An astounding 47 percent of jobs in the United States alone are at high risk of being automated over the coming 20 years. A combination of new business models, technology, workforce automation, and globalization is changing the way that companies do business – and the workforce is at the crux of it all.
New job categories will replace many of these automated jobs. But the real question is: What happens to the people rendered redundant, and how likely will companies help ensure their success?
Traditionally, robots and automation are associated with the displacement of more manual labor. However, the stark reality is that jobs across the workforce are at risk. Factory and construction workers may be robotized, taxi drivers could be replaced by self-driving cars, and bookkeepers have the potential to be displaced by pieces of software.
But could managerial roles, creative jobs, and administrative functions be affected as well?
R2-D2 in the Corner Office
With just under half of the workforce at risk of being automated, the impact will indeed be felt across a broad range of jobs. A Deloitte study suggested that as many as 56 percent of finance functions in the United Kingdom could be automated over the coming years. This trend will likely spread beyond the finance area into administrative and analytical jobs that are heavily centered on organizational procedures, strict business rules, and defined outputs. And this change will be felt throughout the hierarchy as well.
Your next manager may not be a shiny R2-D2 robot sitting in the corner office, but managers are certainly feeling the pressure of automation and subsequent risk to their job security. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automated information analysis, in many cases, already enable better staffing and resource allocation decisions than what humans can do on their own. Decisions can be made based on real-time changes in the environment – affecting everything from delivery truck traffic routing to coordinating global crisis management responses and making informed investment decisions on new machinery based on financial conditions, external economic factors, and expected ROI. Ultimately, it is about business optimization and efficiency as it takes human error, politics, and emotions out of the equation.
Creativity is at the Fingertips of the Beholder
When it comes to creative jobs, most will argue that machines can’t compete with humans precisely because of our inherent human traits such as emotions, intuition, and sensibility. Yes, you can find computers making music and robots making paintings and artificial intelligence writing code. But, it is unlikely that they can inject that special something that makes the work stand out among the masters of the arts who define our humanity.
The leap, however, may not be as big as you might think. AI can now reduce massive amounts of machine data into readable information. In fact, experimental initiatives are combining existing literature into new novels, and considering the potential for machine-generated news stories based on available data, sensors, and cameras. It might not be worthy of Hemingway and Faulkner, but writers, nonetheless, could conceivably be affected. For example, a service could provide on-demand, personalized novels based on specific literary preferences. Or automation could bypass onsite journalists by reporting news the moment it occurs, not just after the data arrives and the article is written.
The Potential of Automation: Workforce Transformation
The jobs that are safe from this robot revolution are the ones that involve the generation of original ideas, innovation, negotiation, and a high level of social intelligence. Additionally, jobs that require human interaction – such as healthcare, physical assistance, sales, and teaching – will largely remain important parts of the workforce.
The big change to come in the digital economy will be the rise of the digital worker, which will create a whole host of new, critical roles focused on running a Live Business and reacts in the moment based on real-time changes in both the internal and external environment.
To learn more about the rise of the digital worker and how those roles will affect the Future of Work and your workforce, read the executive research white paper “Live Business: The Rise of the Digital Workforce.”
Michael Rander is the global research director for Future Of Work at SAP.