Two-thirds of business leaders used automation for Covid-19 response — Deloitte

According to the research from Deloitte, 73% of organisations worldwide are now using automation technologies, up from 48% in 2019, as Covid-19 forced a rethink about how business operations are carried out.

Meanwhile, the number of organisations that has deployed automation, such as robotics, machine learning and natural language processing, has tripled over the past two years.

“Automation has been a lifeline for businesses during the pandemic – allowing for rapid increases in processing capacity, new processes to support the response, increasing productivity and accuracy, whilst also improving the experience of customers and employees,” said Justin Watson, partner and leader of Deloitte’s robotic and cognitive automation practice.

“As organisations scrambled to support home working en-masse and provide Covid-secure work sites, automation took the strain to ensure business continuity. For instance, by triaging requests to allow contact centre agents to manage the higher number of calls and emails, or accelerating the validation of loans from financial institutions.

“In the months ahead, investment in automation technologies will continue to flow with the direct aim of bolstering organisational resilience.”

Looking to the future, 93% of business leaders expect to be using robotics in 2023.

Impacts on the workforce

One in 10 employees has already had to retrain as a result of rising automation deployment, while one in four workers (23%) has seen a change in their role.

Going forward, business leaders expect they will have to retrain 34% of their workforce due to changes in roles, and out of those leaders working in organisations that are already retraining their employees, 59% are training in process skills, such as active listening and critical thinking.

Meanwhile, half (51%) are offering retraining in cognitive abilities, such as creativity and problem solving, which suggests a shift away from traditional methods.

However, 58% of organisations have not yet calculated how their workforce’s roles and tasks, and the way tasks are performed, will change.

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Dupe Witherick, senior manager in Deloitte’s robotic and cognitive automation practice, commented: “Leaders must keep in mind that successful automation is not only about new technologies, it’s about people.

“A worrying number of leaders are yet to consider how their workforce will be disrupted as a result of automation. Understanding this will serve two benefits – firstly, to highlight the skills that workers will need to ensure new technologies are rolled-out and managed in an efficient way and secondly, to pave the way to change workers’ perception of automation from a rival to an asset.”

Deloitte surveyed 441 executives from 29 countries: 67% from Europe and Africa, 21% from the Americas and 12% from Asia-Pacific.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.

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