Robot Takeover: Is Your Job at Risk of Automation?
Are you in danger of losing your job to automation? According to a study by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, nearly one in three U.S. workers will see some of their tasks or entire jobs taken over by robots and other artificial intelligence by 2030.
Employers are expected to rely increasingly on computers to do jobs that humans currently do. This is because computers are generally less expensive than human employees. They can also help reduce human error, and even perform work beyond human abilities.
While the idea of losing one’s job is scary, the study emphasizes that most human jobs will change rather than disappear completely. About half of all employees’ tasks could become automated using today’s technology.
What does this mean for you and the future of your job? How can you prepare for the rise of robots in the workplace? Make sure you know what jobs and skills are likely to be taken over by automated workers, and expand your skill set so you can perform tasks that robots cannot.
Which Jobs Will Robots Take Over?
Rest assured that many jobs will continue to exist even as tasks become more automated. In fact, McKinsey finds that less than 5 percent of jobs are likely to be entirely taken over by robotics and other computers.
Instead, computers will take over particular tasks that are easier (or more cost-effective) for them to complete rather than humans. These include predictable or repetitive work, physical tasks, machine operation, and data processing and collecting.
People across all levels of education and at all levels of their careers will see some of their tasks taken over by computers. However, certain industries will see more tasks and jobs eliminated than others. Some sectors that are most likely to see a steep rise in automated workers include:
The good news is that construction jobs are growing due to today’s increased demand for new buildings, improved roadways, and other infrastructure development. However, some construction tasks are ideal for robots to take over. These include any predictable physical labor, such as construction equipment operation and basic installation and repair of materials.
Jobs and tasks that require more expertise, including complex installations and repairs, and construction site management, will likely not be replaced by robots any time soon.
The food service industry is already seeing a rise in automation. This is particularly the case in fast-food restaurants, which typically focus on speed and efficiency. Computers can help customers place orders and make payments. They can also perform basic repetitive tasks in the back of the house, including dishwashing and even some food prep.
However, people will continue to fill food service jobs that involve creativity and skill (like chefs and cooks, particularly at fine dining restaurants), and human interaction (like waiters at restaurants that emphasize customer service). And jobs in management, such as restaurant manager, will need to be filled by people with strong supervisory skills.
Many jobs in manufacturing (including assembler, fabricator, machinist, and more) involve completing repetitive, predictable tasks. Many of these jobs are already being replaced by machines, or are at least seeing some tasks being handed over to computers.
People who work in administrative and office support perform a number of duties that could be taken over by computers––and in some cases, they already are. Tasks like booking appointments, answering straightforward phone calls, entering data, and more are the types of predictable tasks computers can do, or might soon be able to do. Administrative jobs range from secretaries to paralegals to office managers.
Many big-box retail chains have already automated a number of tasks. For example, many stores now have automated checkout services for customers, eliminating the need to have humans check out customers and bag their items.
Robots and other computers could also soon be used for basic tasks like stocking shelves and checking inventory. Of course, stores that emphasize customer service will still hire human salespeople to interact with clients.
Beyond these industries, there are a number of other jobs that are likely to be increasingly replaced by computers, including card dealers, toll booth operators, radiologists, movers, and more.
Which Jobs Are Safe?
There are certain tasks that cannot yet be replicated particularly well by a computer. For example, computers cannot express empathy or interact with people in the way humans can. Therefore, jobs that involve caring for others (including nurses, psychologists, teachers, social workers, and more) are generally safe from automation.
Any position that requires directly managing other people will likely also avoid automation. That is because robots and computers don’t have the emotional intelligence and skills to supervise humans (at least for now). Jobs that involve creativity are also less likely to become automated. Creative jobs can range from writer to graphic designer to songwriter.
While many jobs that involve predictable, repetitive work will become automated, this is not the case for work in unpredictable environments. For example, jobs that take place outdoors (such as gardening) or jobs working with unpredictable populations (like young children) will be harder to automate.
Any job that requires extensive education and/or expertise is also less likely to be taken over by robotics. However, keep in mind that certain tasks within each of these jobs could still be taken over by robotics. For example, while nurses and doctors are not likely to lose their jobs, computers may increasingly be used to read X-rays and diagnose patients.
How to Prepare for Automation
Don’t let this information scare you or cause you to immediately quit your job. There are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that you have a job in the world of automation.
Pick up new skills. Take the time to develop skills that robots cannot perform. Develop your problem-solving ability, your management skills, your creativity, and your emotional intelligence. If you can highlight these skills, you will make yourself an invaluable member of any team (and an employee that cannot easily be replaced by a computer).
Go back to school. Jobs that require more education are less likely to be replaced by robots, in part because it would take too much time and energy to teach all of that information to a computer. Going back to school to specialize in a particular topic related to your job is a great way to make yourself an indispensable employee. Consider how to make a career change without having to go back to school or a short-term training program to revamp your skill set.
Practice your adaptability. Keep in mind that, while you likely will not lose your job to a robot, you might see a change in your day-to-day duties. Make sure to convey to your employer that you are flexible and are willing to change and take on new tasks over the coming years.
Also prepare to eventually have to work alongside more computers and robots than you do now. Employers will be impressed if you can adapt to this changing workforce with ease and with an open mind.
Join the robots. Keep in mind that with the rise in automation will also come a number of new job opportunities. For example, people will have to develop, build, troubleshoot, and oversee any computers in the workplace. If you are interested in computers and robotics, consider a career in which you would work alongside robots.
Don’t worry. Keep in mind that the McKinsey report stated that most jobs will not be lost to robots – instead, your day-to-day tasks might change. Therefore, do not panic. There is no need to leave your current job out of fear that one day you will be replaced by a machine. Instead, focus on doing your best work, practice being adaptable and open-minded, and pay attention to the here and now.