The Future of Work

What impact do new technologies have on employment? This is a subject of debate since many centuries. Before the Industrial Revolution started, Queen Elizabeth I refused to patent a knitting machine invented by William Lee, saying

“Consider thou what the invention could do to my poor subjects. It would assuredly bring them to ruin by depriving them of employment, thus making them beggars.”

History has shown that Queen Elizabeths fear was legitimate. The economic relevance of knitting skills has sharply decreased over the last centuries.

But history has also proven that technological advances cannot (and should not) be stopped. The Industrial Revolution that automated manual labor, ended up creating at least as many jobs as it automated.

The current industrial revolution focuses on automating office tasks. Think of data entry, report creation, administrative processes… Typically jobs that are repetitive and defined by fixed rules. New technologies such as Robotic Process Automation empower organizations to mimic and augment the actions of employees with software robots: they perform these tasks faster, more efficient and without errors.

For sure, these new technologies will have a significant impact on the job market. A recent study by the World Economic Forum, titled The Future of Jobs, predicts that by 2022 more than 75 million of today’s jobs will disappear. But the amount of new jobs that will emerge is far greater, up to 133 million. The study is optimistic about a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life that will emerge thanks to new technologies. These new jobs require new skill sets, such as indicated in the infographic below.

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The World Economic Forum advises businesses to adopt an ‘augmentation strategy’,

“An augmentation strategy is an approach where companies look to utilize the automation of some job tasks to complement and enhance their human workforces’ comparative strengths and ultimately to enable and empower employees to extend to their full potential. Rather than narrowly focusing on automation-based labour cost savings, an augmentation strategy takes into account the broader horizon of value-creating activities that can be accomplished by human workers, often in complement to technology, when they are freed of the need to perform routinized, repetitive tasks and better able to use their distinctively human talents.”

This is exactly how robonext advises companies to adopt Robotic Process Automation (RPA). That vision is reflected in our tagline “involving people in automation“. Yes, the cost cutting potential of RPA is considerable, but it’s true value lies in its augmentation potential: with RPA, you can free up time of your human workforce by automating the grunt work, so your employees can use their skills for more creative, higher added value tasks.

Looking back, we consider the first jobs of the industrial era to be inhumane: with low wages, long hours and unsafe conditions. But we also feel the mind-numbing, repetitive nature of these jobs wasted huge amounts of human potential.

One day, when future generations look back at our age, with its abundance of repetitive, mind-numbing office tasks – will they feel the same?