The Future of Work: Refocus, Reskill and Redesign

Posted: 02/05/2020 - 00:00
The future of work will be defined by automation.

The future of work will be defined by automation. With such transformative change, everyday workers may be skeptical about how it will affect them. However, what many fear-inducing headlines often don’t reveal is that automation creates plenty of opportunities. 

These truly intelligent technologies empower us to do more strategic, exciting work because we’re not bogged down in tedious, repetitive tasks. By automating the mundane, we can experience redefined, highly rewarding roles focused on people-centric skills that rely on human creativity, ingenuity and judgment. Automation isn’t about replacing our jobs; it’s about making our work better. 

The Survey

Via a survey of 1,500 American workers, my team aimed to uncover the true feelings people have toward advancing automation. We wanted to know what people really think about working alongside these technologies and how they are preparing for it. 

When asked, “What do you think of when you hear ‘automation technologies’ or ‘robots’ at the workplace?” over 67% responded positively, saying they believe automation could assist them and make their jobs more efficient. The most positive responses were from Millennials, showing that younger demographics are more optimistic about the benefits of automation. 

To know what workers most wanted assistance with, we asked for examples of repetitive or boring tasks they’d like to see automated. From the 1,500 responses, the terms “phone,” “answer” and “call” were the top three words used, followed by “report,” “task” and “data.” These are consistent with existing robotic process automation solutions that focus on improving and automating these specific repetitive, transactional tasks. 

We asked, “Does the idea of humans and automation technologies working together interest you?” A resounding 72% told us “yes.” When asked, “Would a company investing in automation technologies make you more likely to apply there?” over 67% said they would be more likely to apply.

One benefit of workplace automation is an elevated employee experience. We’ve learned that while there are surely skeptics, many Americans see automation as a tool that will make their lives easier and eliminate tasks that prevent them from doing the truly interesting, engaging work they want to do. According to our survey results, a majority of workers are optimistic about how automation may support their work. 

The Future of Work

With automation comes the need for organizations to adopt and adapt to it. It’s up to all of us to put forth the time to learn new skills and refocus our talents. Companies must dedicate regular resources to support such ongoing learning and development. Implementing automation does not equal a one-and-done professional development program. 


Dynamic organizations that have embraced an agile work environment may see automation technology as an added benefit that fits into their current model. In this case, employees may see their work contributions accelerated as work moves away from a rule-based routine. When upscaled workers are paired with automation, they’re empowered to handle complex tasks with more authority.


Automation may take away redundant tasks, creating opportunities for employees to learn new skills. Reskilling and upskilling allow employees to improve efficiency and produce better outcomes while working alongside automation. Workers are liberated from the mundane to provide increased value for their employer, unleashing even more passion and opportunity in their careers.


Automation may require creating or consolidating jobs and tasks. In this case, automation removes the work, not the team. People may see their jobs change as redundant and boring tasks are eliminated from their plates in order to focus on tasks that will allow them to be more productive and profitable. 

The Future of Automation

Automation will never fully replace human ingenuity, creativity and judgment. Our respondents seem increasingly aware of this. 

Automation is about delivering better experiences and improved outcomes, not simply lowering costs. Smooth, people-conscious implementation of automation will provide the best experience for employees. Targeting the mundane and the transactional, automation is an exciting prospect for any employee who wants to see his or her career reach new heights and opportunities.


About The Author

Ian Barkin's picture

Ian Barkin is chief strategy and marketing officer for SYKES. Ian co-founded Symphony Ventures, a managed services firm specializing in intelligent automation (IA) and robotic process automation (RPA) acquired by SYKES in 2018. Ian hosts  OneTAKE, a series on emerging technology, the future of work, and more. He holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management and a BA in Economics and Psychology from Middlebury College. Along with Pascal Bornet and Jochen Wirtz, Ian is the co-author of the best-selling book, Intelligent Automation: Welcome to the World of Hyperautomation.   

Connect with Ian on LinkedIn.