How automation is changing the future of the workforce

For many younger workers, the traditional view of a steady job at one company, perhaps for life, simply doesn’t reflect reality. The gig economy has truly taken hold as a response to employees’ desire for increased flexibility and agility. As the workforce adapts, here is how automation is changing the future.

While this may sound like a nightmare for Baby Boomers and Generation X workers who were raised to value longevity and stability, it creates myriad opportunities for people willing to embrace a variety of experiences. These workers see change as a chance to grow, rather than a risk to be avoided. And, by 2023, 45% of workers are likely to be self-employed, giving these workers the control and autonomy they crave.[1]

Whether you refer to it as the gig economy or simply the new normal, this style of working lets employees outsource their skills around the world. They can also choose to work on projects and with organisations that interest them, potentially leading to more job satisfaction.

The evolution of roles

As the future of work unfolds, one key driving factor is automation. Roles and tasks that are easily automated will consequently disappear from job descriptions, while difficult-to-automate jobs will show the most growth.

This has led to some concerns among workers that people will be replaced by robots. And, while some jobs will certainly be replaced with automated technologies in the future, the truth for most is that automation will simply make their jobs more enjoyable. By eliminating the repetitive, low-value tasks involved, workers are consequently allowed more time to add more creative and strategic input to the businesses they work for. This could dramatically improve employee engagement and give workers a renewed sense of purpose.

Labour markets tend to adjust to changes in demand; tomorrow’s workers will be equipped with skills that may have been unthinkable for yesterday’s employees. This has been demonstrated at various times in history as technology has evolved. Following an initial period of disruption, people’s skills evolve to match the available technology and new roles are created as a result to replace those impacted by the new technology.

According to McKinsey, less than five per cent of occupations consist of activities that can be fully automated. However, in 60 per cent of occupations, at least a third of the tasks could be automated.[2] This doesn’t mean employment will decline. Rather in most cases, it simply means workers will perform different tasks.

It seems workers have already intuited this. In recognition of the diverse opportunities available to gig workers, freelancers are increasingly focusing on re-skilling and upskilling.[3] Employees or freelancers working effectively with automated or semi-automated workflows will then be best-placed for success in the future workforce.

What this means for organisations

When thinking about how automation is changing the future, the following becomes evident. As automation becomes more integral to operations, businesses subsequently need to ensure they’re prepared. Failing to automate processes where possible could lead to inefficiencies that make it hard for businesses to compete effectively. Organisations that embrace automation early and upskill their employees will be in the box seat to propel their business further in the next five years.

To find out more about how Upstream can help your business incorporate automation, contact us today.  


[1] IDC Future of Work Series 2018

[2] https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/jobs-lost-jobs-gained-what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages#part1

[3] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/12/predictions-for-freelance-work-education/