As our world continues to race forward at breakneck speed, keeping up with the pace of technological change can feel daunting. But the reality is it will never move this slow again. As conversations around technological unemployment re-enter the spotlight, maybe we should look back at just how far we have come.
The employment landscape has a long history of continuously evolving. It’s hard to believe that 20 years ago, social media managers, digital marketing specialists, mobile app designers, CrossFit instructors, Uber drivers, online streamers, and podcast producers didn’t exist. As the world went digital, we lost video rental stores, switchboard operators, word processors, and typists.
Although it’s tempting to look back at our past through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia, the truth is that technology has always driven change. AI and automation have the potential to set workers free from a robotic lifestyle, where they repeat mundane tasks and stare at spreadsheets for 40 hours a week. So, what jobs can we expect to disappear?
Jobs that might not exist in 10 years
A trip to the supermarket, bank, or fast-food outlet increasingly involves a self-service touchscreen instead of a human being. Although shoppers didn’t immediately embrace them, they have become a part of everyday life. There have even been reports that after being locked down for a year, some feel more anxious about talking to a stranger than the hygiene issues that come with using a touchscreen.
Amazon Go is already taking things a step further by removing the first-world problems of waiting in line and choosing between a human or virtual cashier. Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology will automatically detect when products are taken from or returned to the shelves. When you have finished shopping, you can just leave the store. Could this spell the end for human cashiers?
Travel agents always promised travellers peace of mind. But the events over the last twelve months revealed stories of travel agents refusing refunds and holding onto their customers’ cash. Anyone with a smartphone will have a long list of flight and hotel comparison tools at their fingertips. It will become increasingly difficult for the traditional travel agent to provide value to tech-savvy independent travellers.
The role of the traditional receptionist is also under threat with the rise of self-service check-in kiosks. For the most part, we book hotel rooms online and provide all our details in the booking process. In an age of one-click checkouts, the concept of waiting in a long line of people to hand over the same personal information and payment details before you are handed a room key increasingly feels like a waste of everyone’s time.
In the future, we can expect most hotels to provide visitors with a virtual key on their smartphone where they can head straight to their room upon arrival.
Any job that consists of driving a vehicle could also be at risk in the next 10-20 years. One of the big fears for drivers is that automation could replace people who drive taxis, busses, trucks, and any kind of machinery. Some even predict that future generations will even question why we ever allowed humans to drive, considering their safety record.
Although these conversations feel like science fiction or reminiscent of the Laboratory Truck in Universal Soldier, drivers need to start preparing for what is waiting on the horizon.
New job roles
In recent months, we have seen a rise in demand for software and application developers along with the emergence of digital transformation specialists. According to the Future of Jobs report, we can also expect to see more demand for process automation specialists, information security analysts, and internet of things experts too.
Technology surrounds every aspect of our lives. Digital assistants enable us to manage our home heating, lighting, and entertainment using our voice. Sophisticated algorithms will determine our shopping, visual and audio experiences. In our increasingly digital world, we can also expect to see new roles in cloud computing, content production, AI, software engineering, marketing, sales, and product development.
Leveraging technology to enhance human intelligence, not replace it
We know that technology will play a critical role in reshaping our world and improving lives. But we must not forget that it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that nobody gets left behind. We need to invest in reskilling employees to help everyone thrive in a digital world.
By handing repetitive, mundane, and robotic-like tasks to the machines, employees should be free to get back to being human again. Critical thinking, communication, creativity, strategy, innovation, judgment, planning, negotiation skills, and emotional intelligence are the areas where humans naturally thrive. Somewhere along the way, we lost this in the 9-5 daily grind. It’s time to get it back.
The successful organizations of the future will be the ones that embrace collaborative working rather than replacing people with machines. Just like 20 years ago, many traditional job roles will disappear and be replaced with jobs more suited for a digital world. The future of work will involve employees from various backgrounds with unique skill sets that work seamlessly alongside innovative technology to solve specific problems.
As we embrace hybrid working, it should also act as a timely reminder that technology and employees should complement each other, not compete. Each possesses a limited skillset, but together they can open opportunities and explore the art of the possible. If Elon Musk can combine the two to make humans an interplanetary species, imagine what you and your organization could achieve.