New research from specialist recruiter Robert Half and global labour market trends experts Burning Glass indicates that demand for digital automation skills is set to double (+99%) by the end of 2021 compared to pre-pandemic figures. An analysis of nearly 9,000,000 UK job postings has revealed that the number of jobs requiring automation capabilities is on course to reach around 90,000 this year, compared to 39,323 in 2019, with demand rising fastest in non-technical roles such as Management Consultants and Sales Directors.[1]

“With a staggering 86% of high-performing employees saying they feel burnt out at work, its unsurprising that businesses are looking to automation to try and relieve some of the pressure,” said Matt Weston, Managing Director of Robert Half UK. “These findings show that businesses understand they need to find ways to support and supplement their workers by removing more repetitive tasks and freeing them up to focus on more value-add activity. For example, we’re seeing sales directors being tasked with improving efficiency, and turning to automation, including software that auto-fills client contact forms during phone calls or using AI to support with on-the-job training. Across the board, companies need talented people who can help them identify, design and implement automation for their teams.”

Three strategies to help integrate automation into the workforce 

  1. Find the quick wins: Look for opportunities to roll out easy proof of concept (PoC) trials or pilot programmes so that stakeholders across the business can see how such projects can work and learn how to go about introducing automation. PoC trials shouldn’t be hugely ambitious and therefore don’t necessarily require large amounts of technical knowledge to get started.
  2. Do a cost / benefit analysis: For each project, it’s essential for business leaders to understand how implementing an automated solution will affect the team, what the expected benefits are, and how much resources it will require. This helps to create a strategic approach to automation where the highest value opportunities are given priority.
  3. Think about the broader impacts: More broadly, apart from productivity and efficiency considerations, executives should consider conducting an impact analysis of the effects of automation on things like employee happiness, career development, and training and development so that they can anticipate and pre-emptively address these issues.

“As automation becomes more widespread, roles and job functions will change significantly,” continued Weston. “This surge in demand means it’s more important than ever for businesses to invest in life-long learning. It’s estimated that 21m UK workers will need digital upskilling over the next decade and automation needs to be a core element of such educational initiatives. As such, executives should be reviewing their learning and development programmes to make sure they are able to provide the skills most urgently needed. Alongside this, all businesses – especially SMEs – need to be taking advantage of government support to help with digital upskilling such as the Chancellors recent ‘Help to Grow’ scheme that can help shoulder some of the cost of upskilling and retraining.”

[1] Data taken from Burning Glass ‘Labour Insights Portal’ UK 2019 – 2021 between 1st January 2019 and 24th March 2021