Digitization and your workforce

Why technology isn’t going to change your workforce the way you might think – and what you can do about it

In this paper, we explore how digital technology alters the nature of jobs and the shape of corporations rather than simply destroying employment. Although digitization hollows out a core of easily automated jobs and middle management posts, it also creates new business models that shift employment, creating new roles and opportunities. 

Destroying jobs?

Throughout history, people have lost their jobs to machines. First the manual, then the clerical and now – it is feared – the intellectual and conceptual.

Futurists including Ray Kurzweil, now a director of engineering at Google, talk of the “singularity”, when machine intelligence surpasses the power of human cognition. It’s often predicted that this will mean the death of work, the death of companies, or perhaps both. But whether or not we ever reach the singularity, the reality of digitization’s impact on work will be more nuanced than sci-fi predictions suggest.

In their influential 2013 study, authors Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne found that 47 per cent of total US employment was at risk of being computerized within the next few years. The European Bruegel thinktank mapped Frey and Osborne’s data onto EU countries, finding that as many of 60 per cent of all jobs are at risk, with wealthier EU countries more insulated from the phenomenon than their neighbors.

The US study suggests that computerization’s effects will spread to encompass service occupations as well as transportation, logistics, office and administrative support. And it supports the idea the more educated you are, the less likely your job is to be computerized.

Digitization and your workforce

Why technology isn’t going to change your workforce the way you might think – and what you can do about it

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