As workflows become increasingly automated, some people are worried about how it may affect job security.
According to a 2020 article published by the World Economic Forum1, it is estimated that by 85 Million jobs across 15 industries and 26 economies will be displaced by 2025. A recent MIT and Boston University study2 found that Robots could replace as many a 2 million workers in manufacturing by 2025.
The news sounds scary. But people who skim over these headlines are missing the big picture. While some jobs will indeed be lost, others will be created, and many more will involve less tedium and more creativity. In the long run, job automation will expand the economy, even though the occupations themselves will be different from the ones we have today.
More time for strategic thinking — and customers
It is evident that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digitisation and automation within the labour market. 50% of employers are expecting to accelerate the automation factor of various roles within their organisations. However, few of those jobs will be entirely automated, a recent World Economic Forum article3 suggests. Instead, work will be divided equally between humans and machines. Humans will take on tasks that require analytical thinking, creativity, and flexibility, whereas machines will be primarily utilized for administrative, information, and data processing tasks.
You can see this happening already in areas such as finance, where modernised accounts payable processes free workers to concentrate on solving high-level problems — or listen to customers and learn what new services they would like, leading to possible new lines of business (and probably, new automated workflows).
In fact, according to a recent article4 by the Harvard Business Review, job automation can increase efficiency, boost productivity while reducing errors at the same time.
Jobs that can be fully automated have a higher chance of disappearing. You likely won’t be seeing as many want ads for assembly line workers, call centre employees, or data entry clerks. Meanwhile, insurance underwriters and tax preparers who deal with the basics will need to learn new skills.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
In addition, as artificial intelligence and machine learning become more sophisticated, higher-level jobs will also be affected, but not eliminated. This process has already begun.
In law, for example, e-discovery algorithms have been used for years to find documents relevant to cases, saving millions of dollars. The software is accurate, too — it finds 95 percent of relevant documents, compared to just 51 percent for humans.
So you might think that paralegals, who used to do this work, would go the way of the dinosaur. On the contrary, the occupation has grown faster than the labour force as a whole, increasing by over 50,000 since the late 1990s. Firms that save money on document search can use it to expand, and there’s plenty of high-value work for paralegals to do.
IT is another example. With so many functions moving to the cloud and fewer servers to manage, it can be easy to immediately question the need for an onsite IT team. Yet, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics5 report that IT employment is projected to grow 13 percent from 2020 to 2030 – an addition of 667,000 jobs.
IT workers may not be splicing wires and measuring disk space anymore, but they are managing cybersecurity, streaming services, and internet of things (IoT) applications. They still have to support office machines and make sure systems integrate smoothly. And, somebody must manage all those relationships with cloud vendors and make sure their programs are tied to existing systems without conflict. As small business owners know, this can often be their responsibility — whether they are comfortable or educated in the subject matter or not.
In the end
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that workers will learn new skills required by the changing markets and the evolving technologies. It’s also taught us companies will adapt their processes and people to these innovations. But although job automation can perform many tasks that are good for, and needed by mid-market businesses, they can’t replace the human creativity and people skills that ultimately nurture the relationship with your prospects and customers.
Do you have sufficient data capture and automated workflow processes to remain competitive and provide the best possible customer experience? Check out how you can leverage our automation solutions and services to transform your organisation.