Applications, software, robots: in more and more companies, artificial intelligence carries out an increasing part of day-to-day tasks. Process automation is nothing new, but the trend is strengthening exponentially. Read on for an overview of job automation, how it works, which professions are most affected, and what its benefits and limitations are.
What’s job automation?
Job automation is the substitution of humans by technology in the performance of simple and repetitive tasks. Though the phenomenon is not new, its current pace of development is unprecedented, disrupting the labour market. In its many forms, automation affects all aspects of company life.
Examples of enterprise task automation range from out-of-office email replies to fully robotised manufacturing lines. To remain competitive, companies in all industries are investing in process automation to support and sometimes replace staff. But to what extent?
The most frequently automated skills are the most repetitive. Conversely, actions that rely on human interaction are less affected by automation. Indeed, complex human input is impossible to automate. This is illustrated, for instance, by the limited levels of automation in consulting, recruitment and education
Which occupations are most affected by automation?
Boostrs has developed an index based on a comprehensive set of data on occupation and task automation. Ranging from 0% to 100%, it establishes the probability of automation of a job or skill, based on the current advancement of technology.
Our study shows that the average skill automation index now stands at 61%. The results are similar for occupations, which have an automation index of 59%. Again, it’s the highly repetitive occupations that are the most likely to be automated. This is the case, in particular, of some jobs in administration, manufacturing and production.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, occupations in human resources, management and legal functions are the least affected by automation. This is due to the quantity and complexity of the human interaction involved, which cannot be left to machines
Job automation: the benefits
The main benefit of task automation is cost reduction. From the perspective of profitability, technology can replace simple and repetitive operations usually performed by workers. This reduces human error and – in some cases – personnel costs.
Automation also frees employees from some repetitive, low value-added tasks. They can focus on more important projects and be more productive.
In addition, process automation boosts companies’ performance. Indeed, it increases their reliability, efficiency and competitiveness, helping them meet increasingly high requirements – whether these are placed upon them by market trends or by legal standards.
Lastly, job automation can also simplify internal organisation. Administrative : some processes can be made faster and more fluid. Here again, the time saved on these tasks has a direct impact on the company’s profitability.
Automation: the limitations
Despite the benefits, there are risks to automating jobs and skills – including redundancies. According to Forrester Research, a research & advisory company that explores the impact of technology on business, automation will destroy 9% of existing jobs worldwide, i.e. about 230 million positions. A study by Oxford University found that one in two jobs will be threatened by automation in the 2030s.
To mitigate the negative impact of automation on employment, we should now think more in terms of skills than occupations. From this perspective, new skill acquisition programmes can help employees achieve a satisfactory level of competency. Nevertheless, the number of training courses provided today falls short of workers’ real need for new skills. Action is urgently needed to reverse this situation.
The average lifespan of skills is now only five years. It is therefore critical for companies to allocate the funds necessary for the acquisition of relevant skills in the long term. The goal is to upgrade the workforce’s value, particularly for employees in positions where the risk of automation is high.
Illustration credits: https://www.istockphoto.com/fr/portfolio/unitonevector