Automation is Changing the Face of The Workplace

Julie Shenkman
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A 2015 report by McKinsey & Company states that 45 percent of all workforce tasks could be automated with the current levels of available technology. Although workforce automation is not likely to replace 45 percent of the workforce, it still has serious implications for human resource departments. Look for jobs to be affected in these three ways in the future.

Job Metamorphosis

Watch for jobs to change as workforce automation handles tasks that once took up a significant portion of an employee's workday. As technology becomes more efficient in analyzing data and handling mundane tasks, as well as more affordable for lower-profit industries and smaller businesses, anticipate many positions drifting into decision-maker roles. A computer may provide and analyze the data, but a human mind is still necessary to watch for problems and make final decisions based on the analysis.

Customer service positions are another area affected by workforce automation. Even as it becomes possible to automate every part of a customer interaction from selling a product to purchasing it to troubleshooting problems, people still expect a friendly interaction with an actual person as they navigate the marketplace. Look forward to customer service positions with less busy work and more time for employees to focus on customers.

Job Extinction

Some jobs are likely to disappear as workforce automation makes greater inroads into industry. Workers who primarily perform stable, predictable tasks are already losing jobs in the manufacturing industry to industrial robotics. In the business world, watch for lower-level management positions to dwindle as more tasks become automated and higher-level executives have more time to take on decision-making roles.

It is difficult to imagine a time where a professional, such as a physician, might be replaced by workforce automation. Although doctors are not in immediate danger of extinction, a future melding of cognitive computing with robotic process automation could reduce the number of positions. Automated machinery imbued with artificial intelligence has a high capability to handle basic diagnosis and treatment procedures, reducing the total number of needed physicians. The remaining positions will be responsible for handling tough cases and overseeing the automated workforce.

Job Creation

Workforce automation doesn't just decrease the number of available jobs; it also creates jobs. Designers, programmers and manufacturers are necessary to create and produce effective technology. Watch for larger information technology departments as the workforce needed to install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair automation technology grows. Employees with skills in data analysis and complex problem solving work alongside automated data analysis programs to filter out noise and process valuable information. Watch for growth in fields that require creativity and human emotions — areas that are not easily handled by automation.

Be prepared to adapt the composition of your workforce as more cognitive computing and workforce automation creeps into your industry. While making human resources decisions, be sure to focus on valuing human labor to maintain proper levels of customer service and keep your company culture amiable for all of your employees.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at



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