand image: anyone who sees the Correos cleat knows that it is synonymous with solid and trustworthy service” .
today better than tomorrow
For Juan Manuel Corchado, digitization has long since ceased to be an option and has become a pressing need. This unavoidable update must be completed as soon as possible. The expert also considers that “if done well, there is no doubt that it will be a source of job creation.” Businesses that transform themselves appropriately will grow “becoming job creators for themselves and others” in their networks of suppliers, allies and business partners.
He himself has witnessed very striking success stories: “I have seen companies that have gone in a very short time from having a few dozen telemarketers trying to sell their product to becoming companies with hundreds of people effectively managing buying and selling processes. through an optimized digital channel. Those SMEs that leave behind inefficient ways of proceeding and expand to become “big companies” have not only found optimal tools to offer their traditional product, but, once the new channels have been created, they have opened up to the culture of permanent innovation and today they offer “new services and products”.
Corchado highlights the success of the free training programs in highly digitized activities that the University of Salamanca is offering through its E4you.org portal: “We have courses with more than 40,000 students enrolled. There is a strong demand for training in professional profiles such as computer engineers, cybersecurity experts, digital marketing or data analysis”.
They are the professions of a future that is already present and involve a compendium of knowledge and skills that, according to Iván Maroto, “most professionals will have to acquire over time to adapt to the changes that are already perceptible and those that are still to come”. The experts consulted agree that we are at the dawn of a new world, a technological and knowledge economy that is here to stay. Corchado considers that, when we look back, we will be surprised to what extent the Internet “has transformed our societies in just 30 years.” Now, the transforming process advances at the rhythm “of each specific society, its concerns, needs, economic structure, internal crises and training capacity”. But if something is evident, it is that there is no going back.