5 minute read 26 Sep 2018
Graphic designer video chatting colleague digital tablet office

How skills could be impacted by automation


Vivek Nijhon

EY EMEIA Intelligent Automation Leader

Reinforcing and enhancing the skills needed to provide intelligent automation to clients.

5 minute read 26 Sep 2018

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Organizations must consider how they'll develop their people's skills and create an environment where they can work effectively with robots.

It's estimated that within five years, every job will be touching cognitive solutions in some way. Most organizations are looking at how to be more efficient and cost-effective, and there is currently a trend for removing resources that are performing repetitive tasks offshore, or even onshore, as IA now makes those tasks cheaper and faster to perform and less error-prone than any human.

As a result, we will see strong disruption from technology not only at work (around 30% of the active working population will be affected by automation and the infusion of AI components), but across our daily lives: how we interact with banks, access to entertainment, personalized retail experiences, and usage of transportation are all changing radically.

The impact – women will feel it first

None of this is a surprise, but one aspect might be: according to the World Economic Forum the biggest impact will hit the female working population first, due to the larger numbers of women in clerical positions in different industries.1 What can we do to ensure that women become aware of the threat as well as the opportunities that they may be faced with? And how can we best prepare them?

The answer is upskilling and education. This is why EY is putting in place key diversity and inclusion programs that will include IA enablement and awareness for women in different regions of the globe at all levels.

But, the emerging technology will open up new career opportunities for those who are well versed in it or have the right set of skills and the will to change. As a 2016 White House report states, "Re-training programs… can mitigate the negative impact of increasing automation by preparing displaced workers for other jobs."2

Also, with manual processes automated, the next level of cognitive automation will take over more of the thinking aspects of work – and this means mid-level and higher roles will also be impacted. AI will support and enhance experts and their skillsets, but for the rest of the impacted working population, roughly one in four people will not have adequate skills to work with robots. So organizations need to consider how they will supplement and maintain their employee's skills – and not only to develop such skills, but put the perfect co-working environment in place.

Human-machine interaction

As the appetite for IA is growing, we have seen an increasing demand for creating and developing chatbots (virtual assistants), and this requires some very specific sets of expertise. For example, we might need psychologists to help build and shape the chatbot persona, and user interface designers to make the experience positive and aligned with the business requirements. Or we might use writers to develop the scripting and the exchanges, whether text and voice.

Building a chatbot is one type of cognitive solution, with the detail and depth of interaction depending on the desired level of engagement with the end user.

Depending on the industry, the type of business and the expected value, developing a chatbot requires different types of interaction and design levels. And there is a wide range of use cases for chatbots, whether the interface is via text, speech or both.

For example, a chatbot could help build a relationship and interact with patients in a hospital using voice and potentially facial recognition to better understand their current mood or state of mind. In a bank, it could capture a client's request while validating their past interactions to best target their current needs. For employees in any large organization, it could help guide them through their internal career progression or development path, and share valuable documentations to support their journey.

For every one of these different solutions, the interfaces and interactions, as well as the level of security, will need to be adapted to the context and therefore will demand different skills and competencies.

The skills of the digitalized future

As automation increases there will be call for diverse skills, depending on the type of cognitive engagement needed:

  • New technology-centric skills for the new cognitive and AI platforms.
  • Business and cognitive architects with one foot in the business and the other in technology, to build robust integrations and best understand the requirements and their impact. This requires a great amount of cognitive flexibility.
  • Data scientists and analysts to manage baseline algorithms, and decide how to best harness current and foreseen data that needs to be tapped into.
  • Cybersecurity specialists and architects will also be a major set of skills that will be required even more than currently, to safely provide solutions and applications in a global and cloud-based environment.
  • UX design is in demand and on the rise, especially when it comes to building mobile applications.
  • Psychologists or social behaviorists may become essential to frame people's behavior against the IA solutions being developed, and how those solutions should evolve in a rapidly changing environment.

According to the World Economic Forum, "Two job types stand out. The first is data analysts, which companies expect will help them make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by technological disruptions. The second type is specialized sales representatives, as practically every industry will need to become skilled in commercializing and explaining their offerings to business or government clients and consumers."3

Without these skillsets, IA implementations and integrations within the organization's existing infrastructure and business framework will likely fail. For this reason, building and training people to populate and govern an IA Center of Excellence is both a requirement and an advantage, as it helps the organization understand what skills they have in-house and how best to prepare for future developments.

Organizations should ask themselves, are their people ready and prepared for the changes that are coming?

Moving forward

Automation transformations and implementations are best handled through proper change management and communication that puts organizations' and individuals' best interests at the heart of the changes that will occur, while also raising awareness.

This shift in skills will of course demand a completely different hiring process for each set, and existing skills will need to be updated and adapted as automation changes the nature of most roles.


When embracing IA, businesses needs to take into consideration the impact it may incur on the organization as a whole and how best to tackle the related changes on its workforce.

About this article


Vivek Nijhon

EY EMEIA Intelligent Automation Leader

Reinforcing and enhancing the skills needed to provide intelligent automation to clients.