Is 2017 the Year a Robot Will Take Your Job?

Anxiety over jobs lost to technology has been prevalent since at least the industrial revolution, and those fears are still making headlines today based on worries that robots and new software will automate jobs out of existence. The 2016 Job Seeker Nation Study from Jobvite found that 55 percent of American adults are at least a little worried that their jobs will become obsolete. The survey was a cross-section of all adults, meaning that it didn’t focus on a specific industry or profession. So does this fear of automation extend to those in the field of IT? Research from Computing and HelpSystems indicates that IT professionals are unconcerned or even enthusiastic about the coming changes.

IT managers from across a wide range of industries were surveyed, and only 4 percent felt that their jobs would be eliminated or would diminish as a result of increased automation. Another 17 percent felt their jobs might be negatively affected, but that automation would provide new opportunities as well. 37 percent believed that automation would come with advantages.

But anyone who follows current technological trends knows that the technology already exists to automate processes across the enterprise, including in IT. So why aren’t people more scared?

Which Jobs Will Disappear in 2017?

The McKinsey Global Institute has been conducting ongoing research into the effects of automation on jobs. We wrote about the study’s interim findings last year.  According to the McKinsey research, we should be thinking in terms of activities being automated rather than whole professions. A robot (or rather, robotic process automation software) may very well be poised to steal some of your activities—if you’re lucky.

These days, businesses have to move quickly. Customers are used to fast and accurate service, whether it’s same-day delivery from a retailer, 24/7 access to a bank account, or the ability to check health records online immediately after an appointment. That means your organization can’t afford to have employees spending time on work that doesn’t move business forward. In an article earlier this year, the authors of the McKinsey study identified which types of work are least automatable: those that involve managing people and those that involve applying expertise to decision making, planning, or creative work.

Take a minute to think of what you do not in terms of your job title, but as a list of small activities you complete regularly. Which of those tasks take more time and effort than they are worth based on their benefit to the company? Can you think of something you would love to get done if you had that time back? Losing a few mundane, repeated tasks to a robot makes space for you to take on more strategic activities—the ones that only a human can do.

Process automation technology has advanced quickly, but many organizations are behind the times in terms of adoption of automation. If the tasks you wish you could get rid of are repeated and follow a set of logical steps, there’s a good chance you could already be automating them with the right software.

Which Jobs Are Safe?

Even the most human-centric professions will be transformed by technology—in fact, they already have been. A recent Harvard Business Review article by Dan Finnigan points to the example of doctors. When was the last time you went in for a checkup when the doctors and nurses weren’t using a computer to pull up past records, enter notes, or send prescriptions straight to your pharmacy? Behind the scenes the influence of automation in health care organizations is even more profound. However, no matter how many rote tasks are automated, human expertise and flexibility are still needed. For a doctor, that could mean expertise at interacting with patients or interpreting test results.

For those in IT, your expertise may be the ability to put new technologies to innovative use, a knack for creatively solving problems, or skill at managing others during large implementation projects. No matter which industry you are in, your organization still needs talented workers—the tasks you are asked to do just might become less monotonous.   

Will We All Benefit from Automation?

Not everyone is in the perfect position to take advantage of new types of automation. Finnigan suggests that “those who succeed will have to be people who are extremely well prepared to function in a technological and automated work environment.” Knowing this can help you be ready for coming changes by staying up-to-date on the technological trends shaping your industry.

If you’re an IT professional, it may make you nervous to hear about new software solutions that can do some of your common tasks. But the other departments in your organization are also being transformed by new and better technology every year and they will need you, the tech expert, to help them use it effectively. If you’re in a business department, you can make sure you’re at the top of your game by being familiar with the technological solutions that can help you best achieve the objectives of your job.

Learn more about some of ways you can give yourself and your business a competitive edge by joining the live webinar Setting Yourself up for Automation in 2017

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