4 Surprising Jobs at Risk of Automation

Young happy secretary talking on the phone.

Automation has loomed on the horizon as a threat for a while, particularly when it comes to jobs involving manual labor. Already, we’ve started to see a concrete impact. Self-serve kiosks implemented at many retail stores and restaurants have already begun to replace cashiers, while smarter manufacturing equipment displaces folks who have traditionally worked the assembly line. And still, technologies like self-driving cars and warehouse robots threaten to replace even more workers.

But while the idea of tech replacing lower-skilled and manual jobs is nothing new — switchboard operators and bowling alley pinsetters, for example, became obsolete decades ago — the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence is beginning to encroach on traditional white-collar, middle-class jobs, something we can see reflected by stagnating wage growth in Glassdoor’s Local Pay Reports.

“White collar jobs are not immune to these trends,” says Glassdoor Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain. “The growing suite of workplace productivity apps and automated surveying tools are helping [transform] work in a vast array of skilled professional jobs.”

You may have not thought of the six roles below as ones that would be likely candidates for automation — but with technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, it’s becoming more likely by the day.

1. Operations Analyst

Operation Analysts gather data on and analyze the inner workings of a business in order to discover where processes might be improved or simplified, then take steps to enact those changes. But this is one position that is “facing pressure from growing software and automation,” Chamberlain says. “Employers today are relying more on apps, software and self-service web portals for many of the routine tasks traditionally done” by Operations Analysts, which may be why the year-over-year pay for Operations Analysts declined by three percent in July 2017.

2. Loan Officer

Traditionally, people have turned to Loan Officers to help them demystify the application process, requirements, and terms and conditions behind loans, ultimately relying on their expertise to decide which option is right for them. But with an increasing amount of financial education sites, apps, and platforms available to the masses, more people are starting to turn to their computers and smartphones without having to set foot in a bank or any other financial institution, putting these positions at risk. The result? Loan Officers saw a -1.3 percent decrease in year-over-year median base pay last month.

3. Office Manager

Responsible for ensuring that their offices run smoothly on a day-to-day basis, Office Managers handle a number of administrative tasks like scheduling meetings, coordinating shipments, and answering phones. However, with the rise of scheduling tools, logistics platforms, and automated answering services, among others, many of Office Manager’s daily tasks are being outsourced to machines. Perhaps because of this, Office Managers year-over-year median base pay decreased by .5 percent in July.

4. Retail Buyer

Retail Buyers — the employees who determine which items to stock at their store, and for what price — “were once a relatively stable middle-class retail role,” says Chamberlain. (Die-hard Friends fanatics may remember main character Rachel Green’s role as a Retail Buyer for Bloomingdale’s.) However, “weak pay growth [-.5 percent] in July likely reflects broader weakness in the brick-and-mortar retail sector, as growing use of machine learning and inventory automation are reducing the need for manually curated product offerings,” he continues.

While these jobs are at risk for automation, the good news is that they haven’t been completely replaced yet — which means today’s employees still have the chance to make themselves irreplaceable in their employer’s eyes. The key to doing that? “Workers increasingly need to build skills that are complementary to technology — learning to run the machine, not doing the same work the machine automates,” Chamberlain says. “As technology changes the landscape of work, workers will need to cultivate ongoing training, actively carving out time to re-sharpen skills on a permanent basis. Thus move toward ongoing ‘re-skilling’ will take a big change in perspective for most white-collar workers.”


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