How humans stay relevant in the age of automation

A lot has been written over the last few years about the age of automation and how that will impact the future of work. In contrast to the doom and gloom scenarios about impending large-scale job losses frequently portrayed in the media,  initial findings from recent research by McKinsey paint an interesting and nuanced picture of how automation is likely to affect jobs. The report concludes, “As the automation of physical and knowledge work advances, many jobs will be redefined rather than eliminated—at least in the short term.” McKinsey’s research and Evalueserve’s own experience from working with our clients suggests that almost all jobs will be impacted by automation to some extent. As an example, in 2015 alone, at Evalueserve, we “automated away” work in a variety of different industry verticals that we support, which would have otherwise taken 300,000 hours.

This begs the question that if our jobs are going to be redefined by automation, how do we adapt and continue to stay relevant? Research from MIT’s Center for Digital Business, which studied the role of technology in employment and wage growth offers some useful answers. This research found the following seven dimensions of skills (excerpted verbatim from here) “across 514 jobs with economically important affects on wages. Using U.S. Labor Department information, they analyzed how wages and employment data changed from 2006 until 2014 as they relate to technology across these skills.”

  1. Physical: Strength, stamina and dexterity. There are few jobs with absolutely no physical requirements, but many office jobs require little in this area.
  2. Equipment: Technical know-how, selecting the right tools, and the ability to troubleshoot.
  3. Supervision: Supervising people and also getting things accomplished through peers.
  4. Awareness: Comprehending the environment, which is often important for working outside or in chaotic surroundings.
  5. Perception: The ability to focus on details and the ability to find a signal among noise.
  6. Teamwork: Being personable as well as dealing with stressful situations and difficult people.
  7. Initiative: Sometimes called grit, this is the ability to start and complete things.

The MIT researchers “found that above-average wages flow to occupations that require high skills in two or more dimensions (listed above) simultaneously.” So the key actionable insight for all of us here is to think carefully about the different aspects of our job where we use the dimensions of skill listed above, and figure out ways to continually get better at several of them. This is how we will prepare ourselves successfully for the age of mind+machine™ and continue to stay relevant in the future of work!

Mahesh Bhatia
Managing Director, Corporates and Professional Services Posts

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