What Jobs Will Be Most Affected by Automation?

By BrainStation March 11, 2020

Job automation is massively transforming our labor force and, for better or worse, will continue to influence what the future of work looks like. From Accountants to Cashiers; Plumbers to Retailers, this study by Ilia Blinderman shows the likelihood of different roles becoming automated. 

This new wave of work has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, one in which our connection to the internet-of-things trumps hardware and, in many cases, human service. 

snapshot of chart showing the range in which different jobs are likely to be automated from 0% to 100%

Original image from https://pudding.cool/2017/07/jobs/ by Ilia Blinderman

We looked into some of the roles Blinderman found were more likely to be automated. See how these roles have evolved and how employees can future-proof their careers to match the pace of technology. 

Bank Tellers

illustratino of a usb key being plugged into a piggybank

All Illustrations by Zach Monteiro

Banking has come a long way from hand-written ledgers. Now we’re much more likely to complete transactions at ATMs or, of course, on our personal devices. It’s not uncommon to find banks without any money on site. For example, Tangerine’s Cafes provide a space for customers to speak with a financial advisor, but are not set up for regular transactions; there’s no need when everything can be done through their app. Banks like EQ don’t have a physical space at all and have really risen in the digital financial space.

Banks are leaping into the digital space and employees will need to step up their digital know-how to stay ahead. Here’s how:

Understanding AI to Leverage Robo-Advisors 

You’ve probably heard the term robo-advisors. Investment banks like Betterment are using AI to automate the investment process so that customers can take charge of their own finances, with investments made on data that may be imperceptible to humans.

Of course, these tools work to eliminate the need for Financial Advisors. However, they open up roles in data, development, and product management – this tech, which is legitimately shaking up the financial industry, can’t program itself, and those who have the right skills will be well-positioned to advance their careers. 

Using Technology to Protect Against Fraud 

Fraud departments have also adapted to the digital era, using AI to analyze behavior to determine unusual activity. Remember when your credit card would be blocked every time you booked a flight ticket? Now banks like CIBC are able to track your spending to understand the purchases you make, even if they may not seem unusual to the human eye.

As these tools and techniques continue to take hold, roles in machine learning and AI will increase. There remains, after all, many opportunities for improving the banking process. 

Shaping FinTech with User Research and Design

Banking apps have optimized user experience (UX) design to make banking more friendly and accessible. There have also been features implemented to improve clients’ financial habits. Now, without human help, we’re able to perform day-to-day banking from a user-friendly screen. For example, companies like Digit automate your savings by monitoring transactions to make an educated guess about how much you can afford to save. The Mint app allows you to easily create budgets and Clarity Money helps users keep an eye on easy-to-overlook subscriptions draining money from their accounts each month.


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In short, as the banking industry continues its digital transformation, UX Designers will continue to have a wealth of opportunities, helping institutions understand and solve the pain points of their clients.  

Bookkeepers and Accountants 

illustration of person on computer with charts and rapidly swiping his hand back and forth. making money online

Research from the University of Oxford showed that Accountants have a 95 percent chance of seeing their jobs automated – and it makes sense. Tedious data-entry no longer requires manpower; AI has the power to create a more efficient and accurate workflow that can cost 40 percent less than current practices. Accountants and accounting firms can minimize risks to their careers and bottom lines by adapting to the new technology, including: 

Using Automation to Change the Game

Software automation tools and bots are able to handle higher volumes of repeatable tasks faster and more accurately than humans, easing the workload for Accountants and Bookkeepers. 

Multiple companies like ZOHO offer a free invoice creator, Highradius offers a cash application software, which offers an array of automated services that are sure to save time for Accountants. LucaNet allows you to automate data validation when comparing invoices to stock codes

Last year, CPA of Canada reported on this new wave of tech as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which they described as a set of automation tools that allow users to create their own bots, allowing them to handle “high-volume, low complexity, and repeatable tasks faster and with more accuracy and lower cost than humans.” RPA software can also save a company anywhere from 20 to 60 percent of full-time costs. 

Access to automation tools and bots will lead to a complete overhaul of the accounting process, ultimately leaving more time for Accountants to focus on less dreary aspects of their role. This also opens up a whole new range of job opportunities in the accounting field in the areas of machine learning, AI, and data science, which will only increase as automation becomes more prevalent. 

Leveraging UX Design to Simplify Bookkeeping

Like banking, accounting accessibility increases with good UX design. With streamlined and simplified platforms, small business owners and entrepreneurs are able to manage their own bookkeeping and invoicing with tools like QuickBooks, which takes care of tracking cash flow, creating invoices, paying employees, and more all from an easy-to-use interface. 

Other software, like Accounting Seed, improves the accounting process by giving you an easy way to get a full view of your business’s cash flow. 

Mastering Data Analytics

While Accountants have always relied on data and analytics, advancements in machine learning allow professionals to anticipate future outcomes and make data-driven decisions. 

CPA Canada reports that advanced analytics will enable Accountants to widen and make more decisive KPIs. “The leveraging of Big Data by advanced analytics solutions can help develop deeper understanding of new market trends, identify new KPIs for performance management, and improve accuracy and timeliness of the forecasting process.”

It goes on to say that, “There will also be a heavier emphasis on understanding data correlations and trends, which will require a solid understanding of statistical methods such as regression analysis, sample-size determination, and hypothesis testing. […] CPAs will also need to understand how to leverage self-serve data reporting and visualization tools such as IBM Cognos BI, SAP BusinessObjects, Microsoft Power BI, and Tableau to create reports and dashboards to present new insights to management.”

Learning data analysis and gaining familiarity with tools like Tableau will open up opportunities for Accountants looking to adapt to the future of work. Data analysis courses are a quick way to upskill in the field.   

Secretaries and Administrative Assistants

In the age of Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, devices are able to edit your calendar, research information, make calls, leave reminders, and more – tasks that would have once required an organized secretary. 

Amazon, in fact, proudly shares that Alexa is able to “simplify conference rooms, allowing meeting attendees to start meetings and control the equipment in the room by simply using their voice. Alexa can also do things around the workplace, like providing directions to a conference room, notifying IT about a broken printer, or placing an order for office supplies.” 

Not to be outdone, Google recently launched a new feature in which a bot is able to make calls and book appointments as if from a human. With outstanding accuracy, the bot is able to call a restaurant or a hair salon to book an appointment, easily working around rescheduling obstacles and language barriers. 

While it’s true that very few companies have gone that route yet, it is common to be greeted by an iPad in an office lobby. Companies like Greetly offer an app that alerts meeting hosts that a guest has arrived, signs the guest in, provides a name badge, an NDA to be signed, all without a human being involved.

Ultimately, these tools replace many of the tasks associated with administrative assistants, but they also open up opportunities for office workers to take on different administrative and operations-based responsibilities. Proactive Administrative Assistants, however, will want to develop new skills, including design thinking, product management, and more, to both future-proof themselves and improve the administrative field as a whole. 

Customer Service Representatives

illustration of rows of people working on computers in dark blue hues. There is one person highlighted gold amongst the rows.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell if you’re interacting with a human when contacting customer support, and this will likely increase with time. The truth is, the majority of support inquiries are often repeated and easily answered. A chatbot can save lots of time for companies and customers alike who are looking for a quick answer to a team’s FAQ. 

Platforms like Twitter, for example, provide minimal human aid, channeling all of their queries through their Twitter Support Account, which guides you through their FAQs and support center. While convenient, this kind of approach can backfire. Airbnb, for example, has a bad reputation for making it difficult to contact customer support. They don’t provide an email or phone number and instead weave customers through a series of support center links before making a human available.

Airbnb is not alone, though, as many automated customer service systems are imperfect, creating an opportunity for organizations to differentiate themselves through superior customer service. Uber, for example, makes it quick and easy to report a problem and get a refund with just a few taps, even without human intervention. 

Improving the CSM Process

Overall, there are tons of opportunities for organizations to incorporate automation in their customer support processes, which, apart from boosting efficiency and speed, would also significantly change the role of customer service representatives. Instead of spending time doing manual research and handling routine support requests, call center employees assisted by AI could focus on more complex issues, with virtual assistants searching internal databases to find the answers they are looking for, reducing the time it would take to search multiple sources. 

The perfect combination will provide the right amount of convenience and personalized support. For example, Zendesk makes it easier for professionals to manage support tickets, chatbots, and more in a way that simplifies attending to customers highlighting the ways automation can be a helpful and welcome disruptor. 

Automation and AI Will Create Opportunities 

While large-scale changes inevitably cause anxiety, they also bring about untold opportunity for professionals and organizations willing to upskill and reskill. Consider this: A report from McKinsey estimated that overall spending on technology will increase by more than 50 percent in the next decade, creating between 20 and 50 million high-paying jobs around the world.

illustration of hand shaking, they are illustrated with computer chip boards on their skin

While there are a lot of variables involved in that forecast, it illustrates the potential for automation – if we can really embrace it, we can create a whole new world of work.

As the Deloitte Center for the Edge wrote: “We have the potential to create significant new value for the enterprise. And paradoxically, these gains will likely come less from all the new technology than from the human workforce you already have today.”