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Coming to Grips With the Effects of an Automated Nation on Workplaces

The negative consequences are inevitable, but present another leadership opportunity for HR.

Automation technology will create 14.9 million new jobs in the next decade, with automation creating jobs equivalent to 10 percent of the workforce through 2027, according to a Forrester report published in April.

Michael Chui, partner at the McKinsey Global Institute, said many of the new jobs created by automation technology will be in the data science field, robotics and robotic repair and maintenance. There’s also the possibility that jobs likely to be greatly transformed by automation actually see a greater need for humans to do them — at least for a little while.

For example, between 1970 to 2010, the number of bank tellers in the U.S. increased to about 600,000 from around 300,000, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Because ATMs allowed branches to be run with fewer people, banks could open more branches, which also meant more tellers overall.

Please also read: The Automation of HR: Take Us to Your CHRO

However, the number of branches is declining now because of industry consolidation and technological change, according to the BLS. The federal agency predicts the number of bank teller jobs will decline to 480,500 by 2024, down from 520,500 in 2014.

So while automation is predicted to create millions of new jobs in the coming decade, Forrester estimates 24.7 million jobs will also be displaced by 2027, which is about a deficit of 10 million jobs. These negative consequences are inevitable, but present another leadership opportunity for HR, according to Chui.

“How do you redeploy the time that’s freed up by these technologies? Sometimes that means there will be a reduction in force. That’s another place for HR to step up,” he said.

The negative consequences are inevitable, but present another leadership opportunity for HR, according to Chui.

“How do you redeploy the time that’s freed up by these technologies? Sometimes that means there will be a reduction in force. That’s another place for HR to step up,” he said.

In the future, the nightmare scenario of being replaced by a robot will be a reality for some workers, but ultimately, experts agree that people will still be the most important part of the workforce.

Max Mihelich is  writer in Chicago. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.