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How Automation is Changing Our Job Landscape

By Kevin Donnelly on 02/13/2017

Much has been made of the way automation is transforming jobs. Tasks that once took several people a full day to complete can now be done by a single robot in a few hours. Automation is expected to continue to change the way we work – this time by eliminating tasks instead of eliminating jobs.

Task efficiency

McKinsey & Company released a study in 2016 that looked at how machines are changing our workforce. It found that almost half of the activities people are paid to do could be completed by machines. Again – this doesn’t mean almost half of jobs can be done by machines, instead the study focused on tasks.

Tasks that have predictable physical work – like food service or transportation – are more easily automated than tasks that require managing others and applying expertise. In fact, the same study found that up to 30 percent of a CEO’s daily tasks could be automated. That doesn’t mean you’re going to start reporting to a computer in the corner office, rather, the computer can free up your CEO to do other tasks that add value to the company.

What’s next for automation?

Before you start envisioning a future where most of our mundane tasks are completed by robots, let’s take a step back. Technology and robotics continue to improve, but a gap still exists among artificial intelligence, machine learning and language. If you doubt me, grab your smartphone and ask it a question. Whether you have Siri or Alexa, your electronic assistant won’t always understand you. And when it understands your words, it may not process the right context.

Understanding language would be a game changer for automation. McKinsey & Company found that breakthrough alone would bump technical potential for automation from 53 percent of labor time to 60 percent. In the financial and insurance industries, that jump goes from 43 percent to 66 percent.

How do you see automation changing your company this year – or in 10 years? Share your insights with me at KDonnelly@REDICincinnati.com.  

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