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.
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.
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.