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Is your job in danger of being automated? (pt. 1)

By / September 8, 2016 / , , / 0 Comments

Automation isn’t exactly a new concept, but it’s definitely accelerated into almost every aspect of business in the last decade.

With more than 5 million Australian jobs predicted to be totally replaced in the next 10-15 years (with a further 2.3 million at risk), the big question is – which jobs are going to be automated?

Here’s a rundown of 10 typical jobs (including HR) and my predictions about which ones are safe (and which ones aren’t). I’ve based these predictions based on 3 criteria, based on the CEDA report of 2015, “The Future of Work”:

  1. Level of human interaction required (at this stage difficult to automate)
  2. Creativity required (impossible to automate from a process perspective)
  3. Physical dexterity and mobility required (more difficult and expensive to automate)

In addition to this, I’ve included potential career considerations for those in each role to kickstart your career planning. Please note that these are general roles, so whilst it’s entirely possible to be a salesperson who never speaks to another person or a creative health care worker, we’re looking at the average role requirements in our assessment.

Young girl selling flowers at the ghats, Varanasi Benares India
Young girl selling flowers at the ghats, Varanasi Benares India

Salesperson

Human interaction: Very High

Creativity: Medium

Physical Dexterity and mobility required: Very Low

Salespeople almost exclusively spend their days talking with people. It is the epitome of a people-based role.

However, we’re seeing significant disruption in sales, with the implementation of marketing automation to replace many manual sales processes (particularly for low-involvement purchases).

We are even seeing automation in the form of bots for some webstores, which we will likely see adopted by more and more organisations as the technology develops.

However, a good salesperson has an element of creativity to their approach, adapting to the situation and drawing links between a lot of disparate information. Therefore, those who specialise in high-value items (or products and services that require a very customised, hands-on approach) will likely still be in very high demand in the short term.

With advances in communication and online language translations, there’s very little mobility needed to operate as a modern salesperson (with a few location-based exceptions like real-estate).

Risk of being automated?

For those selling low-value items, in retail, consumer goods or consumer software are at a high risk of being replaced by marketing and bot automation.

However, those focussed on solution-selling for higher-involvement purchases are at a low risk based on the level of human interaction still expected for these types of purchases.

The salespeople of tomorrow will need to work with technology as much as possible, increasing their output by utilising marketing and bot automation to better qualify prospects and manage the lower level human interactions that were previously manual.

For those looking for a stable career in sales for the future, it’s probably best to think about the industries that are growing that will need human salespeople. For example, automation services are definitely growing, so becoming an expert in this space will likely increase your prospects for the future.

 

Tradies and Constructionkid-1350663_960_720

Human interaction: Medium

Creativity: Low

Physical Dexterity and mobility required: Very High

Trade-based skills can benefit from a lot of new automation technology, but due to the high level of mobility required, you’re almost always going to need someone to actually use the technology in the near future.

However, those working in product construction have already been automated out of many jobs in Australia (or at the very least, offshored). If it’s a job that can be performed in a factory, it’s likely at risk of being automated.

Whilst there is a place for creativity in trade-work, this is usually needed for the planning and design aspect, which is separate to the physical work required.

Risk of being automated?

For mobile tradespeople, there’s a low risk of your role being automated in the near future. That’s not to say that you won’t have access to technology to make your role easier, cheaper and faster, but it’s still likely to be you operating the tools.

If you’re in product construction – you’re probably already used to disruption and have your next career steps planned out. Moving into more mobile work will increase your employability outside of your current high risk role.

The biggest opportunities outside of this are to move into the design and planning phase, which will be much easier if you have automated processes and tools to perform as much construction work for you as possible.

Alternatively, designing these automated tools is the perfect role for a tradesperson, as you’ve got the expert knowledge to know what should be automated in your role and how it should be done.

 

Healthcare workerchild-216974_960_720

Human interaction: High

Creativity: Very low

Physical Dexterity and mobility required: Low

Healthcare is a very mixed role, which specifically in this example includes doctors, nurses, carers, counsellors, radiologists and technicians.

As these roles are rarely creative in nature, but instead rely on drawing logical conclusions and performing appropriate treatments, it’s only a matter of time before many of these roles are automated.

Whilst physical dexterity and mobility are required for many roles (think surgeons or visiting carers), procedures and treatments that occur in hospitals or clinics are already being automated. It’s worth spending a lot on one bit of tech that can perform checks or administer treatments, because you can bring the patients to it. Not only is this more efficient, but it removes a lot of potential human error.

Where healthcare is difficult to automate is in the human interaction element. Psychologically, many of our treatments require a caring, understanding person for patients to talk to. For example, going through chemotherapy with no human interaction would be difficult and scary, which could affect the success of the treatment.

Risk of being automated?

Longer term, many healthcare roles are at a high risk of being automated. The key exceptions are the roles that need to mobile and have high levels of human interaction, such as counsellors, visiting therapists and carers.

That doesn’t mean we won’t have technicians operating many new technologies that are developed in the future, or that medical research will be magically automated either. Learning people-based health roles, developing new treatments or operating automated health tools will all be useful ways to increase your career prospects in the future.

 

Artists and Designersboy-286241_960_720

Human interaction: Medium

Creativity: Very high

Physical Dexterity and mobility required: Very low (remember we’re talking about the role, not the current process)

Artists and designers, whether they’re architects, painters or musicians, are in an interesting situation in regards to automation. On the one hand, they are by definition creative. On the other, that creativity is not always required to solve the needs of those paying for their services.

For example, architects are often replaced with pre-designed office or home plans. Live musicians are often replaced with a pre-programmed sound system.

This means that it really depends on where artists and designers work. There is still a high demand for creative content (video games, movies, television and music are all being consumed at increasing rates), but it’s the delivery and use for this content that is being automated. You don’t need to physically ship CDs to a customer, and you don’t need to deliver plans or designs for products either.

Turning non-creative people’s ideas and visions into a tangible design or piece of art is the real sweet-spot for many creatives, which means that the human interaction element becomes key to this role in the future.

Risk of being automated?

Many roles within the creative space have already been automated, particularly around distribution (think Netflix, Steam or Spotify over traditional manual distribution methods) and technical aspects (think music mixing and mastering and product design software tests).

However, the core creativity required for content creation isn’t ready to be automated just yet. The day may come when we can auto-generate a song for our moods (as programmers have begun to experiment with), but for now we can’t generate high-quality ideas or art without human involvement. These roles have a low risk for automation.

 

EngineersYellow_Raincoat

Human interaction: Low

Creativity: High

Physical Dexterity and mobility required: Low

Engineers are everything from software to mechanical knowledge workers. Whilst there are still many engineers who perform physical tasks, most engineers spend their time working from a computer using software to design products or actually coding products themselves.

The more creative the engineer (eg. the more complex or difficult the challenges they work with), the harder they are to replace. Lower expertise engineers, such as those who monitor and maintain existing systems, have lower levels of creativity and are hence more at risk.

Most engineers work in team, but the role itself is not intrinsically people-focussed.

Risk of being automated?

Whilst it’s a broad category, we can summarise that engineers who create (in particular, software) are at a very low risk of having their roles automated.

On the other hand engineers who perform systems checks, maintain servers and hold more of a caretaker position are at a high risk as automated alerts, notifications and debugging scripts are developed. Even engineers who work on physical machinery may find themselves at risk, as newer machinery and technology is generally built to be more easily understood and maintained without specific product knowledge.

So for all engineers – work on your creative skills and get designing. Those roles that require you to utilise your skills, knowledge and experience to create new infrastructure, products or programs are the harder ones to automate.

 

We’ll give you 5 more roles next week in Part 2, including HR, Management and more.

As always, feel free to agree or disagree in the comments below!

 

about the author
Peter

Peter is Navigo's founder and Managing Director. Peter is passionate about building and running businesses, finding solutions to business process problems and new trends in HR Technology.