AI and automation have the potential to change the way your business operates. When used in tandem, these technologies can execute more tasks—more efficiently and intelligently than any human can.
With this approach—called intelligent automation—your company can cut expenses, reduce risks, and achieve unprecedented operational efficiencies. But at what cost? Do AI and automation represent a dead-end for your career? Or will they create new opportunities for you to be happier, more fulfilled, and more valued at work?
Machines vs. humankind
Throughout history, innovation has impacted human jobs. The evolution of technology has rendered many roles obsolete. When last did you see an advertisement for a lamplighter or elevator operator, for example?
But these developments have also created new business opportunities and career paths. They’ve been a catalyst for positive change, prompting people to upskill and find new ways to add value in the commercial environment.
Is a new revolution underway?
As new technologies like AI and automation become more accessible, more companies are investing in digital transformation. IDC predicts that by 2022, 75% of enterprises will embed AI and automation capabilities into their processes. And by 2024, AI will play a key role in every part of the business.
Will the widespread adoption of AI and automation cause a ‘jobs apocalypse’, as some media headlines predict? Will you soon be replaced by a smart software robot that never sleeps?
Let’s look at the research
Numerous studies have attempted to understand the potential impact of AI and automation on humans in the workplace. Some researchers say that a great many skill sets will become redundant, leading to extensive job losses. Others predict that these technologies will transform the nature of work, creating more opportunities than displacements.
According to a forecast by McKinsey Global Institute, for example, close to 40% of jobs in the US are in occupational categories that could be disrupted by automation between now and 2030. The types of roles impacted include office support, food service, customer service, and retail sales. These typically involve a high volume of routine, manual tasks that are well suited to automation.
On the other hand, The World Economic Forum predicts that the growing demand for new roles will offset the decreasing demand for others. More than a quarter of companies surveyed say automation will create new roles within their companies, and 38% expect to re-deploy their workforce to more productive roles due to technology adoption.
“As has been the case throughout economic history, such augmentation of existing jobs through technology is expected to create wholly new tasks—from app development to piloting drones to remotely monitoring patient health to certified care workers—opening up opportunities for an entirely new range of livelihoods for workers,” explains the report.
While there’s no doubting the power of automation and AI, it’s important to understand the extent to which these tools can manage entire job roles.
Handing off tasks vs. automating occupations
When AI capabilities such as machine learning, natural language processing, and optical character recognition are connected with automation platforms, fuller cycle process automation is possible. But could technology really manage your job end-to-end?
Another study by McKinsey Global Institute reveals that only 5% of current occupations can be 100% managed by existing technologies. Additionally, the research team found that around 30% of the activities in 60% of all occupations can be automated.
In the majority of job roles, human input is still required. Surely there’s more value in machines working alongside humans than replacing them altogether?
A new age of human-machine collaboration
Done well, intelligent automation could allow you to clear mundane tasks off your desk and spend more time on work you’re skilled at and passionate about. This could ultimately lead to greater job satisfaction and more value for your company.
And with AI in the picture, the level of support offered by virtual ‘colleagues’ extends beyond simple tasks. Gartner envisages that by 2022, one in five workers will rely on AI to assist with mostly non-routine tasks.
“For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people with AI. Enrich people’s jobs, reimagine old tasks, and create new industries,” advises Svetlana Sicular, research vice president at Gartner.
What can humans bring to the table?
As technologies continue to evolve, keep proving your worth by sharpening your uniquely human skills. Here are some capabilities that will not only enable you to future-proof your job but also add more value to a corporate environment where AI, automation, and humans work side-by-side:
- Emotional intelligence
- Social skills
- Leadership abilities
- Ability to think strategically
- Innovation skills
You can’t stop progress
Rather than viewing AI and automation as threats or competitors, it’s time to see these technologies as tools for change. These are instruments that we humans can use as we play a valuable, collaborative role in the next business revolution.
Of course, this calls for agility—and an openness to learning new skills and accepting new responsibilities. This way, our organizations can capitalize on innovation without sacrificing human talent.