The fundamentals of workplace automation

Should workplace automation make us fear for our jobs or look forward to spending our time on more meaningful work? Maybe a bit of both.

automation robot will compute for batteries

As the automation of work processes continues apace by means of artificial intelligence, what does this mean for our jobs?

Research carried out by McKinsey, analysing around 2,000 individual work activities, suggests that, rather than eliminating jobs altogether, automation will take over discrete tasks and thus redefine current roles – at least in the short term.

Here are McKinsey’s four fundamentals of workplace automation:

1. Automation of activities

Almost half of the activities individuals are paid to perform could be automated using currently available technologies.

And that’s not just routine, codifiable tasks.

Narrative Science’s artificial intelligence system, Quill, for example, can analyse raw data and write reports in natural language that readers would assume had a human author – all in a matter of seconds.

2. Redefinition of jobs and business processes

While we can automate fewer than five percent of occupations right now, 60 percent of occupations could automate 30 percent or more of their activities.

In short, automation is likely to change the vast majority of occupations – at least to some extent.

So even in those roles that cannot be fully automated, machines can work in concert with humans, increasing employees’ work capacity by freeing them up to focus on more valuable work.

Sales teams, for instance, might use automation to generate leads and identify the best opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, thus increasing the time spent actually interacting with customers.

3. Impact on high-wage occupations

The change wrought by machines will affect roles all the way up to the C-suite. It will impact high-wage roles – doctors, CEOs, lawyers, financial advisers – as much as low-wage ones.

Indeed, McKinsey’s research estimates that current technology could automate activities taking up more than 20 percent of a CEO’s working time, such as analysing reports to inform operational decisions and reviewing status reports.

4. The future of creativity

Automation will take over the more workaday tasks, allowing employees to focus on tasks that demand creativity and emotion.

Financial advisors, for instance, might spend less time analysing their clients’ financials, and more time exploring creative investment opportunities.

The automated organisation

Whatever the precise scale of automation, its impact is clear.

Management teams will need to adapt to increasingly automated organisations. If they do, McKinsey predicts that the benefits – increased output and reliability – will be between three and 10 times the cost.

Hat tip to bigpenguin2000 for the photo.

Bureaucracy must die eBook

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *