That may be the dirtiest word among recruiters in the staffing industry. According to USA Today, automation is the culprit behind a 54 percent plunge in word processor and typist jobs between 2002 and 2012– which translates to 100,000 jobs – and also a 59 percent drop in computer operator positions over the past decade.
Consider how automation has already displaced workers. Take self checkout stations at stores. Hamburger-flipping robots at fast food restaurants. Robots that check inventory on store shelves. Software systems that compete with journalists by writing articles or complete bookkeeping and accounting data processing tasks. Perhaps my favorite is Amazon’s Prime Air service that will deliver packages up to five pounds in less than 30 minutes using small drones.
Digital transformation could be credited for wiping out 5.1 million jobs between 2015 and 2020, states the World Economic Forum. Some of those jobs may involve talent acquisition, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Results revealed that 72% of employers expect that some roles within talent acquisition and human capital management – like background screening/drug testing and interview scheduling – will become completely automated within the next 10 years.
Likewise, Stephen Hawking, the world-famous physicist, believes automation is casting a dark shadow on the labor market. In his article published by the Guardian in Dec., Hawking states: “The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”
Nearly 15 percent of 130 millions jobs in this country could be lost because of advances in technology. They’re not restricted to the manufacturing sector. Far from it. A special report prepared by USA Today – Automation puts jobs in peril – states that there are “More than 70 entire professions in which at least 90 percent of activities can be automated, ranging from mail clerks to ophthalmic lab technicians, tire-repairer, butchers, food prepares and bakers.
So much doom and gloom. But is automation a real threat or an opportunity in disguise?
According to the 2016 Flexibility@Work report, every high-tech job that’s created generates up to 4.4 more onsite jobs downstream.
This isn’t just wishful thinking. It’s already happening in the workplace and producing even more worker benefits. USA Today’s special report mentions a company called Marlin Steel in Baltimore that fabricates custom wire baskets. In the early 2000s, it purchased robotic wire-forming machines and other automated equipment to replace grueling, manual jobs. Since then, it nearly doubled its workforce to 33 employees and boosted worker pay from minimum wage to at least $15 per hour with some employees earing more than $30.
Not to mention that global sales of collaborative (industrial) robots is predicted to rocket from 4,100 units and $120 million in 2015 to 701,000 units and $12 billion in 2025, states the report. Humans will still be needed to manage overall operations and commiserate with one another around the water cooler.
Since many technologies are still in the R&D stages, no one fully knows what they will help companies accomplish. In the meantime, be prepared for your clients to introduce new job responsibilities that demand higher-level technical skills and competencies and also create new positions that reflect this digital revolution.
Just keep in mind that no matter what happens, we as humans survive change. We always have and always will.