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Throughout history we've always had grand ideas as to what the future will hold. Just look at the classic cartoon "The Jetsons" – flying cars and fully functional robots were commonplace in that world (fun fact: "The Jetsons" is set in 2004!).

While we may not yet have all of the magical inventions popular media has promised us, there have still been impressive innovations in computer technology and automation, and these are changing the way companies operate. As workplace automation becomes more widespread, will your business – and your staff – be affected? Read on to find out.

How common is automation?
Believe it or not, we're already well on our way to a workplace that can be largely automated. The sci-fi staple of machines and robots taking over our jobs may not be so far into the future. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, around 45 percent of the jobs in the U.S. could currently be completely automated given existing technology.

And they're not just talking about construction and manufacturing jobs, either. ATM machines, mobile apps and e-commerce sites have already ingrained themselves into our everyday reality, doing jobs that bank tellers, customer service representatives and sales clerks would have been doing a decade ago.

Cooperation, not competition
But don't go running to your nearest unemployment office just yet. Machines and computer programs may be more prevalent than ever, but that doesn't mean that they're going to wipe out flesh-and-blood employees. In fact, many HR services professionals think that rather than replace traditional workers, automated services will help them do their jobs more efficiently.

One example can be found in the emerging field of analytics. We're in an age where data is incredibly valuable for many businesses. Thanks to connected devices like smartphones and tablets and the development of the Internet of Things, it's now easier to gather usage information than ever before. Programs can determine valuable statistics such as who's buying which products, at what period during the year and even how old they are.

But having information is one thing, using it properly is something totally different. The fact is, for all their computational power, there are still things machines aren't good at, and interpreting large streams of data is one of them. This is where automated machines and their human operators form a match made in heaven. Thanks to technological development, skilled workers have more tools at their disposal to more effectively do their jobs successfully.