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What’s this thing about 50% of jobs disappearing, and should I be worried?

As a business person who works in the technology consulting space, I have started to think hard about what this means for my wonderful children. If 50% of jobs really disappear, how can I guide them on their life and career journey? The aim of this article is help us all consider what types of work activity could disappear, and, importantly, what new careers might be created!

To help bring this subject to life I have picked a couple of sectors and attempted to explain what the new world may look like in the (not too distant) future? Following this I try to extrapolate these examples to consider the impact on jobs.

The bot revolution

An “always-on” student experience

My recent experience as an MBA student indicated that the tertiary sector is still struggling to provide the best possible personalised experience for learners. They also have a number of effort-heavy processes, driving a cost-to-serve that is unsustainable.  But this is no surprise when you consider the broad spectrum of support services they offer, your separate faculty based learning environment and the wide range of disparate systems holding your information (Student Management System, Learning Management System, CRM, Finance System etc).

Let’s step forward and consider our kids entering a University environment in years to come. One of their first steps will be to connect with their electronic Student Success Advisor (SSA). They will choose the gender and language of this assistant and commence their learning journey. This SSA is a bot (1) and what they do is leverage the University knowledge base, all their student-facing systems, but, better still, they learn about your personal preferences through capabilities like Machine Learning.

Your child’s first step is to consider the right course, and the SSA uses a wealth of information to help them understand what’s right through a series of Q & A (What do you enjoy? What do you dislike? What do you hope to earn?). As you narrow down to the right course, SSA moves the conversation into your enrolment requirements and before you know it you have confirmation of placement. First of all, the student value exchange has improved: if you had spoken to a person up front you might well have ended up in a pretty specific faculty conversation, rather than a broader career oriented discussion which could spread your areas of study across various faculties. On top of this, you had a great experience and this didn’t require someone at the help desk, faculty or administration team to do anything…

As you commence your study, SSA helps you with simple things like where your lecture hall can be found, and your reading workload by converting to an audio assistant and reading this to you as you commute.  SSA also correlates your location to your schedule and picks up on subtle changes in your behaviour or results, improving the current highly manual process of managing at-risk students. If SSA is worried about you, they will encourage you to seek support and book you in with the right support service, and all without you having to share your challenges face-to-face in a busy student service centre setting.

Financial services

It doesn’t take a big step to see how a bot will play a role in automating and enabling a quote for a mortgage or any other straight forward financial or insurance service. No standing in queues or sharing your private financial information with a stranger. Better still, if you deploy these solutions well, they should know your customer and never ask the same question twice … that would be quite something for a customer dealing with these sectors!

In addition, new capabilities like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can replace 40% or more of traditional roles in this sector. And why not? “Unlike a human worker, an RPA solution performs a process function exactly the same way every time, and provides a more detailed, accurate and sustainable audit log of activity – all of which are essential to compliance readiness.”(2). 

So this suggests a swathe of administration roles will disappear. The interesting challenge to these sectors is that these admin heavy entry-level roles were often the way people traditionally commenced their banking or insurance services career.    

So, what jobs are going?

Well, in many cases it’s more like significant portions of a job. If the tasks are highly repetitive like data processing, the processing will either be eliminated (think about the SSA collecting and processing in one step), or robotics will complete this processing with greater levels of throughput and accuracy than any human can achieve. If the role requires the worker to gather information and then apply defined (e.g. policy) or learned (e.g. experience) logic this can all be programmed into or learned by a machine. 

On top of this, traditional more manual or labour intensive jobs will go. We have already seen this in the Airline industry with kiosk check-in and smart gates, and now picking up duty free at the airport starts with scanning your receipt, and then watching a large robotic arm select your goods. We will see transportation, warehousing and manufacturing roles eliminated and automated by robotics and GPS enabled forklifts and trucks.

So, what am I saying to my kids?

Work hard at school! But seriously, what is it that will set them up well? For me the fundamentals are interpersonal skills, tenacity, resilience, creativity (design thinking) and a strong analytical bias. So what I’m not saying, is that only a technology or science degree will work. Businesses will be after thinkers and will often go well outside the traditional role to skill matching model – team dynamics and diversity is and will continue to be key.

With all the automation in place, the battle for customers will come down to the unique ways you engage and add value. So this is where our kids will come into play as the new leaders across the traditional and new industries that emerge. They won’t be hired for that pass with distinction, but for the cognitive reasoning that came out when they spoke to your First Impressions Assistant (the bot that helps you find the attitude, aptitude and cultural fit you seek).

My closing comment is that I’m not really a futurist, more of a pragmatist – these changes are happening now, and, case in point, at Intergen we are already working on bots and other clever tools to help our clients do more with less, all while increasing service levels.  



(1)   The Bot economy. Published by John Robb

(2)   RPA goes vertical from the Alsbridge team, published on outsourcemag.com

Posted by: Steve Scarbrough, General Manager Business Applications | 22 August 2016

Tags: IoT, Digital Transformation, Less Busyness More Business, bot

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