Even the CEO's job is susceptible to automation, McKinsey report says

Almost half of work activities could be automated now, a new report says. And that includes those in the executive suite.


It's not just blue collar jobs that could ultimately get replaced by automation. Numerous activities conducted by senior executives can be automated by adapting current technologies.

Global management consultants McKinsey and Company said in a recent report that many of the tasks that a CEO performs could be taken over by machines.

Big Data

Those redundant tasks include "analyzing reports and data to inform operational decisions; preparing staff assignments; and reviewing status reports," the report says.

This potential for automation in the executive suite is in contrast to "lower-wage occupations such as home health aides, landscapers, and maintenance workers," the report says.

Those jobs aren't as suitable for automation, according to the report. The technology has not advanced enough.

'Creativity' and 'emotion'

Overall, "45% of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology," McKinsey says.

Jobs related to creativity and sensing emotions would be harder to automate, though. But by automating the routine elements of the jobs, time could be freed up to allow workers to spend more time on tasks that require "creativity" and "emotion," the report says.


Interiors design is one example of a job that could benefit from this balance of automation and human interpretation. By automating the taking of measurements, designers can spend more time applying their personal creativity to the designs, for example.

Presumably, it would be the same with the corporate bosses. Let Big Data analyze the reports so the boss has more time to think conceptually—or go mountain biking.

Natural language

One of the current failings of automation, the authors suggest, is that the technology has yet to reach the same "level of human performance" in the case of comprehending normal, spoken language.

"An additional 13% of work activities in the U.S. economy could be automated," if the comprehension issue could be fixed, the report says.

However, "it's no longer the case that only routine, codifiable activities are candidates for automation, and that activities requiring tacit knowledge or experience that is difficult to translate into task specifications are immune to automation," the report says.


In other words, the image of a robot on the automobile production line isn't where automation will stop.

McKinsey uses the example of Amazon's existing warehouse robots, which "plan, navigate, and coordinate" among fellow robots.

For other areas where automation can apply, McKinsey refers to processing paperwork for financial planning, health diagnosis, text-mining to speed up discovery for lawyers, generating leads for sales teams, and the aforementioned analytical roles in management.

Meaningful work

Automation wouldn't necessarily make these jobs irrelevant, it would just create more hours for the worker to do other things that are neglected today.

A shocking statistic uncovered in the report is that only "4% of work activities require creativity at a median human level of performance." Room for improvement?

Lost jobs

The "conventional wisdom" is that it's "low-skill, low-wage" jobs that will be lost to automation, the report says.

But this report indicates that's not entirely going to be the case. It's high-level jobs, too.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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