A recent report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development finds that the number of jobs at risk of displacement due to automation in the coming years is probably smaller than previous forecasts have estimated. Nonetheless, the tens of millions of workers in developed countries are still at risk of having their jobs replaced or radically altered by AI and robotics. The Verge’s James Vincent summarizes the report’s findings:
The researchers found that only 14 percent of jobs in OECD countries … are “highly automatable,” meaning their probability of automation is 70 percent or higher. This forecast … is still significant, equating to around 66 million job losses.
In America alone, for example, the report suggests that 13 million jobs will be destroyed because of automation. “As job losses are unlikely to be distributed equally across the country, this would amount to several times the disruption in local economies caused by the 1950s decline of the car industry in Detroit where changes in technology and increased automation, among other factors, caused massive job losses,” the researchers write.
The analysis from the OECD, an inter-governmental organization representing the world’s 35 richest countries, is considerably less disconcerting than previous studies that have calculated the risk of automation at anywhere from 30 percent to fully half of all the work currently being performed globally. One difference between this study and previous ones, Vincent explains, is that it pays greater attention to details like whether a job can be fully or only partly automated and the variations among jobs that may have the same title but whose work differs substantially:
A recent Gartner survey of Chief Information Officers finds that while just four percent have already implemented AI in some form in their businesses, 46 percent have plans in place to do so. Although there are many obstacles to implementing this groundbreaking technology, soon companies that fail to take advantage will lag behind. To help ease the potential pains of diving into adoption, our colleagues who conduct IT management research at Gartner have four recommendations to ensure success in the early stages of AI implementation: start small; focus on helping, not replacing, people; plan for knowledge transfer; and choose transparent solutions.
“Don’t fall into the trap of primarily seeking hard outcomes, such as direct financial gains, with AI projects,” Gartner analyst Whit Andrews explains. “In general, it’s best to start AI projects with a small scope and aim for ‘soft’ outcomes, such as process improvements, customer satisfaction or financial benchmarking.”
Early forays into AI should be learning experiences rather than attempts at large-scale change that dramatically reshape a department or function. It’s important to set modest goals for AI initiatives, given that the most important outcome will be gaining the knowledge and expertise to successfully apply the technology to a work stream. Additionally, while many employees fear AI could replace them, the easiest way to assuage those concerns is to deploy AI solutions that make employees’ lives easier. As Gartner EVP Peter Sondergaard remarked in his observations from the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, AI is expected to create many more jobs than it destroys, while generating massive value and saving billions of hours of worker productivity.
That means there’s an opportunity to get employees engaged with AI adoption as a technology that will make their jobs easier, rather than obsolete.
Last October, Walmart announced that it was rolling out shelf-scanning robots at 50 stores throughout the US after piloting them at a smaller number of locations in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and California. The robots are taking over some of the menial busywork that used to occupy employees on the store floor: checking shelves for out-of-stock items, incorrect prices, and wrong or missing labels.
At the MIT Technology Review, Erin Winick recently talked to Martin Hitch, chief business officer at Bossa Nova, the San Francisco-based robotics firm that created the machines, about how employees and customers were reacting to them. While you might expect employees to resent having their work automated or fear that the robots would put them out of a job, Hitch said employees “instantly become the advocates for the robot”:
One way they do that is by giving it a name—the robots all have Walmart name badges on. The employees have competitions to see what the right name is for each robot. They also advocate for the robot to the general public. It’s the store staff saying, “It’s helping me.” We see them now defending the robot.
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The 2018 World Economic Forum, recently concluded in Davos, Switzerland, brought together political, business, and cultural leaders from around the globe to discuss the future of the global economy and its foremost institutions. Gartner EVP Peter Sondergaard was on hand to take in the events and speak with influencers at the forum, where he observed a few key themes in discussions of the future of the workplace: The increasingly digital nature of business, the rise of artificial intelligence, and the impact technology can have on improving diversity and inclusion.
“It became abundantly clear that organizations have reached the point at which the digital workplace must be driven by both CIOs and heads of HR,” Sondergaard explained. This doesn’t mean technology will eliminate the need for people, just that employees will need to work in different ways and companies will need to offer guidance on how to do that. “Such changes will require new models of learning and development,” he continued, “as well as the creation of hybrid workplaces that combine technology and information to accommodate a mix of employees.”
Certainly, we have seen a wide range of technologies promise to reshape how the people and processes of the workplace operate, but artificial intelligence is the driving force behind the most groundbreaking offerings. It’s powering Google Jobs, wearable tech, analytical tools, and voice-activated tech such as Amazon’s Alexa, as well as the automation of processes from candidate sourcing to performance management. As a result, demand for AI talent has skyrocketed as technology providers are scrambling to keep up with the rapid rate of change.
While the rise of AI has fueled fears of the potential for a massive loss of jobs, Sondergaard is confident that AI should ultimately create jobs if deployed properly. “As was true of the Industrial Revolution,” he also pointed out, “technological advances as a result of AI will spur job creation. In 2020, AI will create 2.3 million jobs, while eliminating 1.8 million — a net growth of half a million new positions. Organizations will realize an added benefit as in 2021 AI augmentation will generate $2.9 trillion of business value and save 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity.”
In the round of contract negotiations that began last week between the Teamsters Union and UPS, one of the union’s key demands is a pledge by the parcel delivery company not to use drones, driverless cars, or other automated technologies to do their jobs, Paul Ziobro reported at the Wall Street Journal. Negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement, which covers some 260,000 UPS employees, come at a time when e-commerce has drastically increased demand for more, better, faster delivery services, and UPS and its competitors are trying to keep pace.
In their 83-page draft of the updated contract, the Teamsters are also demanding a ban on deliveries after 9:00 p.m. and a commitment to hire another 10,000 workers, as well as safeguards allowing employees to refuse to work in unsafe conditions or overloaded trucks. The union is driving a hard bargain, as the labor market is tight and delivery companies are already having a hard time finding the workers they need.
Indeed, even as technology drives up demand for new roles in high-tech fields like software engineering and data science, the explosion of online retail is also expanding the market for warehouse and logistics workers to fulfill all those orders. Our research at CEB, now Gartner, bears out this trend: Our 2017 State of the Labor Market report, which CEB Recruiting Leadership Council members can access here, found that tractor-trailer driver was among the fastest-growing jobs in the US between 2016 and 2017, even as the scramble for tech talent captured the headlines.
Given the widespread concern that new technologies will displace millions of workers in routine jobs like transportation, it’s not surprising to see this issue come up in a union contract negotiation—and this won’t be the only time it does.
Glassdoor has released its annual list of the best jobs in America for 2018, ranked based on earning potential, job satisfaction, and availability. For the third year running, data scientist took the top spot, while other data and technology roles dominated the list, such as DevOps engineer (#2), electrical engineer (#6), mobile developer (#8), and manufacturing engineer (#10). All in all, technical roles make up 20 out of the 50 best jobs. The rest of the list comprises a variety of management roles, as well as several jobs in the health care sector.
“But there are at least four new titles on the list that help crunch that data and make decisions based on what they suggest,” Washington Post columnist Jena McGregor points out:
These include strategy managers (No. 7), business development managers (No. 14), business intelligence developers (No. 42) and business analysts (No. 43), each of which make the list for the first time, said Scott Dobroski, a career trends analyst at Glassdoor.
“There’s always a lot of tech jobs and health-care jobs — that’s not new and not going away anytime soon,” Dobroski said. “But the biggest trend this year was this emerging theme of business operations,” he said, or people “who make sense of all that data and recommend business decisions.” Many of the people hired for these jobs, he said, are former consultants who companies are bringing in-house to help with strategic and market decision-making.
“Maybe the occupational therapist and the HR manager jobs are in there because those folks are needed to deal with anyone who is not already a data scientist?” GeekWire’s Kurt Schlosser quips.
Diversity, new interviewing tools, data, and artificial intelligence are the four trends set to have the biggest impact on recruiting in the coming year, according to LinkedIn’s latest Global Recruiting Trends report. Based on a survey of over 9,000 talent leaders and hiring managers worldwide, along with a series of expert interviews, the report underscores the growing role of technology in shaping how companies meet their hiring goals, of which diversity is increasingly paramount. Nonetheless, while many HR leaders see these trends as important, the number of organizations fully acting on them lags far behind.
Diversity was the top trend by far, with 78 percent of respondents saying it was very or extremely important, though only 53 percent said their organizations had mostly or completely adopted diversity-oriented recruiting. In recent years, diversity has evolved from a compliance issue to a major driver of culture and performance, as more and more organizations recognize its bottom-line value. This shift was reflected in the LinkedIn report, with 62 percent of the companies surveyed saying they believed boosting diversity would have a positive impact on financial performance and 78 percent saying they were pursuing it to improve their culture. Additionally, 49 percent are looking to ensure that their workforce better reflects the diversity of their customer base.
Diversity was the only top trend identified in LinkedIn’s survey that wasn’t directly related to technology, but technology is definitely influencing how organizations are pursuing it. In the past year, we have seen the emergence of new software and tools to support diversity and inclusion. The aim of these tools is to remove the human error of unconscious bias from the recruiting process, but it’s important to be aware that automated processes can also develop built-in biases and end up replicating the very problem they are meant to solve. This is an issue we’ve been following in our research at CEB, now Gartner; CEB Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Council members can read more of our insights on algorithmic bias here.
The development of new interview tools and techniques was identified as the second most important trend, with 56 percent saying it was important. The LinkedIn survey found that the most common areas where traditional interviews fail are assessing candidates’ soft skills (63 percent), understanding candidates’ weaknesses (57 percent), the biases of interviewers (42 percent), and the process taking too long (36 percent). The report highlights five new interviewing techniques, all enabled by technology, that aim to address these problems: