The effect of automation

Technology has been an organisational disruptor for some time now, but it is automation (that is the use of Artificial Intelligence and Robots) that is now being hailed as the next big disruptor. It is already commonplace in manufacturing and construction, and as the December 2017 McKinsey report, Jobs lost; jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation, points out:

“We live in an age when machines answer customer inquiries, help doctors understand X-rays, lip-read better than human professionals, and sort trash into compost and recyclables.”

Many foresee widespread adoption of the technology will have a profound effect on the world of work. In fact, there have been many newspaper articles that talk about the numbers of jobs that will be replaced, for example:

“With advancements in machine learning and deep learning, automation threatens forty-seven percent of the jobs in the U.S. workforce”

Robots to replace 1 in 3 UK jobs over next 20 years, warns IPPR

Robots could replace 250,000 public sector workers over the next 15 years in the UK.”

But although some jobs will be replaced by automation, it will also create new ones. Furthermore, it is likely that many more will be changed in some way by automation, which is a more significant issue, as the October 2017 Futurism report, The Reports Are In: AI and Robots Will Significantly Threaten Jobs shows:

“A startling scenario the report envisions for the future is one in which “typical” jobs — jobs people can steadily advance in through promotions — no longer exist, prompting the aforementioned move to develop new skills.

“A report suggests people only have five years before automation and AI threaten jobs and force them to learn new skills for the workforce. The firm PwC surveyed 10,000 people from around the world, revealing people are concerned about automation, but they’re also willing to learn.

“It varies a bit by industry,” explains Hesse, “but over the next five years we’re going to see the need for workers to change their skills at an accelerating pace.” If the report’s results are anything to go by, people are ready for change: 74% expressed a willingness to “learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future.”

The implications for both employees and organizations are clear. Individuals will need to learn new skills to remain employable, and organisations will need to ensure they have individuals with the relevant skills to remain competitive in their market.

But which jobs are likely to be disrupted? Scott Latham and Beth Humberd in a MIT Sloan Management Review article, Four ways jobs will respond to automation, believe that threats should be assessed along two dimensions: How replaceable the core skill sets are,  and how much of a shift there is in the way value is delivered (see diagram below). This will have implications for how to prepare for the future.

How likely is it that a robot will take your job? Take the robots job test.


The effect of information explosion and information half-life

Last updated: December 10, 2018 at 8:20 am

Only authorized members can comment.

Log in