With thanks to all who participated, here are your responses to my question … How do you feel about IR4.0 (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) and automation?
It’s on your mind
While 30% of respondents reported that they don’t give this much thought, 41% of you selected one of the top two (out of five) ratings to indicate how high it is on your radar.
When I asked how you’re feeling about the impact of automation and IR4.0 on your career to this point in time, just over half the respondents reported that you occasionally think about what you should do to prepare. At one end of the spectrum, 12% of you said you have no concerns. At the other end of the spectrum, 4% of you report significant anxiety on the topic.
The majority of you say it’s already impacted your careers
… and 71% of respondents described the impact as primarily positive. 11%, on the other hand, described the impact as primarily negative.
Technology is simply something that was invented after you were born
What about job loss? 47% of respondents reported that they have seen evidence of administrative job loss due to tech advances. A whopping 91% of you reported having seen evidence of admin. responsibilities changing due to advances in technology.
Almost as many (87%) anticipate that all these tech advances will impact your responsibilities/job description in the next five years. For 81% of respondents, these changes represent time savings and opportunities to expand the scope of your roles.
Alexa’s “creepy laughter”
Independent of this particular Weekend Poll, I’ve heard repeatedly from assistants that they anticipate an ongoing need for the human/soft skills that are inherent in the role. The view is that, while technology may emulate human behaviour, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can’t replace the real thing.
It turns out, however, that technology can mess up its communications just as effectively as we humans. A case in point: cloud-based voice technology, such as Alexa. I know that some of you have one of these units in your home, and love having it (you’ll notice I call the technology “it” rather than “her).
Alexa has in some instances misinterpreted the word “light” for “laugh”
However, just today I’ve seen and read news reports describing “Alexa’s Creepy Laugh – Amazon’s voice assistant is laughing unprompted”. In some instances, this “horrible laughter” has occurred just as people were settling in to sleep in their beds. The cause? Apparently some of the laughter has been prompted by people directing Alexa to turn off the lights. Alexa has in some instances misinterpreted “light” for “laugh” … hence the disturbing sounds emanating from the units. Reports indicate that others have heard laughter coming from their Echo even when nothing’s been said. The explanation for those instances is that the unit is hearing something else, and again interpreting it as an instruction to laugh.
Amazon has come with plans for a fix to the problem. It’s expected to update the service so that Alexa’s laughter will be triggered only by a specific request to do so.
Some pros and cons
I asked readers to ID both positive and negative impacts of IR4.0 on the career. Readers will know that I aim for a focus on the positive, without dismissing challenges. On that front, I’d like to both challenge and encourage any readers who think they’re too old to understand new technology. It’s pragmatic, I think, to anticipate that we may see shifts in the C-Suite, and a single EA supporting more than a single executive.
I’d like to both challenge and encourage any readers who think they’re too old to understand new technology
On the flip side, readers identified a number of positives arising from this particular industrial revolution. Readers recognise that automation has potential to manage routine tasks which will free up time for assistants to focus more of their energies on strategic matters. That should have a positive impact on career satisfaction. Others anticipated that this will afford opportunities to learn new skills, take on new projects, and reduce the need for photocopying and reliance on courier services. One reader identified the potential to work remotely/from home; many organisations are already reassessing their bricks and mortar requirements with this potential in mind. One reader, reflecting that technological advances can enhance an assistant’s productivity, summed it up nicely in saying, “(a) more productive me is a more productive exec”.
Note: Information below reflects the percentage of respondents who selected specific responses from multiple choice options. In instances where more than one person offers similar responses to an open ended question, I typically cluster or paraphrase such responses rather than duplicating all of them.
On a scale of 1 (none) to 5 (it’s high on my radar), how much do you think about IR4.0 & its impact on your career?
- 1 out of 5 (none): 10% of respondents
- 2 out of 5: 20% of respondents
- 3 out of 5: 29% of respondents
- 4 out of 5: 23% of respondents
- 5 out of 5 (it’s very much on my radar): 18% of respondents
On a scale of 1 ( no concerns) to 5 (significant anxiety), how do you feel about IR4.0/automation’s impact on your career to date?
- 1 out of 5 (no concerns): 12% of respondents
- 2 out of 5: 6% of respondents
- 3 out of 5 (I occasionally think about what I should do to prepare): 51% of respondents
- 4 out of 5: 25% of respondents
- 5 out of 5 (significant anxiety): 4% of respondents
- 2% of respondents selected “Other”. One reader commented, “Need to stay on top of the game”.
Have technological advances impacted your job in the past?
- Yes: 72% of respondents
- No: 28% of respondents
If your career has already been impacted by tech advances, how would you describe the impact?
- Primarily positive: 71% of respondents
- Neutral: 18% of respondents
- Primarily negative: 11% of respondents
Have you seen evidence of administrative job loss due to tech advances?
- 51% of respondents: No
- 47% of respondents: Yes
- 2% of respondents selected “Other”. One person noted that there have been “position changes”.
Have you seen evidence of administrative responsibilities changing due to tech advances?
- 91% of respondents: Yes
- 9% of respondents: No
Do you anticipate tech advances will impact your job description/responsibilities in the next five years?
- 87% of respondents: Yes
- 13% of respondents: No
On a scale of 1 ( no concerns) to 5 (significant anxiety), how do you feel about IR4.0/automation’s impact on your career 5 years out?
- 1 out of 5 (no concern): 16% of respondents
- 2 out of 5: 2% of respondents
- 3 out of 5: 49% of respondents
- 4 out of 5: 25% of respondents
- 5 out of 5 (significant anxiety): 8% of respondents
Do you see opportunities to expand the scope of your role by virtue of time savings via automation?
- 81% of respondents: Yes
- 19% of respondents: No
Next, I asked readers to describe any negative career implications you foresee as a result of IR4.0. Here’s what you said.
- Being too old to understand the new technology
- Support staff is supporting two or more C-level execs
- Increased responsibility with less admin support because of apps and other tech
- Lack of training and trying to keep up
- I’ll go with the flow and learn new skills as I need to.
- (I see) most of what I do going away in the next five years, but there is always (balance of text didn’t appear – note that if you more space than the Poll provides, you can always click on the “Leave a comment” icon at the top of the screen)
- not at the moment, I see developments and learn how to work with that
- Self-service removes our support basics of scheduling/Travel arranging
- None now
- Longtime admins who are afraid of change is bad for everyone
- It’s an exiting time and can only be a positive step if we embrace the changes
- No negative impact; AI cannot replace humans’ ability to read emotions
- Job loss and lack of soft skills from automated electronics
- Potentially fewer jobs available in rural areas
Lastly, I asked readers to describe any positive career implications you foresee as a result of IR4.0. Here’s what you said.
- Automation can free up more time for assistants so they can be more strategic
- Better resources
- Chance to learn new skills
- More time to take on other projects
- No need to prep massive paper packages; no need to courier materials
- Will be retiring in less than two years, so no positives for me
- Automated tools which leave time for more content work
- I have more resourses available to guide me and create a more productive image.
- Potential for growth from Support position to Staff role
- None now
- Developing new skills and implementing improvements
- For admins who embrace change, they will lead the way
- Lots of opportunities to improve and enhance the quality and level of service pr(ovided)
- Access to knowledge is faster and more efficient
- Work from home/remotely on vpn; (a) more productive me is a more productive exec