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How to Hire an In-House Robotics Expert

Kayla Matthews
by Kayla Matthews on Dec 5, 2017 7:00:00 AM

 Business managers are often accustomed to hiring marketing experts, financial professionals and salespeople. However, when it comes to finding employees who understand the highly technical field of in-house robotics, the hiring process is not so straightforward.

Fortunately, it is not necessary for HR personnel to abandon the hiring practices they know. Instead, they must adjust some of them to suit the intricacies and unique needs related to “cobots,” or collaborative robots that work around humans.

Fill Existing Employees in on the Development 

Companies that are hiring a robotics expert for the first time should strongly consider telling current employees about the possibility of working alongside cobots, and what that’ll mean for their jobs. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the role collaborative robots play in the workplace, and many employees fear being replaced by machinery.

Having a discussion beforehand lets hiring managers explain how cobots will help employees and get the workers mentally ready for the upcoming change before it happens. A company executive could swiftly become part of preventable drama if a robotics expert was taking a tour of the premises and an employee asked, “What position are you hoping to get?” when the person comes within earshot.

The worker might not like the answer if he or she was unaware the company is exploring robotics. Having a chat beforehand sets expectations.

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Consider Hiring Someone on a Freelance Basis First

Since collaborative robots are relatively new to the corporate scene, many of the people who know them best might find freelance jobs better use their talents. That’s especially true if individuals realize there is not enough demand in their communities to result in steady, full-time employment. For example, Toptal is a job site for tech-based freelancers, and it has a section devoted to robotics engineers.

If a hiring manager discovers a suitable candidate from Toptal or a similar website and doesn’t want to let other clients put too much of a strain on the individual’s free time, they could always offer an extremely lucrative salary that makes prioritization worthwhile. Furthermore, they could give the person the option to start working as a full-time employee after a mutually agreed-upon period. However, due to the nature of the job, it would be necessary to stipulate that the freelancer work in-house for all or some of the week.

 

Have Clear, Robotics-Related Goals in Mind — and Be Mindful of a Budget

Just like candidates for any other job, robotics experts want to hear well-defined ideas of how they’d use their skills after becoming part of a team. That’s why it’s not sufficient for an executive to admit, “Well, we like the idea of using collaborative robots, but have no idea why we need them, or what our budget is for implementing them.” A vague confession like that might excite a person who is extremely self-motivated and visionary, but others will feel overwhelmed by it. 

It’s better for the person overseeing the hiring to say something such as, “Our company has researched collaborative robots for the past couple of years, and we are at the point where we want to look at ways to have them work alongside the members of our stockroom team. Our budget is [approximate figure], and we hope to have the robotics technology in place by [approximate timeframe].”

Business leaders must account for training in their budgets. Even if the new hire is familiar with the cobots, other employees need to learn how to work around them and do it often enough to feel at ease. Also, the cobots may use regularly updated systems that require the robotics expert to enroll in seminars and stay abreast of what’s new. Figuring training costs into an overall budgetary figure is essential before hiring a professional to help meet robotics goals.

 

Offer an Enticing Hiring Package and Work Environment

Because robotics is such a niche industry, the people who are genuinely knowledgeable about it command huge salaries and choose places to work that closely align with their career objectives. For any hiring manager to be successful in hiring a worthy robotics expert, he or she should study what top companies typically offer robotics job candidates and provide incentives that match or better those perks.

There are specific ways employers can keep tech employees happy. Because robotics is such a rapidly advancing industry, an HR manager might approve for a new hire to go to a training conference, where they can attend keynote speeches, panel sessions and product demonstrations related to what robots can do and how they enhance workplaces.

It’s also useful to plan knowledge-sharing opportunities where the robotics expert can appeal to fellow employees by distributing what he or she knows in ways that are easy for non-robotics professionals to understand. As mentioned above, many people are afraid robots will take their jobs away. The expert could clarify fear-based assumptions and also talk about related topics, such as the built-in technology that makes the robots safe to work around humans.

If feasible, remote work opportunities could make an open position seem even more appealing. There will likely be times when companies are more dependent on their robotics specialists than others, especially soon after the initial installation. Outside those instances, the new hire may be able to work from home, especially while using webcams, virtual meeting applications and VPN credentials.

 

Don’t Procrastinate With the Hiring Process

Hiring new workers is demanding, but it’s necessary when a company’s existing roster of employees doesn’t represent all the required skill sets, and it’s time to expand by seeking new talent — such as a professional who’s familiar with collaborative robots. Hiring managers may be under the impression that these robots are so specific, any company would be ahead of the curve by using them.

Ford Motors and Lowe’s are two major brands that already depend on collaborative robots. News of successful attempts by those recognizable companies will stimulate others to follow suit or risk getting left behind.

Also, statistics indicate by 2025, the collaborative robotics market value will total $12 billion. Even if companies are at the point where they know they’re ready to use cobots, but aren’t sure how, it’s wise for them to compile a list of existing needs collaborative bots could fill. Then, they could mention some or all of those voids while writing job descriptions and meeting with candidates for the position.

This is not an exhaustive guide to hiring a professional to assist with making collaborative robotics part of a company’s landscape. However, it’ll get anyone off to a strong start and emphasize the reality that hiring someone who knows how to build, fix or manage collaborative robots for a workplace is not the same as filling other positions — although similarities exist.

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Kayla Matthews
Written by Kayla Matthews
Kayla Matthews is an AI and future tech writer and regular contributor to VentureBeat, Motherboard and MakeUseOf. You can read more posts from Kayla by visiting her blog: productivitybytes.com
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