US workers more desperate to be digitized than Germans

Could it be that manufacturing workers in America express a greater need for software-driven help than in the supposed home of engineering?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

American workers are desperate for more software?

Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's easy to have an impression of a country before you visit.

Why, some of my European friends worry that every American has a gun and will happily wield it whenever they get annoyed.

Equally, some of my American friends worry that every European has socialism in their hearts and will happily pay 60% in taxes.

Please, I don't want to get into (too much of) a debate that may turn into an international incident.

I was, however, somewhat moved by a new survey that suggests a certain -- perhaps surprising -- difference between US manufacturing workers and their German counterparts.

Conducted by the low-code crusaders at Mendix, the survey results offered a bracing conclusion: "US workers are more willing to welcome and contribute to workplace digitalization than their counterparts in Germany."

So American workers welcome robot-level software more readily than those in the alleged home of engineering, Germany -- by a score of 78% versus 61%?

Mendix called this "a surprising result, given that German manufacturing workers enjoy a reputation as some of the most skilled in the world."

I have to believe that this survey was conducted without favoritism, as Mendix is owned by the upstanding German conglomerate, Siemens.

I was, then, perfectly prepared to hail the American worker's future focus as opposed to the German worker's resistance to change.

Oh, but then my emotions paused for a cocktail and my rational faculties screeched into first gear.

Could it be that American workers are tired of working in deeply stressful, imperfect conditions and would welcome anything that would make their lives more productive -- or just plain easier?

Could it also be that German workers are far more secure in their jobs and don't feel the need for too much of that digital nonsense?

It's hard when you begin to impose your own personal impressions on data, isn't it?

I asked a high-falutin' friend in tech what he thought of the results. He said: "Germany? Nanny state."

I asked a high-falutin' German friend in tech what he thought, too. "America? Ja. Many problems," was his considered view.

Yes, perhaps I should find better friends, but I wonder which of these countries will benefit the most from being swallowed by software.

Mendix offered a painfully poetic attempt at the importance of low-code software: "In a pandemic-disrupted world, software is the new lifeblood of our daily lives and the connective tissue holding together the global economy. However, traditional software development takes far too long and very often fails to deliver the results business needs and users love."

Perhaps there will, indeed, be a great movement on the part of US workers to learn low-code skills in order to make their own lives better.

Let's not leave the impression, though, that German workers are so insular. 77% did confess they'd happily learn some new digital skills. Who knows, perhaps it's to help their kids with their homework.

But let's not use the German results to paint such a dire picture of Europe as being deeply insular.

Why, Mendix also performed a simultaneous survey in the UK. There, a mere 60 percent of all workers, not just manufacturing -- perhaps because there's so little manufacturing left there -- said they were "willing to welcome and contribute to workplace digitalization."

The UK's not in Europe, is it?

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