Don’t worry – a robot takeover of the workforce won’t be happening any time soon

robot workplace, AI, productivity, soft skills, emotional intelligence, flexible working

Technology is altering the way we work, and tasks once performed by human beings are now being done by robots. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and automation are making companies more efficient, productive and reducing costs – but what sort of jobs does it leave we humans to do?

Research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has forecast that by 2025 machines will perform more current work tasks than humans – 71 per cent of tasks are performed by humans today.

Every industry and sector is likely to be impacted by this shift. Already, in the retail sector we are seeing chatbots act as customer service agents or AI monitor stock in warehouses. The automotive industry is using artificial intelligence in the development of driverless cars, while in the legal profession machine learning is being used to analyse documents.

Will there really be a robot apocalypse?

Some commentators have even suggested a “robot apocalypse”, where workforce automation will make working humans quite literally redundant. Is this a genuine concern? Not according to the WEF, whose research predicts that, while some 75 million human roles will be displaced by automation, 133 million new ones will emerge to take their place.

But what will these jobs look like? According to the WEF, positions that will be in demand include data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers, and e-commerce and social media specialists. Sales and marketing professions, innovation managers and customer service workers – roles that require human skills – will also be very much needed.

The skillsets most experts agree machines won’t be taking over any time soon are the ones that require emotional intelligence or “soft” skills. People that have good communication, teamwork and critical thinking abilities will be very much in demand.

The more monotonous, routine based jobs such as data entry, accounting and payroll will continue to decline, with the WEF study projecting that 54 per cent of the workforce in large firms will require reskilling or upskilling.

How will jobs change?

As well as these new roles, the way our current jobs are structured will also change. The World Bank’s report The Changing Nature of Work suggests there will be an increase in non-traditional jobs and gig economy or contract positions.

Employees are more likely to have more flexible working hours and remote working will increase as technology increasingly enables us to do our jobs from anywhere with a broadband connection.

But for all this upheaval to be a success, the common thread in research is that companies will have to invest in their staff and retrain them in order to meet the new demands of these jobs of the future. Presently most companies are falling short on reskilling and need to put more investment in this area if we have any chance to succeed.

The robot revolution might not take the form we think it will. But it is coming, and to be more efficient and productive companies will need to think about ways to enable humans to get on with the more creative, soft-skilled side of working life.

© Business Reporter 2021

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