Six things you can do to make automation work for you
Posted on
May 12, 2020
Automation in the workplace is threatening many human jobs. Here's how you can fight back.

Automation is replacing human workers in most sectors of the global workplace. According to market research giant Forrester, it is likely that 7 percent of jobs in the United States will be replaced by AI and automation technology by 2025.

The outlook is not all bleak, of course. Automated processes or, in some cases, robots, will not replace everybody. One recent study suggested that roles that require advanced knowledge, interaction with various stakeholders, and team management are unlikely to be lost to robots.

Automation has replaced many mundane repetitive tasks and is expected to replace more of those. Some IT roles, such as computer operator, data input technician, and other low-skill tech functions are at risk of being automated.

Automation will also generate new jobs, however, and increase the creative and strategic component of existing roles. Some jobs will not go away — they will change and there will likely be fewer humans in those roles. With machines performing routine work, tech professionals will be free to concentrate on strategic, creative, and managerial activity.

In a Stanford Business Insights article, Bill Snyder quotes the chief economist at Google, Hal Varian, as saying, Automation doesn't generally eliminate jobs. Automation generally eliminates dull, tedious, and repetitive tasks. If you remove all the tasks, you remove the job. But that's rare.

There's no need to be afraid of robots and artificial intelligence. Fear interferes with our ability to think rationally. Looking forward to and preparing for the new opportunities that automation will potentially bring is a better, more productive way to approach automation. Focus on becoming familiar with AI technology and making yourself capable of working alongside machines and managing them.

Protect your career

Automation in the workplace is threatening many human jobs. Here's how you can fight back.

While machines can outdo humans in speed, efficiency, and precision in the performance of rote tasks, they are not yet capable of solving new problems or coming up with novel ways to handle business processes. Neither can machines lead people. Though some AI is learning to recognize emotions, we have a long way to go before AI can match the innate emotional intelligence of humans.

According to experts, some tech jobs are not susceptible to automation. These include software development, data analytics, systems analysis, project management, and operations management. Still, IT professionals need to build long-term value in an automated work environment. So how to best go about doing that?

The emphasis needs to be on maximizing one's ability to do what machines can't do and developing in-depth understanding of how robots and AI work. Tech pros should focus on optimizing their human value, advancing technological expertise, and developing business sense in order to enhance their value in the organization.

Some human abilities, such as creativity, logic, problem-solving, leadership ability, interpersonal skills, negotiation, nuanced reasoning, design, and soft skills are hard to automate. Focus on optimizing your human qualities and developing specialized skill sets.

With all of that in mind, here are six steps you can take to strengthen your overall employment profile and make yourself less susceptible to being automated out of a job:

1) Develop leadership skills

Excel at your existing job, build people management skills, and demonstrate to your superiors that you're capable of leading a team. Individuals are unique and so are different groups of people working together. Environmental and cultural factors across different organizations and geographies also influence the way people work.

Experienced managers understand the nuances of human behavior and team and situational dynamics, and adapt their approach to suit the unique characteristics of each group. Machines don't have emotional intelligence, nor do they understand cultural intricacies or the dynamics of different groups.

If you are in a managerial role, focus on discovering and implementing more effective and efficient processes to optimize your team's productivity. Concentrate on enabling your team to complete complex projects successfully on schedule.

Hone your interpersonal and communication skills. No matter what your current job or the role you aspire to, it's important to strengthen your communication skills. The ability to communicate effectively is valued everywhere.

2) Hone your creativity

Automation in the workplace is threatening many human jobs. Here's how you can fight back.

Tech jobs that require creative ability, such as product design, advanced software development, data analytics, and computer research, are not likely to be automated soon (or ever). Machines can do a lot, but they are still far, far below human levels of creativity, logic, and intuition.

If you aren't already in any of these roles, consider preparing yourself to move to the role that suits you best. All these jobs require specialized skillsets which are developed through education, training, and experience.

If you can't go back to school full-time, then perhaps enrolling for a solid online course, boot camp, or training program is more feasible. Additionally, offer to assist those in your organization who are in the role(s) that you aspire to. This will help you learn on the job and build relationships with team members.

3) Work on your problem-solving skills

Machines can't match humans when it comes to solving new or complex problems. This requires human creativity and logic. Humans have the ability to assess a problem, consider the resources at hand, and discover a novel and effective way to solve it.

This is why experienced support specialists with advanced technical know-how and interpersonal skills will still be required despite the fact that helpdesk operations have already been automated to some extent.

Machines can address simple problems based on a basic script. Complex problems need humans for diagnosis as well as walking users through the intricacies of technological processes. It's also true that most humans prefer interacting with other humans over bots. A customer service representative with people skills can alleviate a client's confusion and help solve her or his problem.

4) Train yourself to adapt

Adaptability is essential for a successful career in any changing environment. It is considered a key skill by an increasing number of employers.  Be open to change and make continuous learning a part of your career. It's important to be able to demonstrate to management (as well as potential employers) that you are flexible and able to learn new technologies.

5) Develop advanced knowledge in a relevant domain

While you need to develop diverse skills to be able to work with both humans and technology, you would do well to build expertise in a valuable specialty. Roles that require highly specialized expertise are not easy to automate. Select a particular subject that is valued in the business environment and that aligns with your interests and strengths, and focus on becoming an expert in that field.

6) Facilitate collaboration between people and technology

Automation in the workplace is threatening many human jobs. Here's how you can fight back.

Technological expertise, problem-solving ability, and interpersonal skills will enable you to position yourself between business stakeholders and technology. Develop a rapport with different business departments in your organization. Understand their problems and help them use technology to solve the same.

Being able to help non-technical people in your organization make sense of a constantly changing technological landscape is a valuable skill. Going forward, enterprises will need technology advisers who understand business processes and can guide marketing, HR, and management in the implementation of new technologies.

To stay relevant, learn how to make the best use of AI. Work on understanding the different AI solutions available in order to be able to identify and implement the right solutions to further business objectives.

About the Author

Reena Ghosh is an independent ghostwriter who writes promotional, developmental and explanatory content for individuals and businesses. She came to professional writing with work experience in financial services operations and corporate communication. Reena speaks three languages and hopes to learn Sanskrit. She is a wanderer who spends time in West Bengal, Goa and any place that pulls.

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