Right now in different parts of the world, robots are providing COVID-19 safety services.
In South Korea, they’re self-driving and equipped with cameras. They’re taking the temperatures of visitors in hotel lobbies and distributing hand sanitiser.
In Singapore, they’ve been parading the public parks, using four legs to get around, broadcasting their public safety reminders and collecting video footage.
These robots are taking some of the very few simple jobs that were actually created during the pandemic: those of COVID safety officers – jobs that are more usually done by humans who ask people to social distance and sanitise.
Robots will continue to take more jobs in the future, just as they’ve already done. But very few will appear with robotic limbs, as the above more high profile examples have. It’s a little more subtle than that.
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McKinsey and Co predicted, pre COVID, that between 400 and 800 million individuals globally will be “replaced” by automation by 2030, and 15 per cent of current working activities automated.
COVID may have accelerated things when it comes to the take-up of AI, robots and automation, as companies push to do whatever possible to cut costs during a difficult economic climate while also aiming to cut face-to-face interactions.
Machines also have that added advantage: while they can break down, they don’t get sick and infect others.
But then PwC’s AI study finds that the job losses are likely to be “broadly offset in the long run by new jobs created as a result of the larger and wealthier economy made possible by these new technologies.”
That’s cause for optimism. But may not be particularly comforting in the short term if you’re in the kind of role that’s set to be automated within the foreseeable future.
AI and automation has already changed industries and taken plenty of jobs, touching almost all of us in some way.
And it’s only going to further transform our careers in the future. Here’s what to expect:
The changes will be accelerated
Machines have been targeting jobs and taking them for centuries (think back to the spinning wheel’s impact on weavers) – and we’ve managed to adapt and even create more types of jobs and work as they’ve done so. Just consider all the knowledge-based industries that didn’t exist a century ago.
Indeed, John Maynard Keynes once predicted his grandkids would work 15 hour weeks, given the advent of technology. That didn’t happen. Humans have a great way of creating new industries and careers, and more work for themselves.
Change has always been occurring, but now it’s happening at an accelerated pace. Our careers will require more flexibility and adaptability – something that a lot of us got a fast lesson on throughout 2020.
We may make even more career turns, moving from one thing to the next quickly and often doing more than one thing at once as the traditional ‘work week’ gets further upended.
Education and learning will become more of a constant feature, and successful employers will invest in this for staff.
Some jobs will rise in demand, offering new opportunities
New jobs will emerge by 2025 as a result of AI, the World Economic Forum reported in 2020.
It suggests that AI could actually create more jobs than it automates – although these jobs will require reskilling. But then AI might just be able to help with that too.
According to the World Economic Forum, the jobs rising in demand due to AI include:
Data analysts and scientists
AI and machine learning specialists
Big data specialists
Digital marketing and strategy specialists
Process automation specialists
Business development professionals
Digital transformation specialists
Information security analysts
Software and application developers
Internet of things specialists
Yes they all sound like heavily digital roles -- aside from ‘business development professionals’ – and they will all require some level of technical expertise. But there will be huge opportunities for excellent people managers, creatives and strategists within them. Companies and entire industries will develop out of these roles.
A lot of jobs will decrease in demand – and they’re not distributed equally
A number of jobs will decrease in demand by 2025 as a result of AI, finds the WEF.
And they’re roles that are not distributed evenly across the population, meaning certain groups and physical locations will take the hit more than others. AI is set to exacerbate existing inequalities, widening digital divides that already exist. Employers and policy makers have a responsibility to take action on this, while also exploring the ethical impacts of AI.
WEF suggests that half of all workers will need some kind of upskilling or reskilling to prepare for the AI surge. It’s happening so quickly that new training models will be required.
If you’re employed, your employer should already be considering the investments they will make in this upskilling and reskilling.
According to the World Economic Forum, decreasing job demand areas include:
Data entry clerks
Administrative and executive secretaries
Accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks
Accountants and auditors
Assembly and factory workers
Business services and administration managers
General and operations managers
Mechanics and machinery repairers
Material-recording and stock-keeping clerks
Soft skills will become more critical
Soft skills are needed in a world of increased automation and AI.
These are the skills that machines can’t replace, and they’re required to support everything from team management to strategy, innovation, business development and even determining the ethical and societal impacts of what the tech is doing.
These soft skills will be essential success tools for any worker, but especially those looking to stay within an industry heavily impacted by AI. And especially again for those looking to lead.
Creativity will be highly valued in a world of AI and automated work. It’s the thing that machines can’t completely bring to the table or replace, yet (although some experts are trying). Creativity is needed for any business that wants to innovate, or even truly benefit from the best parts of automation. It will be a constant need within workplaces, leading to roles that we have not even completely yet imagined.
Empathy will be critical, especially for managers and leaders. With so much change occurring, the impact and psychological safety of staff and teams must be considered. Leaders need to ensure staff feel comfortable and are able to contribute their ideas, their creativity and their own concerns. More than ever, businesses need to tap into the varying perspectives and inputs of all team members.
Meanwhile, there is a huge emerging field in AI ethics, essential work that needs to be done to form some guidelines regarding what we will and will not accept from AI and automation.
Learning agility will guide you
Learning agility is a mindset that leaders use to continually learn and develop. It enables them to adapt to change and move from one thing to the next, knowing they can ask questions and use their problem solving skills to deal with the unknowns.
It’s a mindset we’ll be pushed to get more comfortable with as AI further disrupts how we work.
Thankfully, it’s a mindset we can also practice immediately.
Self awareness is a key first step and something more of us will need a handle on in the future of work. We need to understand what we don’t know in order to think about what we could know.
Get comfortable with your strengths and weaknesses – not necessarily to change these, but rather to know what they are when you encounter problems you haven’t tackled before. Then get passionate about learning from everyday experiences and placing yourself in unknown situations.
This is part two of our Jobs 2021 series, where Yahoo Finance is exploring how to succeed in the next decade: earn more, lead better and win in the next decade of work.