Industry Trends: Automation in Business

How the human workforce should prepare when machines enter the workplace over the next decade

February 12, 2021 | By GTPE Communications
Machines performing human tasks in the factory of the future

Ever since the first computer, machines have been a part of the workplace. However, their role is about to become much more prominent than ever before. In the next decade, nearly every industry will experience a rapid surge in machine operations, including automation, AI, and machine learning.  This trend toward machine dependence has many  people worried that they will  lose their jobs to  machines. However, while machines take over  certain  human occupations, they will create new jobs in the process. Researchers estimate that 85% of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet. The key to navigating the growing interdependence of humans and machines in the workplace is maintaining  both technical  skills and human  skills. In fact, as machines become more established members of the workforce, uniquely human skills, such as  flexibility, mental agility, ethics, resilience, systems thinking, communication,  and critical thinking, will become  even more  valuable. 

AI & Machine  Learning  

Tim Brown, managing director of the Supply Chain and Logistics Institute, predicts that the Supply Chain industry will  also  witness an automation make-over. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will play a much greater role,  supporting  strategic, tactical, and operational planning,  and, as a result, they will  lead to more dynamic planning and execution of supply chain and logistics processes.  There will also be a massive increase in the use of robotics and autonomous vehicles of all kinds: moving supplies within facilities, supporting manufacturing, and transporting physical goods across the supply chain. 

Cybersecurity will need to lean more on smart technology, as well, says  Raheem Beyah, dean, College of Engineering.  Newer and more sophisticated cyber-attacks mean that cybersecurity countermeasures will also have to rely increasingly on AI and machine learning.  

Human  Skills  

While machines may be able to take over mundane, repetitive, or predictive practices, they will never be able to replace the  creativity, emotional intelligence, and adaptability  of the human mind, and  these human capabilities will be in high demand as technology progresses. There will always be a need to understand, use, maintain, and develop new and emerging technologies. And, as these technologies filter into every industry, there will be demand for “change leaders” to guide organizations through the implementation. 

Chris Carter, director of the project management program at Georgia Tech, believes this leadership skill is the most pressing requirement for the project manager in the coming decade. “Even with technical skills firmly established,” Carter explains, “if a project manager cannot lead a team well or effectively collaborate with organizational stakeholders, they will ultimately not be as successful on their respective projects as others who have such people leadership skills.”

This shift is evident in the latest version of the PMP exam—42% of its content now focuses on people/leadership skills, as opposed to 20% previously. As a result, educational institutions will be expected to anticipate these changes and adapt their programs to prepare graduates for this new organizational environment, teaching topics such as emotional intelligence, stakeholder influence, negotiations, developing and building teams, and mentoring.

No matter where smart machine technology takes us in the future of work, we may be sure that humans will always have a place in this economy. The increasing prevalence of automation will only expand our opportunities, providing a larger platform on which to execute visions and meet needs.


Writer: Rachel Meyer
Editor: Shannon Helton-Amos
Digital Producer: Kelsey Harris