Automation and its impact on the workforce: Results from a survey of 900+ global employers

Automation and its impact on the workforce: Results from a survey of 900+ global employers

The 2017 – 2018 Willis Towers Watson Global Future of Work Survey reveals how employers are moving beyond workplace automation myths as they determine how to manage the many emerging work options, from contingent labor to AI and robotics. It examines not only where breakthroughs are needed but also how to plot a course of action.


The results of this Towers Watson survey suggest employers are unprepared for how automation will change the nature of work, the workforce, and how both are managed: 

  • 27% of respondents say they require fewer employees due to automation today; that jumps to 49% by 2020.
  • Respondents said 83% of work is currently being done by full-time employees. They expect this to drop to 77% by 2020. Work performed by the following categories of talent is expected to rise during that timeframe: Part-timers (7% now, 10% in 2020),  free agents (4% now, 6% by 2020), workers on loan from other organizations (1% today, 2% in 2020), free agents from online talent platforms (.2% now, 1% in 2020). Work performed by consultants and outside agencies is expected remain flat at 4%. 
  • 69% or respondents feel automation and the changing workforce mix will require breakthrough approaches in performance management. Over two-thirds say it will require new organizational structures.
  • More than a third of employers say they are unprepared to deconstruct jobs toward identifying which tasks can be automated.
  • Over half say automation increases workplace flexibility today; 68% say it will do so in 2020.
  • 38% say they are unprepared for the task of re-skilling those who will be effected by automation.
  • 45% say by 2020 they will be redesigning jobs so the can be done by people with higher skills, 42% say they will be doing the same so jobs can be done by people with lower skills.


Their report elaborates on the following suggested course of action:

  • Understand how technology and automation will impact work
  • Define the re-skilling pathways
  • Lead the change to new ways of working

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