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These jobs are robot-resistant, says Wharton's top professor

Adam Grant
Photo by Jim Bennett
Adam Grant

How will artificial intelligence, automation and robots affect jobs? No one can quite agree — even Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have been debating the issue with each other over social media.

While we wait for the billionaires to figure it out, there are still some skills that are safe, says Adam Grant, Wharton business school's top-ranked professor and adviser to companies like Facebook, Google and Goldman Sachs.

"If you look at trends, it is really clear that there are two kinds of work that are almost impossible to automate, at least right now," Grant says during a panel at OZY Fest in New York City. "One is creative work and the other is care work."

There's been "huge growth in the care sector, not just doctors and nurses, but also personal care givers, people doing high complexity service work," he explains.

In those areas, according to Grant, "we are going to start to see a little bit of backlash," against efficiency being the most important metric. Instead, successful companies will focus on customer experience.

Eventually, he says, "there is going to be an art form around, 'Can you serve other people better than another organization?'"

A current example Grant points to is in the service industry.

"Those of you who are Danny Meyer fans — if you go to Shake Shack or Union Square [Cafe], any of [Union Square Hospitality Group's] restaurants, part of what you are paying for is really high quality human service," he says. "I think that is going to go up."

And Grant believes this a good thing for human employees.

"I think we are going to see more and more of a premium on, 'Are you an organization that puts your employees first?'" says Grant. "[It] is, ironically, the only way to be a customer-first organization."

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