Regular readers have seen my posts on how automation has impacted the skills required for jobs among hourly workers. Since the beginning of the industrial age, technology has been used to reduce physical labor and repetitive tasks. Whether it is in fast food or warehouses, technology has changes how humans fit into the labor equation.
The COVID pandemic has accelerated this process. While futurists can disagree about how fast technology changes were coming to work, labor being forced to be away from the office has accelerated the pace in which companies have implemented robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) in order to meet customer needs and improve efficiency. What is different now is that this technology is being applied more to salaried positions than before. Whether the new jobs in creating this tech will be equal to the number of people displaced by it is an important question for future college graduates. But these changes should also get companies thinking about their recruitment, validated selection, and training processes.
One of my clients does back office processing of financial information. This is exactly the kind of thing where RPA can eventually take over some the tasks currently done by their analysts. Currently, we test job candidates for their willingness to follow procedures and their detail orientation (among other characteristics). If RPA were applied to this job, we would need to analyze what the skills, abilities, and personal characteristics were still valid and what any new ones would be. This would likely lead to the elimination of certain parts of the current test and emphasizing others. This would likely impact recruiting and training as well. In a broader sense, when organizational change comes, the updating of recruitment, selection, and training of employees usually is done (seemingly) as an afterthought. As companies apply RPA and AI, and nearly all of them will in one way or another, they should be prepared for the impact on how employees do their work, not just whether they will still have a job.