The Workplace Future: Could your role be replaced by a robot?

By: Fintan O'Toole

The fourth industrial revolution is here and it is already having an impact on the modern workplace...

Ever wondered what the world will look like in the future? For thousands of years people have had a stab at predicting it. Some imagined that by the 21st century we’d have meals shrunk down to the size of a pill, be in control of limitless pools of energy resources, and (most excitingly) be commuting in flying cars!

But now we’re here, some of our technology is far more astonishing; and the rate at which it’s developing could remove the need to commute altogether - whether you had a flying car or not! Welcome to the fourth industrial revolution, when Artificial Intelligence (AI) could replace your own!

AI is all around us: in our computers, cars and probably even your pocket right now; all performing tasks that in all likelihood were previously performed by a person. Think of Google’s self-driving cars, virtual assistants such as Siri, and the software systems available to us all at work. AI’s place in manufacturing is also growing. Technological advancements on the production line allow robots to perform many tasks much faster and more efficiently than was previously possible in the hands of workers.

Creating more redundancies

Unlike previous industrial revolutions that created jobs, the fourth is predicted to create redundancies.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts a gasp-worthy total global loss of 7.1 million jobs in the period between 2015 and 2020. Whether there is truth in that estimate yet we don’t know. But undoubtedly as technological capabilities increase, robots will encroach further into human roles.

The roles at highest risk...

Administrative and industrial production roles are at the highest risk of being automated over the next 20 years. This tool here shows how at risk of automation certain job roles are, try it out! If you are in sales – the picture isn’t as bleak as for some! The same WEF report hints that AI developments may further widen the gender pay gap that afflicts us already, as the labour market will demand skills found typically in male dominated industries such as engineering.

The skills that employees will need as time goes on will change. Creativity, critical thinking, people management and emotional intelligence are a few examples of human traits that robots can’t imitate. The jobs of the future will be higher level cognitive roles that artificial intelligence can't do. Employee development should be at the forefront of most businesses’ minds, especially as the skills required of them change.

It’s always interesting to look into the future, but now back to the present! You may sometimes wish you only had to deal with robots, but if you feel it’s time to start considering training opportunities to grow and develop your own human team, or introduce change in your workplace, get in touch with The HR Dept.

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