Workforce | Skills

New technologies mean job redefinition

The change in technology and business process mean we need to redefine jobs, McKinsey Global Institute, Director and Senior Partner, Dr Jacques Bughin, has told a CEDA audience in Melbourne.

Speaking on technology and the future of work, Dr Bughin said that technology had always killed jobs but that had resulted in new ones. 


“Technology kills jobs: every technology for 150 years has done that and the reason is very simple,” he said. 

“It's a logical reason, you invest in technology because it's a business case…you have to take something to do something different,” he said.

“(But) that means that other jobs will be created and (those are) the new digital jobs and the new non-digital jobs.

“At the end of the day we should not be worried only about what is (currently) existing. 

“It's a process of reinvention, and yes indeed the pressure from the reinvention will be much more challenging than in the past because these technologies are pervasive and are actually going to be in every sector. 

“If you look in the past and if we do simulation calibrate models, we find something very interesting: labour markets are actually quite resilient.

“It's not about no job, it's actually about different types of jobs and…you don't know what you don't know so obviously, we're afraid of the existing job being destroyed.

“But the point is that many types of new jobs would be created.”

Dr Bughin also discussed the importance of managing the change across an organisation.

“Do you…have a HR person working with the manufacturing person or marketing…person to make sure that we can redefine jobs?,” he said.

“What are the skills that we need to have and how quickly can we build these skills for the system to continue to work? 

“That's what I call a management problem. How do you manage the transition more anything else?

“The risk of unemployment comes from mismanagement and from the management of social issues and transition.

“It's about you as managers. It's about you as managers in terms of your social responsibility; it's about you as managers whether you want to basically go for this technology just for efficiency or for a new product innovation that will create jobs; it's about you doing this because you want to export and get more money into Australia; it's about the social security system; it's about the education system that we have, because the education system today is also like in the Stone Age. 

“We start to go to school mandatorily at seven…and then we get a diploma and then we think that a diploma is enough to live and freeride for 20 to 30 years of work. 

“Now obviously, all that has to be challenged. 

“This is a great opportunity for us more (than) anything else, but it's a time of responsible opportunity much more (than) anything else.

Dr Bughin explored how organisations like Amazon have embraced technology such as AI.

“AI will work not only because of software and deep learning but because in parallel…we have major advances in engineering as well in science of mobility, which means that the robots can actually behave like humans,” he said.

“Amazon has invested quite a lot in physical robotics and the business problem in this case is very simple: optimisation of logistics. 

“Logistics…is a very complex problem because you…invest a lot of real estate, it's quite expensive, and most of the time you're going to have to handle many flows of people coming in and out.

“On top of that for Amazon…they have a value proposition; they not only have to make that process right but the click to ship has to be as quick as possible – most of the time, 60 minutes.

“Now if you think about Walmart in the US, the click to ship…is pretty much still two days so 60 minutes…how do we do that? 

“They can do it (with) robots working and interworking with humans and…they can do it in (half the real estate) size.” 

Also participating at the event was:

  • Michael Ilczynski, Managing Director, SEEK Australia & New Zealand
  • Dr Claire Mason, Senior Social Scientist, Data61
  • Jan Owen AM, Chief Executive Officer, Foundation for Young Australians