McDonald’s has a pair of new recruiters: Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
Yes, the fast-food chain is now accepting job applications via digital assistant. It starts off when you turn to your device and yell: “[Alexa or Google], help me get a job at McDonald’s.” Then the app will ask for personal data (such as your location); at the end of the process, it will send you a text with a link to the company’s job board, so you can formally apply.
In other words, we’re not quite at the point where a machine-learning algorithm can find you a job purely based on your voice commands, but if recent history has proven anything, it’s that these kinds of platforms become more sophisticated as time goes by. Today, McDonald’s is using Alexa and Google Assistant as a channel to get people to apply for a job online; within a few years, it’s not out of the question that a digital assistant could even interview candidates.
According to USA Today, the McDonald’s app even makes a lame joke:“You might not know a job at McDonald’s can lead you into technology, but 300,422 former crew members have become IT professionals. Ever notice that 0’s and 1’s look like burgers and fries?” Gosh, the marketing department must have worked long and hard on that one!
If you’re hearing a faint screaming at this moment, it’s a nearby recruiter upset at the prospect of automation stripping away their job.
But as The Verge helpfully points out, McDonald’s has been pushing aggressively into different technology spheres over the past few years, including drone delivery, an Uber Eats partnership, self-order kiosks, and even automated drive-throughs (yes, we know that it’s technically “drive-thru”; no, we don’t care). “McD Tech Labs,” an internal incubator, is reportedly on the hunt for data scientists and software engineers, although it’s likely you can’t land one of those jobs by yelling at your Alexa device.
Nor is McDonald’s the only food company embracing automation. Earlier this year, PepsiCo declared that it would lay off a sizable number of employees as part of “relentlessly automating and merging the best of our optimized business models” (in the words of CEO Ramon Laguarta).
Late last year, a report by the World Economic Forum predicted that machines will take over more than half of the world’s current workplace functions by 2025; however, many employees at risk of losing their jobs to automation will end up retrained. “While nearly 50 percent of all companies expect their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 as a result of automation,” the World Economic Forum added in a note accompanying its data, “almost 40 percent expect to extend their workforce generally and more than a quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprise.”
A report by analyst firm Forrester also suggested that automation could kill some 10 percent of U.S. jobs this year, while creating the equivalent of 3 percent of the current job stock. Whether or not that prediction comes to pass, it’s worth re-emphasizing how tech companies that build automated platforms haven’t yet figured out how to successfully imitate human “soft skills” such as communication and empathy. Jobs that rely on those kinds of skills—including product and project managers—are potentially at lower risk of being automated out of existence. Maybe.