For several years, the threat of the robots coming to steal our jobs has increased. In fact, it has been reported that automation will affect one in five jobs across the UK. As automation becomes more prevalent in every industry, the world of work is beginning to change, and we need to be prepared to cope with the changes.
Recently, the news that Zalando replaced 250 of its marketing staff with software caused a stir. If companies continue to follow suit, then digitisation and automation will change the labour market just as industrialisation did. But there is no need to panic, an annual study by McKinsey reports that less than 5 percent of occupations will disappear completely as a result of automation. According to the analysis, physical routine tasks, which are frequently found in industrial environments, can easily be performed by algorithms. Similarly, the management consultancy calculates that about 60 percent of all activities in the manufacturing industry, 75 percent in the food and hotel industry and 50 percent of retail work could be replaced by automation. But these changes will allow employees to focus on strategic aspects of their job, rather than the daily admin tasks they have to complete.
Routine work belongs to the machines in the future
However, this study only calculates the potential of automation and how it may impact the world of work. Whether, and to what extent, jobs will be automated in the future depends, on the cost-benefit factor. For example, an accountant’s day-to-day work could be helped by using automation, but for a chef it would play a smaller role, since their job would could be harder to replicate mechanically. This is why experts predict that jobs that involve data processing and collection will be more likely to be affected by automation than those that don’t.
Although automation may sound like it threatens millions of jobs, the impact of this technology could have huge benefits. It gives employees more time to complete more interesting and complex tasks, rather than focussing on mundane, admin-based tasks. It can also reduce error rates and increase the performance of many industries beyond human capabilities. Jobs that require customer contact, emotional intelligence, leadership skills and judgement will remain in the hands of humans and will most likely not be fully automated. Only the jobs that include routine, admin-based work will be affected but if anything, automation will allow employees to focus on more strategic, business focussed tasks contributing to overall business success.