Businesses and employees have nothing to fear from automation

Automated devices and automated intelligence give businesses a competitive edge, while liberating workers from monotonous tasks and offering more engaging employment.

Moreover, automation is not just something that is “nice to have” – UK firms that fail to embrace workplace automation will fail, according to a recent article from Raconteur.

This new technology is part of the Industry 4.0 industrial revolution, and CircleCI’s Chief Executive Jim Rose stressed the importance of learning lessons from the first industrial revolution.

“If a business failed to adopt the assembly line as a faster, more innovative way to deliver their product, it died. The competition simply outpaced them,” Rose explained. “This holds true today with software development. If developers are doing the manual labour of working and reworking their configuration management, their testing and so on, then they will be passed by others who do successfully start automating these processes.”

Similarly, a retail firm that fails to automate its customer records or product labelling system will also ultimately fail, argues Raconteur writer Adrian Bridgwater.

He also pointed out, however, that automation does not seek to replace humans in the workplace. Instead, it will change the type of work we are able to focus on.

A separate article for City A.M. says that, overall, the UK labour market is responding well to automation, creating many high-quality jobs and more than offsetting the impact of the ones automation is eliminating.

Focusing on the financial services sector, Andrew Allum and Diogo Silva from LEK Consulting found that of the approximately 200,000 jobs destroyed in financial services over the past five years, over two thirds were at high risk of automation, including bank clerks (45,000 jobs destroyed), bookkeepers (9,000), pension and insurance clerks and assistants (9,000), and customer services representatives (14,000).

By contrast, about two thirds of the jobs created were classed as “high-quality” jobs, which have a very low risk of automation. These were in growth areas such as specialised managers and directors, marketing and IT project management.

This indicates that the financial services jobs market is responding to automation with new, more sustainable roles being created in sufficient numbers to maintain overall employment.

For individual workers, though, the pace of change means that many will need to retrain over the course of their career (for example, towards IT, project management, marketing or compliance).

Businesses will also need to respond by developing medium-term skills plans – or run the risk of lacking key skills in the future.

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