5 Automation Proof Skills Robots Can’t Take Away from You

Artificial intelligence and big data are taking the workplace by storm. In the US, retail jobs are slowly decreasing as they are replaced by robots in the warehouse. Meanwhile, technology is also starting to automate farming tasks across the world such as weeding lettuce. IDC also predicts that organisations will spend over $32 billion on marketing automation software this 2018. In fact, Facebook has already rolled out chatbots for Messenger.


Several studies have already predicted how much automation would affect jobs across industries around the world. In the next 10 years, Deloitte says that 39% of jobs in the legal sector could be automated. Another research by the University of Oxford found that there’s a 95% chance that accountants would lose their jobs over automation. Overall, a study by the World Bank stated that two-thirds of jobs may be automated out of existence.


Despite these alarming numbers, there are automation proof skills that computers are yet to imitate. As said by a recent report by McKinsey, “The hardest activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve managing and developing people (9% automation potential) or that apply expertise to decision making, planning, or creative work (18%).”


In a 2018 McKinsey report, demand for these automation proof skills are estimated to rise by 19% in the US, and by 14% in Europe from sizeable bases today. As the working landscape continues to digitalise and automate, consider not only developing digital-related skills but also nurturing your soft skills.


Here are five automation proof skills that will become in-demand in the future.


According to leadership expert Warren Bennis, “leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” A study by Brandon Hall’s State of Leadership Development found that 83% of organisations say that developing leaders at all levels is important, however, only 25% of organisations say that less than 10% of critical leadership positions already have successors.


Leadership will be an indispensable skill in the future as it is an innate human trait that a computer would not be able to imitate as it requires empathy and engagement to motivate and inspire a person or an organisation. Roles with high demand for this skill are positions such as a Managers and CEO.


According to Psychology Today, the role of leaders is to develop a vision, know what matters and why, set the direction, and inspire a person to take action towards one goal. These are skills robots can’t do.


Creativity stems from novelty and value, something that computers cannot imitate. Although some robots can imitate a painting or create a sculpture, they cannot independently create this out of their own will. As said by Tom Pick from Talent Culture, “Though definable rules and mathematics play a role in all these types of creations, the images, sounds, tastes, and ideas conveyed can’t be reduced to code.”


While automation may not replace creativity, you can work alongside it. According to Aviva’s head of marketing James Turner, “Automation is definitely freeing up time for us to focus on being more genuinely creative and personalised with our activity.” As creative fields, such as marketing and advertising, become more data dependent to better target consumers, utilising technology could complement these creative fields.


Nonetheless, creativity is a basic requirement for these visually-inclined fields. In fact, demand for this skill will increase as a study by Nesta and the Creative Industries Federation predict that creative occupations will grow by 5.3% in the UK over the next six years.

Communication and Coordination

These two automation proof skills are grouped together because both go hand-in-hand. A 2016 World Bank review found that 79% of employers placed socio-emotional skill, such as the ability to work with others, as an important factor for a worker.


In a 2018 McKinsey report, demand for basic literacy and communication will grow by 12% and 8%, respectively, as personal engagement becomes an important factor in some occupations. Automation proof jobs that require communication and coordination are customer service representatives, retailers, teachers, managers, account executives, among many others.


In addition, under this automation proof skill is also the ability to effectively communicate using social and emotional skills. According to a 2018 McKinsey report, demand for social and emotional skills are expected to increase in all industries by 26% in the US and by 22% in Europe between 2016 and 2030. This skill will be widely in demand in industries especially in healthcare.


Developing the communication, collaboration, and socio-emotional skills will definitely be an advantage for all candidates in any industry.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making

While computers are getting better at complex problem solving and critical thinking, only humans can connect, make sense, and imagine concepts amidst a life of ambiguity and subtlety. In addition, computers may be programmed to compute and predict the probability of something to succeed or fail, but only humans can combine instinct, morality, and judgment to make critical decisions.


Examples of how critical thinking and decision-making would be how a marketer can think of an overall message to evoke an emotion or response with consumers, or how some law firms use AI to help identify important documents, but would still need a judge to make a sound decision.


According to a 2018 McKinsey Report, automation proof skills such as critical thinking and decision making, and complex information processing will rise to double-digit rates through 2030. This rise in demand is due to the increasing need for businesses to be aware of market trends and regulations affecting company operations, and the need to explain product or service technical details to consumers.


The ability to interpret data analytics into insightful and meaningful information and measured decision are automation proof skills that are especially useful in the information age.


As technology continues to rapidly take over businesses, strong negotiation skills are becoming an essential soft skill. Negotiation is the ability to recognise and take advantage of opportunities and persuade the opposite party to agree on a good compromise. As manual and physical jobs start to decrease, demand for higher cognitive skills such as advanced communication and negotiation is expected to grow as this automation proof skill could spell the difference between success and loss for businesses.


Poor negotiation could mean lost opportunities, deals, promotions, and profits. In fact, poor negotiation skills cost UK businesses to lose around £9 million per hour based on a study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The ability to solve conflicts that benefit all parties involved and persuade them to agree with your solution is a skill that requires advanced communication, critical, and interpersonal skills, something that computers can’t imitate.


Take note that negotiation skills are also applicable across industries such as law, and healthcare among others. As long as computers have not mastered the art of persuasion, negotiation skills are here to stay.




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