The transformation of the workplace through automation may represent the greatest shift in the economy ever seen. While factory workers were the first to see robots change their work processes and eliminate some of their jobs, the impact of automation is now being felt by white collar workers as well. McKinsey Global Institute estimates half of U.S. work activities could be automated by 2055 or sooner.[1]

Automation is attractive because it reduces costs and improves productivity, especially in times of lackluster economic productivity growth and aging workforce populations. McKinsey estimates automation could increase global productivity growth in the next 50 years by .8% to 1.4%.[2]

The jobs most susceptible to automation are physical activities in predictable structured settings, repetitive processes and functions such as data processing. Manufacturing, hospitality and restaurants, and retail are the industries most likely to be affected next by automation.[3]

What may be different going forward: the redesign of job duties to transfer repetitive tasks to automation and change worker responsibilities to higher function, knowledge-based tasks requiring judgment and creativity. While few jobs can be completely automated, 60% of all occupations have the potential to automate at least 30% of their functions, McKinsey reports.[4]

Companies are beginning to transition to new job descriptions by hiring different skill sets. For instance, professional services firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers is now hiring employees with backgrounds in technology, engineering and science for its audit practice. The company believes the future of its business lies in new areas such as data analysis, analytics, cloud computing and data security.[5]

Displaced workers and those entering the workforce also are focusing on acquiring new skills needed to support automation. These skills include computer-aided design (CAD), programming, robotics technology and maintenance, and automated software design. Other workers are redirecting their careers into fields that seem less susceptible to automation.[6] Among those jobs are astronomers, animators, clergy, fish wardens, teachers, models and bolt cutters. For a more detailed list of 30+ jobs not likely to be replaced by automation using currently demonstrated technology, check out the infographic labeled Occupations with little automation potential at the end of the following article: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/02/06/special-report-automation-puts-jobs-peril/96464788/

[1] “Special report: Automation puts jobs in peril,” by Nathan Bomey, USA Today, Feb. 6, 2017. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/02/06/special-report-automation-puts-jobs-peril/96464788/

[2] “Harnessing automation for a future that works,” by James Manyika, Michael Chui, Mehdi Miremadi, Jacques Bughin, Katy George, Paul Willmott and Martin Dewhurst, McKinsey Global Institute, January 2017. Available at: http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/digital-disruption/harnessing-automation-for-a-future-that-works

[3] “A Future That Works: Automation, Employment, and Productivity,” appendix to study, January 2017. Available for download at: http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/digital-disruption/harnessing-automation-for-a-future-that-works

[4] “A Future That Works: Automation, Employment, and Productivity,” appendix to study, January 2017. Available for download at: http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/digital-disruption/harnessing-automation-for-a-future-that-works

[5] “Special report: Automation puts jobs in peril,” by Nathan Bomey, USA Today, Feb. 6, 2017. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/02/06/special-report-automation-puts-jobs-peril/96464788/

[6] “Special report: Automation puts jobs in peril,” by Nathan Bomey, USA Today, Feb. 6, 2017. Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/02/06/special-report-automation-puts-jobs-peril/96464788/

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