Discover what the future holds in regard to automation in the workplace, as well as the ways to successfully introduce process automation in a team or company.
According to the SEO tool Ahrefs, there are nearly eight thousand monthly searches of the phrase “will robots take my job”.
So… is it a lot?
To put things into perspective – “COVID-19” is searched over 8 million times monthly.
Considering the above, it’s like comparing apples to oranges in terms of the popularity of these two search queries.
And just to be clear. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the defining moment of the 21st century – a macro-scale event that has already impacted the next generation to come.
Still, eight thousand compared to eight million is a drop in the ocean.
Why bother writing about it then?
Well, the eight thousand searches of “will robots take my job” are likely a few times more if we gather all similar queries and long-tail keywords.
Let’s say that the actual search reach is 5x larger.
Then, we could be talking about up to 40 thousand instances monthly when someone around the world seeks an answer to a question that should be out of the question.
What’s the takeaway here?
To put it plainly, people fear automation and robotization.
Even if it’s not nearly as big as the pandemic, this search query captures the current state of things when it comes to how people perceive the notion of automating work.
Automation is a threat.
AI will take jobs from people.
And all that.
Take the infamous case of Sophia, an AI robot that responded affirmatively when asked whether it wanted to destroy humans.
What was intended as a joke during the product presentation turned out to be clickbait that generated over 18 million views on CNBC’s YouTube channel.
There’s even a dedicated online app – willrobotstakemyjob.com – that evaluates the chances of robotization and redundancy of particular positions and professions.
Talk about fear-mongering, huh?
Who knows, maybe this article was also automatically generated by robots?
Rest assured, there’s a human being behind this article. And let’s make this abundantly clear – the future is not so grim.
In fact, we’ll convince you that – even if your job has a high score of “robots-caused redundancy” – you’re more likely to experience a significant upgrade in your day-to-day routine than become useless to your employer. And if you’re in charge of a team, we will help you navigate these dangerous waters of implementing automation in a workplace.
This article covers:
- jobs that have been highly automated already
- how automation and robotization will transform the labor market
- the meaning of human-centered AI
- the practical tips on introducing your company or team to automation
Let’s get to the bottom of whether robots will be taking our jobs.
Are there any jobs that have gone extinct because of automation?
History has seen jobs disappearing in the past, but not necessarily due to automation. Entire verticals transform leaving particular types of expertise obsolete.
The energy sector has been stuck for years with solutions that were damaging the environment. Yet coal mining might soon become a ghost of the past if the research into fusion power delivers tangible results and an applicable technology. As a consequence, the miner’s job will face extinction.
Bookbinders, people who handcrafted books, have been pushed out of the market by the automated production of books.
Assembly lines in car production are heavily automated to eke out higher productivity too. About 300 various robots are now available to improve specific parts of the entire production process – from manufacturing and picking parts to transportation and packing.
Once again, blue-collar workers were forced out of the equation.
Various circumstances led to changes in those markets. While all three examples capture the problem of why people fear losing jobs to robots, there’s a catch to each one of them too.
Coal mining is detrimental to the environment hence all initiatives that neutralize this impact are favored.
Bookbinders were not able to keep up with the pace of mass publishing.
Assembly lines generated high maintenance costs, and halted production improvements, while also generating health hazards for the workers.
In all three instances, automation changed things for good.
Automation targets simple, repetitive tasks
The thing with reshaping an industry is that through innovation new jobs are created.
At the core of every process automation lies the objective to shift the time-consuming, easy tasks away from employees.
Let’s return to the three examples we’ve cited in the previous section.
Moving from coal mining to fusion energy will create jobs such as engineers, power plant operators, maintenance workers, security, etc. Additionally, it will have a positive impact on the environment, as well as help in building healthier communities around the heavy-industry regions. Miners were also facing the dangers of workplace accidents – gas explosions, gas outbursts, construction collapse, floods, etc. – and the new technologies are increasing the degree of safety.
The same goes for assembly line workers who were either adapting to working with advanced machinery as technicians or left the physical job and tried their luck in the services market.
Even bookbinders have benefitted from automation. Machines still need technicians, while handcrafted products – such as journals – became a niche product in, among others, the wedding industry.
The truth is that robots will not take over human jobs in the foreseeable future because of their limitations.
Even the most advanced AI models do not resemble the complexity of the cognitive skills of humans. Without the ability to think independently and conduct multiple tasks at once, robots can deliver one thing at a time.
The lack of critical thinking constitutes their main advantage when it comes to routine activities. While humans may often lack the motivation and challenge to repeat the same action, robots will not hinder their tasks unless a system malfunction occurs.
At the same time, this singularity in task delivery causes robots to be more efficient in repetitive tasks where humans can make errors – such as documents processing and extracting data.
The advancement of AI programming enables robots to perform challenging calculations that allow them to – for example – mimic human movements.
Like this Boston Dynamics robot performing parkour.
A highly-advanced algorithm uses Object Detection in the robot’s programming to allow it to compute the obstacles and act accordingly.
The robot’s ability to keep balance is astonishing, but there’s only one king of parkour, right?
On a more serious note, currently available technology isn’t enough to create an artificial copy of the human brain. This robot can be programmed to swiftly reach point B from point A, but won’t be able to come up with a new innovation or a business idea while performing this task.
A human, on the other hand, can.
Robots can take over physically draining and dangerous tasks, such as pizza delivery which is statistically more dangerous than working as a construction worker or a police officer. As Ashley Nunes from Harvard indicates, “Robots can, and should, occupy professions that are too risky for human workers to perform, offer little in the way of purpose, and deprive human workers of the joys of free living.“
That’s an area where robots can actually reduce the threats of dangerous jobs.
A game by Hideo Kojima – Death Stranding – envisions a dystopian future, where the player controls a courier who delivers packages between hard-to-reach points on the map. It’s a dangerous job. One way to speed things up is an automatic delivery bot – a robot that takes on a part of the cargo, enabling the player to take on other orders.
Wouldn’t that be a perfect job for the Boston Dynamics robot that already knows how to run, jump and keep balance?
While some types of automation are aimed at taking over the simple, tedious tasks off the human shoulders, some solutions help with more complex tasks too.
The concept of human-centered AI also counters the “will robots take my job” million-dollar question.
Most automation tools assist people and make our lives easier. Human-centered AI is based on relations between humans and robots, where the input from the first one enables the latter to continuously grow.
Here’s a business example.
A time-consuming task for some of the experts in the field of debt collection is skip tracing. Skip tracing revolves around finding relevant contact information of debtors who prefer to lay low and avoid any contact. Skip tracers need to flip through hundreds of pages of various documents to find this data.
Skip tracing automation aims at speeding up the process by classifying the piles of documents and extracting data from them. Skip tracers can access all the documents and by searching with user-defined keywords, they find the necessary data much faster.
As a consequence, skip tracing teams can close more deals in their pipeline thanks to a more efficient process.
More importantly, this takes away the boring part of the job and provides the employees with the time that can be allocated to actual challenges.
Similar examples of manual tasks being automated can be found elsewhere. In a study by PwC, the research team estimated that automation will come in three waves – algorithm, augmentation, and autonomous – and that the impact will be most visible in, you guessed it, manual and routine tasks.
Automation and robotization will transform the labor market
Considering the above, the ultimate impact of automation is not taking jobs from people, but reshaping the labor market and its components. The challenge is therefore to guarantee that humans will gain the skills required to work with machines.
Because automated workflows still need people in the process.
Consider Alphamoon’s platform for Intelligent Document Processing. Our state-of-the-art AI automates document processing, turning unstructured documents into sources of knowledge and insights. The continuous learning of the engine requires a close-knit collaboration with the user. By correcting even the tiniest mistake made by the AI, the user teaches it and gains better insights.
Beyond this relationship is the utility of the tool.
Documents are generated by all businesses that operate and grow – that means new hirings (contracts, amendments, agreements, etc.), new deals (purchase orders, invoices, etc.), new offers generated (offerings, appendices to the offered contracts, etc.) and so on. Robots won’t generate documents just for the sake of processing them.
Creating markets that foster this growth is dependent on national and multinational levels, with a strong focus on education. That’s also the finding from the PwC study, “Additional investment in education and skills will only be fully effective, however, if there are jobs available for people to do. This will require running the economy at a sufficient level of aggregate demand to maintain high employment levels“.
The World Economic Forum also estimates that automation will create a positive net value in the labor market, being responsible for 12 million more jobs than it removes.
On top of that, automation will positively impact wages too. Since the demand for highly-skilled workers is about to surge, these experts will be paid more, thus propelling consumption. But technology and automation can lower entry barriers too.
The polarizing discussion concerning Uber’s impact on the city transportation market is a great example. Although the company struggles with many issues (such as doubtful security standards), Uber equipped its drivers with an automated way to navigate in any city. As a result, the company has created 40,000 new jobs in London only, ever since its entry back in 2012. Needless to say, doomsayers claimed that Uber heralds the death of the taxi driving industry.
As Susan Lund from MGI summed it up – “This is a big fear out there right now—that the robots are coming. They’re going to take all the jobs. There’s going to be nothing for people to do. In fact, our results show quite convincingly that the problem is not if there will there be jobs. There is a big question about will the workers today, given their existing skill sets, be qualified to get the jobs that will be there.”
Tips on how to introduce automation in your company or team
As a manager or a business owner, you’re likely to be the person who can help your team become more qualified.
- Automation helps you shift the weight of repetitive tasks from humans to robots
- The time saved can be allocated elsewhere
- Robots are speeding up most jobs because they eliminate human factors such as mood changes, focus, overall health, and ability to execute
- Automation work best when it is supported by proper education
You know it all.
But how to translate these benefits to everyone in your team or the whole company?
Here are our tips.
1. Understand your team’s bottlenecks
Are you familiar with the sin of making decisions without consulting them?
Many managers and business owners fail to inspire their teams even before making the slightest change.
Every team or company works in an established framework. Even when this framework’s more of shapeless chaos, people tend to be negligent toward new ways of doing the job. And when it’s imposed without any consultation, you’re in for a guaranteed calamity.
To win your team’s support, make sure to keep them in the loop from the moment the seed of automation reveals its first sprouts. Through brainstorming sessions and early prototyping of the new process conducted together, your team will grow more fond of the idea.
2. Prepare a detailed implementation plan
Another common mistake made by process owners is not enough documentation or the it’s-somewhere-in-Notion type of long read that no one will, in fact, ever read.
A simple plan with clear milestones and deadlines, on the other hand, gives time to prepare. That also ties with setting proper milestones and achievable goals for the team. An outline of the implementation process helps the team organize their daily tasks and projects in a more structured way.
3. Provide support at every step of the way
Once the implementation of automation commences, it’s crucial to remain responsive and alert.
Monitoring progress, catching up on project status, and being generally attentive to the impact of the new project on other business areas are all key aspects to keep in mind.
4. Gather feedback and adjust the new framework accordingly
Kudos, you’ve introduced a significant improvement to a process.
While that calls for a celebration, keep in mind that the post-release stage is often the most frustrating and difficult – both for you and your teammates.
New processes need time for calibration, and there has to be some wiggle room left to adapt. By gathering feedback from your employees or teammates, you get the chance to maximize the benefit of process automation without the threat of it being pushed away.
5. Keep the new tasks exciting and challenging
Last, but definitely not least – when automation leaves your team with free calendars and too much time to scroll Instagram, you did it wrong.
When planning the implementation of automation, identify the new challenges. Set ambitious goals tied with the automated process, and be ready to show why the implementation has been worth the hustle.
One final question remains.
Are there jobs that are 100% automation-proof then?
Let’s reverse the question.
Are there jobs that comprise only the most optimized processes, most creative and challenging tasks, and trim the fat to the extreme in terms of routine operations?
Automation enforces many changes and brings about a new shape of the labor market. It’s an exciting time, and opportunities for businesses to improve are in your reach too.
If you’re curious about the ways that intelligent document processing can influence your workflows (and how you benefit from it), get in touch with us by filling out a short request form below.