Technology’s unrelenting advance is transforming work and the workplace. The U.S. Bureau of Labor examined automation’s potential effect on the workplace by looking at over 2,000 activities comprising more than 800 occupations. The intriguing results tell an important story about the change that leaders must look for, manage and guide. 

The study looked at the time spent on specific activities and analyzed the feasibility of automating them. The automation potential of various types of work depends on technical feasibility, the availability of skills that automation may replace, and the cost to automate relative to human wages.

Results showed that fewer than 5% of jobs can be fully automated by employing current “robots,” but some automation can be incorporated into almost every position. Most automatable work involves data collection, data processing, and physical labor.

These activities represent approximately $2.7 trillion in U.S. wages, and account for 51% of time spent working. Workers at all pay and skill levels are impacted; the disruption is not just in low-skilled work. Even in jobs where annual incomes exceed $200,000, 31% of time is involved in automatable tasks, usually data-related.

What do we have to do to prepare for the automated world?

Managers and employees should not wait until automation reaches its peak in the workplace to stay ahead. By looking to the future and keeping their skill sets up-to-date, today’s workers can ensure they’ll be valuable in any new landscape. Here are three possible futures employees should keep in mind:

1. Become a trainer

Integration of robots will allow companies to reduce overseas labor, keeping jobs in the country and allowing them to focus on innovation. As that happens, the demand for more technical skills — such as trainers — will grow.

Trainers will need to be present to teach artificial intelligence (AI) how to eliminate errors, emulate human behaviors, and stay on track in general. While this may create a brief dip in unskilled labor in some industries, it will also pave the way for a safer, more sustainable work over time.

2. Bridge the gap as a communicator

Great communicators who understand highly technical systems are needed to close the gap between AI systems and the nontechnical humans who need their robotic insight. From business executives to general consumers, companies will require workers who can analyze the AI’s findings and translate that information into meaningful advice.

For example, some AI services are monitoring employee emails to spot language that indicates an employee is unhappy at work. While some AI systems can be taught to understand sarcasm, there are still some nuances of human communication that are beyond the scope of AI understanding.

3. Hone your creative thinking skills

Employees concerned about being replaced by automation should either find something computers cannot do as well as humans or become invaluable to the advancement of technology. For students and young workers who will be present in the new AI-centered workforce for several decades, choosing the right career path is critical.

Creative thinkers are still a necessary part of the workplace. Consider pursuing creative career choices to stay out of automation’s path. Computers can iterate upon existing ideas, but they cannot come up with new ones. These creative fields — and creative thinking in business — will always have a place in the workforce.

4. Get in on the ground level

Those who wish to get involved with the production of new AI and automation technologies will find themselves at the forefront of an exciting new field. As these technologies become widespread, the need for people who understand how AI works and can customize solutions for different industries will become massive.

Automation’s place in the workforce is still in its early years, but even as it grows, it won’t be as scary as many might believe. Whether workers shift to new fields or stay in their old jobs, the work will still be there to do.


Check out this helpful link for more info about how you can stay one step ahead of technology in the workplace:

Will robots take your job? Humans ignore the coming AI revolution at their peril.

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