One way street signs in two directions

For the past ten years (or even longer!) we’ve been told that technology such as robots, automation, digitisation and IT are going to take over our jobs and leave us with nothing.

Indeed, McKinsey has found that about 60% of all occupations have at least 30% of “activities that are technically automatable, based on currently demonstrated technologies. This means that most occupations will change, and more people will have to work with technology."

If this is the case, we are going to have to change some of our working ways in reaction to this automation and technology, and it may be that some jobs will change drastically and may even disappear. 

The Good News

However, it’s not all bad news. The “Luddite Fallacy” shows that in the past, although there are often doom-ladened reports of job losses based on technology, this is greatly exaggerated and in fact technology has created many jobs than it has wiped out. 

Furthermore, in another McKinsey report Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works, they note that technology will be used primarily to optimise and improve productivity in a company’s products, services, supply chain, marketing and any other business-related activities, rather than ‘taking over’ jobs per se. Instead, some activities of a job will be automated, but the job won’t disappear. They believe 45% of jobs to be adapted by automation.

On the other hand, some of these jobs may be redefined so radically that might as well call it a new job. You’ll need new skills and new knowledge to undertake them, and previous work experience will only help you get so far. An example of a career where entirely new skills were needed is Graphic Design, who in a previous life painted advertising on billboards and shop signs. Nowadays, they use technology to create their designs and send them to a printer, rather than go through the pain-staking work of painting their designs. 

Jobs that are Less Susceptible to Automation

Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works believe that jobs which primarily require the ability to ‘manage others’ and ‘apply expertise’ will be the least affected from automation, for example, science and research, the education sector, the professional and management sector and the health sector, whilst those which include ‘data collection’, ‘data processing’ or ‘predictable physical work’ will be most affected. These include manufacturing processes, transportation and warehouse, and the finance and insurance sector, as well as equally the professional and management sector. 

The Future of Employment lists how susceptible a vast number of jobs are to automation if you would like to know where your career stands. Among the least susceptible to automation are: 

  • Therapists
  • Social Workers
  • Dieticians
  • Choreographers
  • HR Managers
  • Set Designers

Whilst the most susceptible are:

  • Telemarketers
  • Cargo Agents
  • Library Technicians
  • Tax Preparers
  • Loan Officers

The Future of Employment also note that careers will continue if they are:

  1. Creative - using a lot of different expertise to find a solution to a problem.
  2. People-centred - this includes the management of people.
  3. Physically unpredictable - for example a tree surgeon who attends a number of different houses and parks to cut down specific trees.

How you can Improve your Chances of Staying Employed

Unfortunately, it's difficult to predict quite how jobs will change and when this change will take place. However, we've a few suggestions to help you make sure that you continue to be employable.

Firstly, choose an industry that is either, creative, people-focused or unpredictable. The Future of Employment and Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works have plenty of ideas of what careers these are.

Secondly, have more than one string to your bow. Develop expertise in more than one area, because it's likely that you'll be able to use your knowledge in one area in another to help you come up with innovative solutions to problems and that's one of the foundations of creativity. 

Thirdly, keep learning. Continue to develop your skills, knowledge and expertise.