The global labour market is increasingly adopting new technology. New technology makes it easier for companies to automate routine tasks and could disrupt the balance between job responsibilities completed by humans and those completed by machines and algorithms. With smart technology becoming more mainstream, we need to consider the impact using this new technology will have on our society and workforce.

Transformations and disruptions are already occurring within labour markets across the world. People routinely store images and documents in the cloud, our emails remind us to send follow-ups and we can turn on light bulbs with a simple voice command.

Over the last twenty years, the use of new technology has caused some roles to disappear while also creating new, previously unheard of job titles. For example, the rise of online flight comparison sites has drastically reduced the number of physical travel agents and advancements in mobile technology has made switchboard operators obsolete. On the other hand, technological advancements have also led to the emergence of brand new job titles like app developers, social media marketers, and data scientists.

So, will these changes improve or hinder our current standard of living and our future of work? To find the answer, we’ll need to explore the Fourth Industrial Revolution a bit closer including its potential impact and benefits.

What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as Industry 4.0, involves the adoption of cyber-physical systems like the Internet of Things and Internet of Systems.

  • Internet of Things. Also known as IoT, the Internet of Things is a network of interconnected smart devices that allow each separate device to interact (i.e. send or receive data) from other devices on the network.
  • Internet of Systems. Business-owned systems that can collect data from IoT networks to make independent decisions about your business’ marketing campaigns, sales, etc.

As the Internet of Things becomes more mainstream, smart devices will have more access to data which could allow them to become more independent. Eventually, smart devices might have enough information to make autonomously make decisions and control key business processes like supply chains without human input.

Whether autonomous machines are a good or bad thing, largely depends on who you ask. Some envision a dystopian, hellish world straight out of a Sci-Fi film where robots have taken all the jobs leaving humans unemployed and miserable. Without employment, our lives would become meaningless leading to drug addictions, violence and widespread public unrest.

Others, most, believe that robots would eradicate the rather dull aspects of our work and allow humans to focus on more challenging, fulfilling tasks leading to an overall happier and more productive society. Regardless, once the Fourth Industrial Revolution reaches full maturity, it’ll impact nearly every industry in every country.

What Impact Will the Fourth Industrial Revolution Have on the Future of Work?

The 4th Industrial Revolution is largely driven by four specific technological developments: high-speed mobile Internet, AI and automation, the use of big data analytics, and cloud technology. Of these four technologies, AI and automation are expected to have the most significant impact on employment figures within the global workforce.

A recent study released by McKinsey Global Institute reports that roughly one-fifth of the global workforce will be impacted by the adoption of AI and automation, with the most significant impact in developed nations like the UK, German and US. By 2022, 50% of companies believe that automation will decrease their numbers of full-time staff and by 2030, robots will replace 800 million workers across the world.

While these figures may sound depressing, it may also simply represent a change within the workforce and displaced employees could, with the right skills, take on more beneficial roles. The World Economic Forum reports that 38% of businesses believe AI and automation technology will allow employees to carry-out new productivity-enhancing jobs while over 25% of companies think automation will result in the emergence of new roles.

Remote Working

In addition to new roles and responsibilities, the 4th Industrial Revolution could also lead to more companies employing specialist contractors or remote workers. Due to new technology and changing demands, employers may also become more supportive of existing employees wanting to work remotely or flexibility.

Giving potential and current employees more freedom to work how, when and where can be very beneficial for companies. It can allow them to recruit a global workforce, increase employee loyalty and commitment, scale at a quicker pace and reach new levels of productivity. Employees benefit too as not having to commute means they’ll have more free time, a better work-life balance and greater flexibility leading to overall employee satisfaction and commitment.

What Jobs are the Most Likely to be Impacted?

The 4th Industrial Revolution will impact nearly every industry with The Economist predicting that 50% of jobs are vulnerable to automation. However, some industries are more likely to be automated than others as robots, like human employees, have a particular specific skill set.

Within the near future, we can expect to see a reduction in the number of full-time staff in manufacturing and agricultural roles as many of these positions are already being phased out due to increased automation. Robots can also more effectively and safely handle tasks within industrial plants and as such their use in manufacturing dates back as early as the 1970s.

The OECD released a list showing the likelihood of roles, within specific industries, becoming obsolete or automated. At the top of the list are occupations within food preparation, construction, cleaning, driving and agricultural sectors.

In addition to manufacturing roles, automation may also impact postal and courier services, shipping and delivery and service industry jobs. Don’t see your industry on the list? BBC has put together a handy calculator to help you determine how likely it is that a robot will replace you.

Jobs Least Likely to be Impacted

While robots may be better at quickly, efficiently and safely completing physical, predictable tasks, robots aren’t better at everything. Currently, most robots lack social and cognitive skills. They might be able to work as chatbots to answer customer questions and complaints within a given framework, but they generally lack enough empathy to adequately support or care for customers and patients.

As a result, roles that involve recognising cultural sensitivities, caring for others, creative or complex reasoning or perception and manipulation are unlikely to be automated. So, social workers, nurses, nuclear engineers, teachers and writers can rest assured that they won’t be replaced by robots any time soon.

The 4th Industrial Revolution’s Impact on the Recruitment Industry

According to the 2018 Global Trends report released by LinkedIn, 76% of recruiters and hiring managers think that the 4th Industrial Revolution, or more specifically automation and AI, will have a significant impact on the recruitment industry. Specialist recruiters, especially within sectors that are highly vulnerable to automation, may need to upskill or shift their focus to a new discipline to stay in the game.

Not only will recruiters have to deal with job losses across industries, but aspects of their roles could also be automated. Robots are already being used with the recruitment industry to make recruiters’ jobs easier, quicker and more fulfilling. When it comes to talent acquisition, it can be easy to get bogged down in admin tasks like screening resumes or scheduling interviews. Over 52% of talent acquisition leaders admit that their biggest challenge is matching the right candidate to the right role.

AI technology can help. Intelligent screening software, like Ideal, can help recruiters process large volumes of CVs to find the ideal candidate. It examines current employees’ skill sets and attributes to find the perfect candidate to join the team. It can even pull information about the candidate from their social media profile or open-source company databases. Chatbots can be used to answer candidates’ questions or provide feedback and online interview software can be used to analyse interviewees’ answers including their word choice, speech patterns and facial expressions to determine their suitability for the role.

Such innovative technology poses both an opportunity and threat to recruiters. On the one hand, AI technology could allow recruiters to work faster and smarter by streamlining front-end processes, remove boring and dull tasks and ultimately improve the clients and candidates experience. On the other hand, as AI technology becomes smarter, it could eventually replace recruiters.

BBC reports that human resource administrative workers have an 89.7% chance of being replaced by a robot. However, human resource managers or directors only have a 32.2% chance of being replaced by a robot.

Future of Work

“These transformations, if managed wisely, could lead to a new age of good work, good jobs and improved quality of life for all, but if managed poorly, pose the risk of widening skills gaps, greater inequality and broader polarization.” - World Economic Forum, 2018 Report

On some level, workforce changes and technological advancements are normal and to be expected of any developing society. Some worry that the 4th Industrial Revolution could create a dystopian world where robots have taken our jobs and there’s a massive wealth disparity between those that own the robots and those that don’t. However, automating key tasks could eradicate the more tedious aspects of our jobs and allow human employees to focus on more meaningful, fulfilling tasks.

Here at Change Recruitment, we prefer to think that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will have a mostly positive impact on the future of work. It’ll allow us to focus on more meaningful tasks and help people across every industry complete their jobs to a higher standard. We’re excited about the upcoming changes and are currently looking for ways to integrate AI technology into our workplace.

Let us know your thoughts about AI and the future of work by leaving a comment on our LinkedIn post.