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The Future of Work: Augmentation vs. Automation

The Future of Work: Augmentation vs. Automation

Generative AI, or GenAI, has ushered in revolutionary changes in the workforce. This up-and-coming technology can augment or automate many typical tasks, thereby transforming work dynamics on a grand scale. In the augmentation route, AI technologies can be integrated into specific use cases to empower human employees, enhancing their productivity and efficiency. On the other hand, GenAI could automate processes and potentially even replace humans in specific jobs or roles.

The Augmentation vs. Automation Debate

When implementing AI in a particular setting, a choice must be made between these two routes depending on various factors, including the nature of the job, exact processes & tasks involved, business goals, and available resources. Businesses must weigh the pros and cons of each approach to determine the best course of action for their operations. Augmentation could be a better option for industries such as healthcare and finance, where human intelligence and accountability are essential to providing the best results. However, automation could be a better option for labor-intensive industries such as manufacturing or retail, where repetitive tasks could benefit from streamlined efficiency.

Jobs Better Suited for Augmentation Insurance Underwriter Bioengineers and Biomedical Engineers Mathematicians Database Architects Jobs Better Suited for Automation Credit authorizers Checkers and Clerks Management Analysts Telemarketers

Since augmentation and automation are not mutually exclusive, businesses can combine both approaches to achieve optimal results. By integrating AI technologies to augment employee capabilities, companies can enjoy the best of both worlds: streamlined efficiency and creative human input. For example, a healthcare organization could use AI technology to analyze medical data, but ultimately, medical staff decide on patient treatment plans. In this way, businesses can benefit from the efficiency of automation while maintaining the creativity and human touch of augmentation.

Roles Suitable for Augmentation and Examples

Fields like engineering, marketing, and PR/investor relations stand to gain significantly from GenAI. This technology can generate content, help with brainstorming, and even provide initial drafts for tasks, thereby enabling higher efficiency.  


*Special thanks to Bain’s Gene Rapoport and Richard Lichtenstein for their materials and support in this article.

Engineers often work with complex plans and designs that require high precision. GenAI can help with calculations and analyze data quickly, making predictions and observations that would have taken days for a human being. It can also help with testing, generating simulations to find flaws, and cutting down the development cycle. Some companies currently use a GenAI system to design new catalysts for their refining processes, streamlining the creation cycle and increasing efficiency.

Roles Suitable for Automation and Examples

Roles within accounting, administration, and HR departments are ripe for automation, given the predominance of repetitive tasks in these areas. GenAI can handle tasks like automated report generation and risk assessment. Interestingly, customer service and advertising roles can benefit from augmentation and automation via GenAI.

Automationw_GenAI Figure (1)

*Special thanks to Bain’s Gene Rapoport and Richard Lichtenstein for their materials and support in this article.

HR departments can benefit immensely from automation. HR departments such as recruitment firms increasingly leverage automation in their hiring process. Automating recruitment processes can help save time, reduce errors, and make it easier for HR departments to find and hire qualified candidates from even larger or more diverse profile pools. Additionally, automation can help track employee attendance, onboarding, employee terminations, and payroll.

Automation has become a game-changer within the accounting industry. Since accounting involves repetitive tasks, such as bookkeeping, data entry, and invoice processing, automation can reduce processing times. This enables more capacity for other higher value-add activities, such as strategic financial planning and business partnering. Accounts Payable Automation is one of the most popular automated solutions that target invoice processing, purchase orders, and payments. 

By adopting automation, companies can significantly reduce payment processing time. With automation, accountants can focus more on complex accounting tasks such as auditing, tax compliance, and business strategy.

Workforce Insights to Prepare for the GenAI Revolution

The future impact of GenAI on the workforce remains a subject of speculation. Organizations must analyze their workforce structure and identify core tasks to customize their workforce strategy effectively, especially in the context of growing use cases for GenAI. As GenAI becomes more integrated into the workplace, the long-term effects on the global workforce will depend on how organizations, policymakers, and individuals can strike a delicate balance between utilizing the potential of GenAI and protecting the human workforce.

Companies like Aura provide valuable insights into the workforce to help understand the impact of and harness the full potential of the GenAI revolution. Aura can assess workforce metrics for market leaders, competitors, and new entrants and benchmark your organization against best-in-class GenAI players, enabling a clear direction to achieve your aim. The future of work is here, and a delicate & considered blend of augmentation and automation depending on individual organization context is the way forward.

Concerns Surrounding Automation and Job Displacement

The concern surrounding automation is job displacement, especially in industries dominated by routine tasks. While automation can drastically streamline processes and trim costs, the threat to socioeconomic equity is a significant issue that needs to be addressed.

One significant concern about automation is its differential impact on skilled and unskilled workers. Routine tasks like assembly line work or data entry have become vulnerable to automation. As machines become more sophisticated, they can perform tasks quickly, accurately, and for more extended periods. Therefore, businesses have increasingly turned towards automation to replace manual labor. While some jobs require specialized skills, like programming or maintenance of automated machinery, many merely involve repetitive tasks that can easily be automated. Therefore, there is a risk that automation continues to widen socioeconomic gaps in society, rather than creating opportunities to close them. 

Automation tends to disproportionately impact specific segments of society, potentially leaving behind those already marginalized. The individuals who rely on low-skilled jobs may face even more significant challenges as automation replaces their roles. This could result in reduced wages and a diminished sense of financial security, widening the existing socioeconomic disparities. Through thoughtful planning, collaboration, and a commitment to inclusivity, we can make our way through the tech changes without leaving anyone behind.

Another concern is the speed of automation. With rapid advancements in technology, automation has taken over many jobs in a short amount of time. Employees in some industries worry that automation is progressing so rapidly that it will soon replace most of their global workforce and generate unemployment. An example of this is the contention of AI in the entertainment industry. Such workers fear fewer jobs will be available, and competition for them will intensify. 

While automation does replace many workers, it also creates new job opportunities in fields like robotics programming, system design, and maintenance. By creating jobs in automation development and technology, businesses can improve employment prospects for those affected by job displacement. These emerging fields require technical and critical-thinking workers, making them attractive to those looking to expand their skills.

To address job displacement caused by automation, businesses must invest in employee training and re-skilling programs. These programs help workers learn new skills and acquire new knowledge and abilities that can prepare them for new careers. Governments can also implement policies that support job creation, offer financial aid, and help displaced workers transition to new jobs. By offering comprehensive support, businesses and governments can provide opportunities, leading to better outcomes for those impacted by job displacement.

Concerns Surrounding Automation Job displacement, particularly in industries with repetitive tasks Differential impact on skilled and unskilled workers Rapidly advancing automation gives no chance for workers to upskill Need for investment in employee training and re-skilling programs

It's clear that it's not a matter of choosing between augmentation and automation but instead figuring out the right mix for each business. For some sectors, augmentation can boost productivity and efficiency, while others might benefit more from automation to streamline processes. It's all about addressing individual business needs and striking a balance. What's exciting is how GenAI could redefine how it will work across many fields - from engineering and healthcare to finance and HR. 

In embracing this technology, it’s important to remember the value of human creativity, empathy, and intuition. These are things that simply can't be replaced. Ethical considerations, potential risks, and the fear of job displacement are all real concerns. But with careful planning, accessibility to data, and a commitment to upskilling the workforce, we can navigate these waters successfully.

Make sure to grab a copy of the complete eBook, packed with valuable insights and captivating content shedding light on the use of GenAI.

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