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Beat the Machines: How Automated Tasks Can Enhance Our Jobs, Not Take Them

job automation

The robots are coming for our jobs.

But that might not be bad news. Sure, there are plenty of occupations out there that can and will be replaced by increasingly savvy computer programming in the coming years. However, knowing which jobs will remain but become partially automated could hold the key to understanding how to be one of those real-live people who remain employed.

Take these examples into consideration. According to a recent McKinsey study, workers in the financial sector currently spend up to 43-percent of their day saddled with tasks that could be automated. Mortgage brokers spend up to 90-percent of their time handling applications—another task that could be automated and free them up for engaging in direct client interactions. If these tasks were automated, it wouldn’t necessarily put these workers out of business. Instead, it would free up their hours to work on more dynamic or creative tasks.

The McKinsey study reiterated that the human touch is not yet something that can be well automated—if it ever can be remains to be seen. As a result, jobs in the health care and education spaces are currently the most difficult to replace humans with machines. However, yet again, some 30-percent of the average nurse’s day could be replaced by automation, freeing him up for many of the more vital person-to-person tasks that he may currently feel rushed through because he needs to complete paperwork or input patient data.

Also read: How MBAs Will Thrive in a Future of Robots and AI

Another point raised by the McKinsey study is that automation is not yet poised to replace jobs outright. Rather, it is able to replace varying amounts of the work that different jobs do. Ultimately, 60-percent of occupations today are currently seeing their practitioners wasting 30-percent of their time on tasks that could be automated. To set minds at ease, less than 5-percent of all jobs are able to be completely replaced by a computer or machine. Even among this small number, the replaceable jobs are mostly confined to physical labor in very structured and predictable environments.

But the best news perhaps is that automation is least likely to replace the work of experts and managers. That means that for those of us who are regularly overseeing people or providing our creative insights, we will have more time for those tasks as automation frees up our day from menial efforts.

Robot-Proof Your Career

So where does all of this leave you and your industry? The good news is, nothing is going to happen overnight. That means you have time to begin honing the skills that will keep you competitive in an automated environment if you get started right now. Using the data gathered by the McKinsey study, here are some top recommendations for robot-proofing your career.

People skills

Let’s start by applying the lessons we already saw with nurses in the health care industry. Technical and analytical tasks can be automated but the human touch cannot be. Perhaps you work in the finance industry where client relations are crucial but not necessarily what you do. Now is the time to start looking ahead to see how you can transition over the coming years to a client-facing role. That may be easier said than done. You may find that an advanced degree like and EMBA or other career coaching resources can help you develop the skills you need to be competitive in scoring a role that works directly with clients.

Also read: The 3 Most Important Skills You Need to “Future-Proof” Your Career

But, maybe you work on the more analytical, behind-the-scenes side of things because you’re an introvert. That does not mean all is lost.

Embrace expertise

Sure, a computer can crunch the numbers better than any human. But most industries will still need humans who can interpret and explain the information. That’s where experts are going to remain relevant and important in an automated environment. If anything, with the explosion of data now able to be processed, experts who can interpret it will become more valuable than ever.

Developing a reputation as an expert is a great way for workers who are less comfortable being in a client-facing role to plot a secure career trajectory. One strategy to help strengthen your value as an expert in your industry may be to find a niche and enhance your knowledge in that area. Consider authoring an article in an industry publication to help drive thought leadership in your space and to get your name on the map. The more specialized the topic is, the better.

If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em

There is no industry that will remain untouched by technological advancement. This will create new opportunities for those that know how to take advantage of the situation. You may find that taking a coding class or otherwise learning about the new technology coming into your industry can help you remain competitive and relevant in this changing landscape. That doesn’t mean you need the level of computer know-how that a true programmer would have to attain. That’s not the goal here. Instead, you’re looking to have a fundamental understanding of how to speak a digital language. Then, as new programs are rolled out in your industry, you will already understand how to work with them and put them into practice.

About the Author

R. Kress is an Emmy Award winning journalist whose reporting and writing has appeared in national media from NBC News to the International Herald Tribune. She has covered news from cities around the world including Jerusalem, Krakow, Amman and Mumbai.