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Automation cuts drudge work and allows human value to shine – report

10 Jan 2020 / employment Print

Automation cuts drudge work and allows human value to shine – report

Critical thinking and people skills are more crucial than ever in the workplace, according to a new Hays Recruitment report on the future of work.

And looming automation will reduce drudge work and allow greater human value to shine.

New realities

But bosses are failing to shift their hiring strategies to take account of the new realities of automation, the report warns.

More than ever, employers need emotional intelligence, effective people managers and sound critical thinking skills when they hire.

Yet, one third of bosses cites skills shortages – not just of technical expertise, but of increasingly important soft skills.

The report also notes that the professions are accelerating their use of artificial intelligence even as employers lack the right skills to make the best use of automation technology.


New candidates should be recruited based on their attitude and willingness to learn rather than simply on their qualifications, skills and experience, the report advises. An open mind-set towards change is essential. it is important to hire for fit rather than simply technical skills, the report says.

The third Hays report in the “What Workers Want” series shows that the accountancy profession has already eradicated certain administrative document processing
tasks, such as reconciling accounts, to focus on higher-value tasks.

Sales and marketing professionals now have access to automated lead generation software that enables them to build on, and exploit, their existing skills more effectively.

Text-mining techniques

Lawyers, meanwhile, use text-mining techniques to read through documents, and in the construction industry, drones are rapidly changing civil engineering and surveying.

Hays Ireland managing director Michael McDonagh (small picture) says that building an open culture that supports the adoption of new technology in the workplace is vital for the successful implementation of automation.

He says that hiring for the right mind-set towards technological change, and having that mind-set present across the business, are both crucial.


This mind-set must build on the right balance between technical and soft skills in the workplace, he says.

“Getting the balance right will enable both employers and employees to reap potential rewards more quickly, including improved productivity, efficiencies, cost savings and increased opportunities to add human value,” McDonagh says in his introduction to the report.

However, the report flags a lack of preparedness, in both organisations and employees, for digital transformation.

Lack of support

Adoption of change is difficult, the report warns, and employers are struggling with a lack of support from current staff.

This is exacerbated by generation and gender divides, which further compounds the situation.

“This should be the time to hire professionals who have the right soft skills and open mind-set needed to make digital transformation a success,” says McDonagh.

Failure to do so risks causing the implementation of automation to falter, he says.

Recruitment channels

Bosses should consider different recruitment channels and techniques to promote their investment in automation, the report says.

The study examines the issues thrown up by a working world short on skills and led by technology.

“To ensure automation is a success, what’s needed is a new balance of soft and technical skills – art versus science – and a culture that is open to change,” the report concludes.

The “What Workers Want” report is based on a survey carried out in spring 2019.


It finds professionals more enthusiastic about technology at work than in their personal lives and an across-the-board view that automation should be embraced.

Workers want to work in an organisation that is investing in technology therefore bosses should promote their digital transformation initiatives and investment in automation to prospective candidates, something which a quarter of employers currently fail to do.

And workplaces should foster a culture of lifelong learning with investment in traditional training formats and more bite-sized resources that facilitate self-learning.


Reverse-mentoring, an approach that enables digital skills transference, is useful to bridge generational divides. Older senior executives lacking technical knowledge can learn from younger, digitally-literate employees.

The technical skills in shortest supply are as follows:

  • Project management,
  • Analytics/data analytics,
  • Change management,
  • Data science,
  • Software development,
  • Risk and compliance,
  • Specialist discipline expertise,
  • Engineering,
  • Product management,
  • Programme management,
  • Transformation/change comms,
  • Blockchain,
  • Business partnering,
  • Robotics.

The 'soft' skills in shortest supply are as follows:

  • Emotional intelligence,
  • People management,
  • Critical thinking,
  • Problem-solving,
  • Communications.
Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland