Automation in the workplace

Automation in the workplace is transforming the way we communicate and collaborate. How does workplace culture need to change to accommodate it?

CULTURE | 3-MINUTE READ
automation culture - Workplace from Meta

Building a workplace fit for the future is as much about workplace culture change as it is technology. Businesses need to cultivate an environment where humans and machines can work side by side.

As automation simplifies more and more tasks that save time and money, you can embrace it by creating a culture that's flexible and collaborative.

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Positive effects of automation

Positive effects of automation

A variety of benefits stem from workplace automation. These include:

  • Reduction in dull, routine tasks, giving employees space to become more creative

  • Difficult-to-automate jobs growing in number and stature

  • Productivity gains – according to Salesforce, more than 74% of automation users say using automation tools helps them get work done faster

  • The creation of new types of work to meet new and different requirements

Negative effects of automation

Negative effects of automation

  • Workplaces could feel dehumanised, leading to stress and rapid workforce turnover

  • Workers may fear losing their jobs, making them unhappy and less productive

  • Employees who fail to upskill may be left behind

So, what can companies do to help make sure that any impacts of automation are positive for employees and for the organisation?

Six ways to enhance the impact of automation

Six ways to enhance the impact of automation

Automation can speed up tasks, make others more accurate and do a lot of heavy lifting. But organisations need to take steps to make sure that it has a positive impact. Here are some tips.

1. Change the mindset of your workforce

Many people are naturally resistant to change. And many seem fearful that a robot will soon be replacing them. So, how realistic are these fears? A PwC report for the UK government estimates that around 7% of UK jobs are facing a high probability of automation by 2025. But McKinsey says almost every occupation has the potential for partial automation.

And automation won't just affect those at the bottom of the pyramid. McKinsey estimates that "activities consuming more than 20% of a CEO's working time could be automated using current technologies". So buy-in and change will need to come from the top.

Organisations can look at ways to accurately present automation as an opportunity for people to work with machines, not against them. Cultivating a positive mindset around automation is crucial. Especially if your workplace consists of several different generations, each with different expectations and ways of working.

If automation in the workplace can improve mundane tasks like payroll processing or new-starter onboarding it makes sense to do it. This leaves the workforce more time to spend on the work that automation can't do. That requires human judgement, expertise and emotional intelligence.

Ultimately, automation can make work more enjoyable. It takes some of the monotony out of the working day. And it provides a better overall experience for both employees and customers.

2. Move towards more creative thinking

Machines are great at fixing the simple things but they're not so hot at ideas and innovation. For example, standard loan assessments may be automated, freeing up the loan officer to examine edge cases more closely or to spend more time gaining or advising potential customers.

So automation can free up your staff to concentrate on more creative or innovative pursuits. Workforces will have time to do more thinking outside the box and collaborate on exciting projects – not to mention dreaming up new ways to make using artificial intelligence more meaningful.

Automation also isn't yet as good as humans in jobs that involve emotional intelligence, managing people, applying expertise or requiring social interaction. So, automation might help you find more potential leads, but you'll probably still need a skilled salesperson who can read potential buyers and deal with potential objections before they arise in order to close the deal.

The future workplace will be more about working in teams and figuring out opportunities. Exactly the things humans are good at.

3. Embrace the rise of the "liquid workforce"

As more tasks become automated, organisations will need a workforce that's agile and flexible, which might require hiring more contract workers or freelancers. A liquid workforce of people who can rapidly adapt to their environment and stay relevant.

Knowledge gaps can be filled by temporary staff, who then pass on their wisdom and experience to coworkers. Fluid workers can also bring an external perspective and solutions that they've seen work elsewhere.

Agile organisations thrive as they can adapt rapidly to changing circumstances, leaving more staid businesses behind.

Automation in the workplace is also presenting opportunities for people to upskill through videos and webinars and in the metaverse.

4. Encourage diversity

Having a diverse workforce brings different ways of thinking or different life experience to bear on problems, resulting in new ideas and new solutions. Divergent thinking can help open up ideas for new products, new markets, new ways of doing things – particularly where automation allows space to be creative.

Diversity needs to be core to any AI or automation projects too. We've all seen or heard of instances where the models used to train AI systems are too narrow, resulting in skewed results.

5. Build team spirit

In this age of automation, it is no longer necessary for everyone to work in the same office. But it's still important to make employees feel like they belong.

Team spirit is also vital in organisations undergoing change – including the introduction of more automation. It's vital for success that everyone is pulling in the same direction and can see the advantages of the new ways of doing things, rather than resisting change.

Collaboration platforms such as Workplace can empower people across different disciplines and locations to communicate more effectively using online tools, such as video chat and instant messaging.

That way you can deliver team spirit and effective collaboration in two simple steps. Empowering people by providing them with the right tools. And automating the mundane tasks so they spend more time on the jobs they're good at.

6. Keep reinventing yourself

Workers no longer expect to stay in the same position for 10 or 20 years doing largely the same things. Millennials and gen Z, in particular, have a reputation as job-hoppers with millennials staying in a job for an average of just 2.8 years. In such a fast-paced world, businesses and teams have to stay fresh and continually reinvent themselves.

Companies that enable workers to upskill through training, mentoring and on-the-job experience will become increasingly attractive to work for and able to attract the best talent, thereby retaining a competitive advantage.

The c-suite too, will also have to expand their expertise. There's likely to be a wide range of potential opportunities for automation in any business. The real skill will be in understanding those with the best long-term potential and value. The choice won't always be straightforward or easy, with many areas competing for investment. Understanding the issues and the value of automation will be essential to making the right decisions.

This means cultivating a culture of constant learning and role evolution from the bottom to the top of the organisation.

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Keep reading

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