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Addressing automation

An increasing number of roles are being automated, and it’s something that affects all sectors. According to recent figures from PWC, up to 1.5 million jobs are being automated every year, with 30% of all jobs at risk of automation by 2030. This rises to 44% for jobs performed by workers with low education being automated by the same time. Around 70% are roles currently performed by women.

However, rather than looking at this as an opportunity to downsize, employers should be looking at how they can use the extra resources to provide a better service. On a basic level, they need to identify the personal skills that are required in jobs that are becoming automated and develop bespoke training interventions to develop people to deliver those tasks. A competency assessment is a good idea to identify the areas in which people will naturally thrive, with job shadowing of people in similar roles to see if they’re aligned. It’s all about building capability, encouraging people to be open to change and putting a framework in place to develop the skills they’ll need.

Across the board, I’m seeing more analytics on the intelligence that’s provided resulting in more informed, and therefore better, business decisions being made. The data that’s available is more accurate and more consistent which, in turn, allows organisations to deliver a better and more consistent service.

There’s been a steep drop in the need for secretarial and PA services, so those services are becoming increasingly high end and personalised. I’ve seen the same happening in hotels and travel – huge swathes of those services are now automated, so again, the focus is shifting to training people to deliver a real premium, high-end service.

Having said all that, you can’t force people to upskill. Some may prefer to move on or take early retirement. Individuals need the desire to learn, and to be proactive about learning. Employers need to keep ahead of the market and identify the skills they need to be training their people with. In all areas, we need flexibility and adaptability because if people aren’t open to change, they’re going to find it very difficult to move on.

The type of upskilling will vary sector by sector. For health professionals, equipment will be automated but the actual healthcare will get more sophisticated. There’ll be a strong need for nursing staff who deliver personalised care or more specialised procedures.

The hotel sector is another very good example. A huge amount has already been automated, so hotels and their staff should be focusing on exemplary customer service and personalisation.

However, if you look at a sector like retail you can already see that cashier jobs and back-end roles like stock control are automated. Manufacturing and FMCG are also clear targets for increasing automation. In these sectors, there isn’t as much scope for implementing a more personal, specialised service, so the roles will be more technical.

It’s important to be aware of your particular industry and to explore the new roles that are becoming available, rather than just having a vague notion of automation and not knowing what it involves.