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Scared a robot may take your job? Here’s why you shouldn’t be

Digital tools and innovative technologies are already having a big impact on the workplace. But how will they shape the future workforce? Lucy Clayton, Head of Business Thought Leadership Marketing at O2, takes a closer look.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re becoming more reliant on technology in the workplace than ever before. Remote working has forced many of us to rely on digital tools (it’s been a truly outstanding year for Zoom), and automation in the workplace is being rolled out faster than ever thought possible.

And as the workplace evolves, we can expect dramatic shifts in the workforce too. Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence point to a future in which people and robots will work collaboratively.

So how can workforces combine the best of digital and human skill, to achieve greater efficiency and customer satisfaction? And should we be concerned about human skill being less in-demand – or simply celebrate the new opportunities technology can afford us?

To help answer these questions, we’ve put together all the insights, expert opinions and stats we could find into one informative paper. Here’s a glimpse into what we found.

An explosion of ‘digital talent’ in the workplace

As we enter an age where ‘digital’ talent can augment human skill, forward-thinking companies are already looking for ways to get the best out of both. Robots are doing the work people typically find repetitive and boring, freeing people to focus on work that’s more creative, meaningful and fulfilling.

For example, manually scanning through massive data sets for errors or actionable insights is both time-consuming and boring. On top of that, with manual data entry, the risk of human error is always present.

A survey of 1400 European executives found that 18% of the work of sifting large datasets for errors or actionable items is done by machines today, but this will rise to 27% by 2023. The use cases include everything from assessing insurance risk, through to disease detection and uncovering fraud.

Meanwhile, as more customers turn to digital channels, digital tools in contact centres have evolved from simple Q&A bots to intelligent assistants that feel almost human. By 2023, research shows that chatbots powered by sophisticated AI engines will resolve more enquiries, faster.

New opportunities for human talent

With digital talent taking on more data analysis, query handling and data entry work, people will be freed to do work that plays to our uniquely human strengths.

But before you can do this, you’ll need to figure out what roles digital talent needs to fill, then build the bots, models, algorithms and datasets to perform these functions. Many organisations are likely doing this already, which would explain why the top three jobs seeing increased demand in 2021 are data scientists, AI and machine learning specialists, and big data specialists.

With digital talent and tools taking on the burden of manual or time-consuming work, your people will also be refocused on the high-value aspects of their work that require human skill.

Celebrating uniquely human strengths

Across nearly every sector, we’re seeing the augmentation of human talent with digital tools. In contact centres, chatbots and virtual assistants are handling routine enquiries and freeing up human agents to focus on more complex or sensitive cases. For example, TSB Smart Agent – a virtual assistant backed up by a team of employees – handled over 40,000 queries that would previously have required a call or a visit to a branch.

Meanwhile, in healthcare, AI tools are taking on the bulk of documentation and freeing up professionals to provide more effective services. With AI scanning medical images for them, medical experts like radiologists have more time to focus on anomalies and define new models that can enhance the patient experience.

What could a human + digital workforce look like for you?

The adoption of digital tools is already well underway; no doubt your team already relies on them to some degree. But as we continue to navigate the fallout of COVID-19, the potential use cases for AI, automation, and other technologies is only set to grow – and with it, the role of ‘digital talent’ in the workforce.

To find out more about this new dynamic workforce, and to see how a mix of machine and human talent can benefit you, dive into our new paper.


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