Robots v humans

Research explores the potential for automation in a range of work activities and occupations.

McKinsey has been conducting research into the potential impact of automation on the workplace.

The consulting firm has been analysing over 2000 work activities across 800 occupations and has released its interim results.

The researchers explore the potential for an activity to be automated by considering existing, feasible technology and identify roles and activities that are most – or least – likely to be replaced by robots.

  • Performing physical activities or operating machinery are the tasks most susceptible to automation.
  • Retail, food service and manufacturing are most likely to be impacted by the automation of such activities. 
  • Of these, the researchers consider food service the most readily automatable – 73 percent of the activities workers perform in food service have the potential for automation

However, however, just because an activity can be automated doesn’t mean that it will be—broader economic factors are at play and there may not be a business case for automating low paid jobs – yet.

The financial services sector has the potential to automate a larger percentage of the data collection and processing tasks that take on a significant proportion of people’s activities -even senior level people.

The most difficult activities to automate include people management and development; decision making; planning or creative work. Although digital technologies are transforming education, the sector as a whole is considered the lease susceptible to automation.

Key findings

  • Technical feasibility is important, but economic factors will drive decision making
  • Organisational leaders must focus on where automation can add value, especially if it frees up executives/managers
  • Robots haven’t learned people skills – yet!

Source: McKinsey