How to Make Friends with a Robot

Preparing for the eventual overthrow of the human race

Experts agree that robotics and AI are the drivers of oncoming Industrial Revolution 4.0, so positioning yourself as a professional will turn you into an indispensable employee well into the future.

It’s been said since the 1950’s: the robots are going to take over. How many times have you heard that automation and robots will take all the jobs in the future? Sure, they don’t need a lunch break or two weeks vacation. They offer little drama in the workplace, rarely steal your food out of the work fridge, and usually don’t drag themselves into work after a long night of video games and snacks. 

Industrial robots help to remove workers from the hazardous environments and back breaking labor that has befell low-wage workers for generations. They can lift heavy payloads, prevent injuries, perform accurate and error-free repetitive tasks, and have a generally overall pleasant disposition. Yet, with all these triumphs, robots have yet to replace humans in the workplace. In fact, workers are becoming a robot’s best friend as technology advances.

The first manufacturing robot was used in 1960. “Unimate” as it was called, was used in a GM plant in New Jersey. Unimate pulled die-cast molds and welded them to automobile bodies. The noxious gases could’ve poisoned workers or involuntarily removed their limbs. Believe it or not, today’s industrial robots incorporate many of the designs and functions of the original industrial robot.

Robots have created new jobs for those who were once on production lines with programming. They have pulled employees from repetitive, monotonous jobs and put them in better, more challenging ones. They also allow US companies to remain competitive, keeping jobs local and helping the best employees see growth in their careers. 

Robots are user-friendly, intelligent, and affordable. As more industries adopt robotics in automation, the more roles the machines are finding to fill. It’s not just manufacturing. Robots are used in healthcare, farming, transportation, construction, and the military. Even the Amazon Alexa in your home is a robot. In the next decade, your Amazon Alexa might be making you breakfast. And hopefully, it can help with other tasks around the house

In an industrial setting, robots have to interact with humans in some form or another. This has created Cobots. Robots and humans interacting with each other to accomplish a task. Cobots can work side-by-side with human workers, improving their output and consistency and allowing them to support more in-line processes in a single work-space. While traditional automation requires an all-or-nothing approach. Assembly, quality inspection, dispensing are all part of the simple uses for industrial robots.

The surprising opinion is that programming robots isn’t so complicated and hard to learn. In actuality, there are few lines of code you need to make a real-world industrial robot do what it needs to do to accomplish simple tasks such as sorting and dispensing. There are many ways to get a leg-up on robotics. The idea of purchasing your own robot and learning how to program it was a fantasy just a decade ago. But robots are omnipresent these days, and the ability to learn their ways and stay ahead of our future slave-masters has never been more readily available. There are paid courses to help you learn the basics of robotics and programming. MIT’s open courseware and Stanford Engineering free video courses on robotics are the pinnacle of robotics education, and are absolutely free.

If you find yourself on the factory floor working alongside a robot friend, ask your supervisor or your mechanical engineer how the robots work and how they are programmed. Learning to control its functions and finding use for the robot in your job can only lead to positive things if you are the robot’s master. Just keep those friendships professional with your robot. You don’t want to hurt its feelings. That’s when things could get scary. 

Five Ways to Improve Your Employment in 2022

Easy tips and advice to get more of that money and personal satisfaction

If you’ve made the resolution to improve your employment in 2022, congratulations! Whether it’s a new job entirely, a promotion, a wage increase, growing your skills, or finding more balance between work and life, there are many ways to gain positive momentum at work. Take one small step each day and reward yourself for it.

Nothing comes easy, but here are five simple things you can do to up your job game in 2022.

The Intangibles

The Late John Madden had two rules: Show up on time and Work hard. Some actions you can take immediately include being punctual, positive, considerate, organized, and honest. Dress a bit nicer if you can. Even if it’s a nicer pair of jeans or shoes on the floor. Show confidence and celebrate your co-workers and their success. Help out wherever necessary. It’s the simple, yet little things, that can go a long way in being recognized as a great employee. 

Find a Side Hustle

More money means more opportunities. Diversifying your income streams can give you more confidence to make a jump to a new job if you’re ready to make a change. Some people sell makeup to their friends online, or maybe do odd jobs, or DIY projects for others. Some will drive for DoorDash or Lyft, and some will work for Wings Stadium a couple of evenings a month. No matter the source, if you can create a separate income stream, it will provide opportunities for employment growth. You can use the money to pay for education, or to relieve debt and stress, or to help bridge a gap if you’re ready to quit a job. Just remember, a side hustle is just that…on the side.

Network / Volunteer

Successful people network. How is anyone going to know how great you are if you never put yourself out there? Joining professional groups in your local area is a great way to start expanding your networking circle. Another simple way is to volunteer for an organization near to your heart. You’ll be able to showcase your dazzling personality and help others at the same time. In addition, you’ll meet like-minded people who are also looking for networking opportunities. Just showing up to volunteer says a lot about your character and who you are as a person.

Back to School

For a more traditional role, community colleges offer many degrees online with in-demand skills, certifications, and diplomas in as little as 18 months. By the end of the year, you could be on your way to graduation. 

Easier said than done for most people. But the richest man in the world, Elon Musk, said it best: “Anything you want to learn, you can learn for free on the internet.”  The best bang for your dollar is finding skills and certifications you can learn at your own pace and are low cost. There are many opportunities to learn valuable and employable skills. Sites like Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, and Udemy offer full courses, software training, certifications, and more. It takes dedication and discipline. The courses can be had for as little as $12. Annual memberships to learn valuable on the job skills can cost as little as $159 a year. How much could you learn during a 30-day free trial?

There is also a large market for ‘boot-camp’ courses. These full-immersion courses are accredited by major universities and meet online several times a week in a full classroom environment complete with projects and homework. These courses usually have a high job placement rate, as the skills gained are quite in-depth in a specific field such as data analytics, and cyber-security. You can graduate from these 18- or 24-week courses with certifications in your new field as well as build a portfolio of projects you produced while in class. Both will be very helpful in finding a new career path. These courses can be very expensive, costing thousands of dollars, but loans, scholarships and grants, and flexible payment options are available.  Weigh your choices for what works best for you.

Add Value to Your Current Position
If you like where you work, make yourself more valuable by gaining skills that help you grow in your current position. Since certifications aren’t usually required by your employer, it shows them you’re serious about the quality of work you produce. Acquire Certifications like Certified Manufacturing Associate , Certified Automation Professional, Certified Manufacturing Technologist, or Certified Manufacturing Engineer.

If you work in an office, you could grow your skillset by learning tools in digital marketing, business leadership, CRM management, HR, data analytics, Google certifications, and more.

Talk to your employer about your intentions and ask for advice on what they would like you to learn specifically to help the operation. Ask for reimbursement. There are websites that specify in manufacturing courses to advance your career. No matter where you are, take some steps to improve your work life in the new year. Incorporate any or all of these tips to put you on a path to workplace happiness, which of course, enhance overall happiness.

Top Ten Non-Monetary Ways to Reward Employees

chalkboard with a message: top ten non monetary ways to reward employees this holdiay season


If you ask an older generation, they’ll tell you all about the “Christmas Bonus.” In a bygone era, the employee-employer relationship was reaffirmed each holiday season with a bonus check for the employee. If you’ve seen the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, you can see how problematic this became for employers, and employees.

There are many financial overtures to employees: salary, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, and 401k match just to name a few. While your employees would undoubtedly appreciate a few extra dollars thrown their way as a ‘thank you’, there are many other ways to reward your hard working emotionally dedicated staff this season that can cost very little (or even nothing).

man double-fisting trophies
A trophy, championship belt, medal and some public recognition go a long way.

#10 – The Trophy

Sure, it’s a little hokey. Maybe your employee would rather have the $20 you spent to get a plate engraved. But a trophy, or medal, or championship belt will stand the test of time. It will be set front and center at an employee’s workstation/desk.  Having a moment with a trophy presentation in front of co-workers (do it on a monthly basis) can create a positive and memorable moment of recognition. It also has a dual effect on other co-workers to try and claim this moment for themselves down the line.

Many of these rewards and recognition are far more memorable than a cash gift or generic big box gift cards, add a personal touch and build relationships to help keep your team engaged. The holiday season provides employers a chance to connect intimately with their talent.  Studies show that an employee is three times more likely to have negative feelings about their employer without occasional recognition. So, show your staff some love this season.

#9 – Food and Drink

A gift card to a popular restaurant or a $50 gift card to the grocery store can go a long way to helping an employee. While this is technically a ‘monetary’ gift, it requires some thought and a personal touch from an employer. Sending someone out to dinner, or getting them a bottle of their favorite spirit shows your employee that who they are matters. Another simple idea is to have food and/or drinks brought in for your staff to enjoy. Do this early in the week to boost morale.

#8 – Outside the Office Experience:

Give an employee or employees a chance to do something for the day outside of the office.  Take someone golfing, to a movie, or maybe a concert. You could even go for drinks on the company after work hours. If you can, make sure the employee is on the clock. Those few hours clocked in and getting paid for something fun will stay in their heads and hearts for many weeks and months to come.

A nice pullover or hoodie makes for a wonderful employee gift.

#7 – Social Media Shoutouts

Some people aren’t going to be into having their face plastered on your Facebook or Instagram. If they are camera-shy, have them send a picture they like of themselves. Then make sure that you’re tagging them by name on your social media channels with details of how important they are to your operation. This public acknowledgement lends employees to feel secure and well loved at their job. This will promote overall performance moving forward.

#6 – Comfort and or Company Schwag

Make it more than a mug. Get something really nice for an employee that maybe isn’t available to everyone or at a price point that most don’t go near. A hooded sweatshirt, even with your logo on it, is a gift that everyone will enjoy. You can give a gift of comfort to an employee as well. It could be a blanket or maybe some nice work boots for outdoor and industrial work. Give your team member something they can use everyday that shows they are part of a team and that they are valued.

#5 – Time

It’s the only thing better than the paycheck. Give your employees time back in their lives to increase their contributions to your operation, and to themselves. Give them an extra mental-health day, or PTO days near a holiday weekend to give them an additional mini-vacation during the year. If you want to give them time during the workday, another popular idea is to let your employee spend the day volunteering at their favorite charity or allow them to work on their own projects on company time. Google lets employees spend 20% of their work time on personal projects. They know this benefits the mental health of the employee and usually benefits them as well from an R&D perspective.

#4 – Autonomy

One of the things people love most about a job is being left alone and not micromanaged. They can do their job with little supervision, and you should be able to recognize employees who can perform at high levels independently. In addition to autonomy, you can also reward employees with responsibility. While that doesn’t sound like a reward, showing your employees you trust them to handle more important tasks in their workload can give them a sense of connection with the team and purpose in their job.

#3 – One on One Time

Simple face time with the boss can go along way. It helps the employee know that they are valued because your time is important and you’re choosing to spend it with them. It gives them ownership of the team by being able to put ideas into management’s head. One-on-one lunches, weekly mentoring sessions, training on jobs beyond their current role and other private opportunities not only make them feel valued, it gives employers a chance to get a fresh perspective and retain employees long-term.

#2 – Education and Well Being

Nobody wants to feel stuck in job. If you want your employees operating at a high level, make sure they’re moving forward professionally and personally. Offering your employees a chance to develop their professional skills or to focus on their health benefits everyone in both the short and long term. Give your employee a paid afternoon off on a nice day, or send them to a spa for an afternoon for a treatment.

You can purchase (or reimburse) your employee for online classes (like LinkedIn Learning or Udemy) to grow their skills. These classes can be as cheap as $10 a course. Be sure to give them time to study and develop while they are on the clock. That Gordon Ramsey Masterclass in cooking might get you a special plate of Beef Wellington in return.

#1 – Flexibility

It is by far the most in-demand job benefit in 2021. People want to work where they are comfortable. If you can give an employee time off early to help them not spend money on child care, or let them work remotely a few days a week or create their own schedule—do it. You’re going to be giving them something that means far more than the dollars on their paycheck. It may not be attainable for every business, but whatever you can do to allow people to balance work vs. life, you’re going to be loved by those who work for you.

Take a moment to recognize those who make your operation successful. You don’t have to break the bank to do so. Just remember that your employees are people, and anything you can do to not be just “a job” is going to make them better employees, which makes your operation better.