Advances in technologies like sensors, scanners, and artificial intelligence are creating entirely different ways to get work done; upending the way we think about how people and machines can complement and substitute for one another.

These same technologies also enable companies to find and access talent almost anywhere, creating job opportunities in some markets and eliminating them in others. Sites like Upwork and Savio, a talent marketplace specifically for market research, provide companies with the ability to source talent only when they need it, increasing the use of alternative work arrangements including self-employment models such as consulting and ‘gig’ work.   

For the market research industry, these same technologies are changing the way we work. Everything from data collection and analysis to even interpretation can now be either partially or fully automated allowing both providers and users to work more efficiently and enabling research to be conducted more quickly, cheaply and -- with the right safeguards in place -- more effectively. At the same time, these technologies potentially could free up market research professionals to spend more of our time in value-added interpretation as well as guiding more in-depth or creative analytics than typically would have been possible in the past with the potential to deliver more valuable insights.  

Many companies see these changes as an opportunity to reduce their balance sheet while simultaneously improving how, where, and when they source talent. But what do workers themselves think about these changes? Do they see automation as creating more opportunities or are they worried that their jobs and incomes will become obsolete? Is there greater openness to these changes among younger workers? Are concerns the same for market researchers as for workers from other industries?

To answer these questions, Deloitte and Research Now SSI surveyed over 5,000 US workers across the top ten employment sectors[1]. With support from the Insights Association, we also surveyed their membership roster to determine whether market researchers have similar perceptions of automation as workers from other industries.  

Here are the top three things workers said about the impact of automation on their jobs and what job features they need to be satisfied.

  1. US workers see both pros and cons of automation on their jobs.

Most of the US workers surveyed believe automation will increase both the productivity and safety of their work and will decrease the amount of time they spend on routine tasks. These benefits were reported across all demographics and industry segments indicating that workers share similar optimism about how automation will impact their work.   

At the same time, however, nearly half also believe that automation will decrease the overall number of jobs while increasing skill shortages for many technology jobs. Nearly four in ten surveyed think automation will increase ethical issues and decrease job satisfaction. Among market researchers these concerns are even greater, with nearly 6 in 10 anticipating these negative effects of automation.

  1. Most workers think automation will increase their need for future training but do not believe this training is readily available.

Most workers surveyed (52%) say that use of automation will require them to gain new training and education in the future.  And this belief is even greater among market researchers with over 60% saying they will require new skills in the future.  For market researchers, this may stem in part from the increased use of data from IoT/sensor-based products, location-based surveys and passive collection which will require different skills than those typically held by traditional market researchers.

At the same time, workers cite costs and time as barriers to upgrading their skills. Equally noteworthy, nearly seven in ten workers think companies should provide the needed education and training opportunities. Given the rise of alternative, off-balance sheet work arrangements and the corresponding reduction in access to company-sponsored training and education, workers perceive that barriers to acquiring training in new skills are likely to increase in the future. 

  1. Although flexibility is good, predictable income and company benefits are what workers want to be satisfied with their job.

For workers in nearly every industry, four of the top five drivers of job satisfaction are traditional, full-time, employment features including job security, health benefits, paid time off, and predictable income. In fact, the only job feature ranked among the top five which could be considered a benefit of self-employment or alternative work arrangements was flexibility in schedule, time and location of work.      

The ranking of these top drivers is surprisingly similar across all demographics and do NOT differ by age, gender, education, income or their combination.  In fact, contrary to suggestions that younger workers   care more about flexibility than income, our results show that job security and health benefits are the most important drivers of job satisfaction among Gen Y and Z and similar are to older generations. 

Our findings do however suggest that members of the Insights Association may have a very different set of priorities than other workers. While traditional features such as job security and paid time off ranked among the top ten drivers, they are not as important to their job satisfaction as they are for workers in other industries. The most important drivers of job satisfaction among Insights Association members were features typically thought of as core benefits of the new self-employment and alternative work arrangements including a high degree of autonomy, the ability to control one’s compensation/unlimited earning potential, and flexibility in schedule, time and location of work. These service-oriented features were also highly ranked among workers in healthcare, education and science indicating that intrinsic or altruistic benefits are driving factors of job satisfaction for many workers.  

What this means to you… The importance of making an impact:
Increasingly, mundane and time-consuming routine tasks can be done by technology leaving more time for creative and critical thinking to workers. This change in the division of labor, at least in the short term, creates more opportunities for workers to make an impact and do work that feels more meaningful.  As leaders, especially those of us in market research and other service-oriented industries, it is important to use this opportunity to continually find new ways to challenge our workers—whether that means developing new projects specifically for their talents or encouraging workers to rethink their work and identify ways in which automation can work for them to make more of an impact. It is critical that we make a conscious decision to create a new workplace where people and machine work together and where people are respected for their uniquely human traits and challenged to use those traits to perform at the highest level.

Invest in skill building:  
Our findings clearly show that workers are keen to learn and develop their skills but see costs and time as barriers; again, these findings were particularly true for market researchers.   And these barriers are not unreasonable when one considers the increasing costs of education and reduced support by both government and companies to cover continued education.  

But the same technology that threatens jobs also makes some degree of skills training and knowledge available at the click of a button. This accessibility provides an opportunity for all stakeholders to develop new approaches to supporting workers in developing skills and new expertise through a combination of technology and challenging opportunities. 

Increase diversity and flexibility in what, when and how we work:
The employee/employer relationship is forever altered. In fact, both workers and employers are increasingly exploring the freelancer economy, giving both greater flexibility and diversity in what to do, when and how. Freelance workers can potentially avoid the mental, physical or emotional stress of adjusting to a new work culture or different work timings. The flexibility to balance the workload with other needs along with being able to choose a diverse career path enhances the sense of freedom.

Suggesting that this is not a short-term phenomenon, more than three-fourths of workers surveyed indicated that they expect to work for more than 24 months as freelancers. In addition, across industries, 85% of the US workforce is neutral or feels positive that freelance / contract workers are more satisfied than those who are employed by a company.

Develop passion:
Having a job that enables them to develop and pursue a passion is among the top two factors for workers who freelance and for those who work multiple jobs, a finding consistent across all generations. And it makes sense, as these workers look for employment options that offer something that their desk jobs didn’t, and many jobs are not set up to tap into workers’ passion. But is it  important only for freelancers or workers who work multiple jobs? Probably not. Developing and pursuing passion in their work is important even for full-time employees. Workers are better equipped at work when they combine their work with the enthusiasm to tackle challenges and learn how to achieve more impact in an area that matters to them. It can start as simply as learning an additional skill which isn’t required in their job now but might be beneficial in time, for instance, enrolling in a program to learn more about automation.

The advantages and disadvantages brought about by automation will impact all of us:
It is not just factory workers and unskilled laborers who are likely to see large parts of their current jobs disappear due to advances in technology. Rapidly advancing technologies have the potential to take on tasks and reshape most industries in ways that might have seemed implausible just a few years ago. And it is happening sooner than we think. Technology will also likely eliminate certain aspects of highly skilled positions in white-collar industries including medicine, legal and financial planning. Take for instance the available software that can quickly scan legal briefings and identify documents that have relevant information. Such software is already being used by many companies to reduce billable legal hours. In medicine, robots are already assisting surgeons and radiologists to increase the speed and accuracy of both diagnosis and treatment. Then there is the software that can better predict stock performance than many financial analysts.

We earlier stressed how critical it is for both the employers and workers to identify ways to make automation work for them. While employers need to make a conscious decision to create a workplace where people and machine work together, workers will need to do their part to navigate this changing environment. Workers need to constantly upskill themselves through specific trainings, but also to embrace the need for continuous and wide-ranging learning to be future ready. That means, leaning into the changes in their industry and sector and keeping an open mind; doing so may help to identify opportunities to leverage changing tools and dynamics to create new value, for their employers and themselves. This is at least the first step in helping workers be ready for the “future of work”.

Given the importance of this topic, Deloitte and Research Now SSI are continuing research on the future of work by investigating what workers in other countries think the impact of automation will be on their jobs. These results will soon be released in early 2018 so stay tuned for more. 

About the Deloitte Center for Industry Insights
The Deloitte Center for Industry Insights (the Center) provides premier insights based on primary research on the most prevalent issues facing the consumer business and manufacturing industries to help companies run effectively and achieve superior business results. The Center is associated with the Deloitte US firm’s Consumer & Industrial Products practice, which benefits from the insights of over 12,000 multi-disciplined professionals with a wide array of deep, hands-on industry experience.

This publication contains general information only and Deloitte is not, by means of this publication, rendering accounting, business, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This publication is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, nor should it be used as a basis for any decision or action that may affect your business. Before making any decision or taking any action that may affect your business, you should consult a qualified professional advisor. Deloitte shall not be responsible for any loss sustained by any person who relies on this publication.

About the Center for the Edge
The Deloitte Center for the Edge conducts original research and develops substantive points of view for new corporate growth. The center, anchored in the Silicon Valley with teams in Europe and Australia, helps senior executives make sense of and profit from emerging opportunities on the edge of business and technology. Center leaders believe that what is created on the edge of the competitive landscape—in terms of technology, geography, demographics, markets—inevitably strikes at the very heart of a business. The Center for the Edge’s mission is to identify and explore emerging opportunities related to big shifts that are not yet on the senior management agenda, but ought to be. While Center leaders are focused on long-term trends and opportunities, they are equally focused on implications for near-term action, the day-to-day environment of executives.

About Deloitte
Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see www.deloitte.com/about to learn more about our global network of member firms.

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About Research Now SSI

Research Now SSI is the global leader in digital research data for better insights and business decisions. The company provides world-class research data solutions that enable better results for more than 3,500 market research, consulting, media, healthcare, and corporate clients. Research Now SSI operates globally with locations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, and is recognized as the quality, scale, and customer satisfaction leader in the market research industry. For more information, please go to www.researchnow.com and www.surveysampling.com.

 

[1] Industry segments include Financial Services and Insurance, Durable Goods manufacturing, Construction, Telecommunications, Travel, Hospitality & Leisure, Healthcare and Human services, Retail (distribution and wholesale) Education, State and Local Government, and Science.