What is workforce automation?
Automation broadly refers to the use of technology, such as machine learning or robots, to perform tasks human workers have historically completed.
Automating certain jobs promises to increase efficiency, reduce costs and improve productivity in the workplace. And while implementation across industries will likely involve trial and error, these technologies are poised to be welcomed by organizations looking to streamline their business.
Professional career advisors are witnessing this evolution in real time.
Jessica Roper, for example, serves as the director of Career Services at University of Phoenix. Her department develops strategies and resources to enhance career readiness among workers. When it comes to being ready in the age of AI, Roper knows what works — and what doesn’t.
Take finance and banking. That’s an industry that has spent much of the last decade or so leaning into automation.
“In banking, you used to have to go into a building and work with a teller to make a transaction,” Roper says. “Now, you can do this all from your smartphone.”
This change has meant numerous banks and credit unions have been closing their physical locations as services like deposits, account management and transfers have become increasingly automated.
Automation and the future of work
Despite concerns of how automation might impact the future of employment, many roles most affected by automation are those that require little to no expertise.
“Automation first impacts jobs that require mundane or repetitive tasks — think cashiers and file clerks,” Roper says.
The good news? Automating these jobs doesn’t necessarily mean the workers they replace will become unemployed.
“While we do see automation impacting some jobs, it is never going to fully replace human workers,” says Roper.
After all, cashiers and file clerks can monitor these processes and offer human assistance when technologies run awry. As Roper describes it, “Automation and AI are effective for taking on structured, low-skilled tasks, but they lack the ability to complete activities that require emotional intelligence, creativity or contextual awareness.”
In her view, even industries highly impacted by automation will always need human workers, even if their roles and duties change.