Workplace automation: why businesses must keep a personal touch

Boston Consulting Group recently estimated that, by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots. Further to this, the Bank of England has estimated that up to 15 million jobs in Britain are at risk of being lost to robots. A study by Capita Resourcing found that businesses believe one in ten job roles will no longer exist by 2025.

It seems there’s a wealth of data telling organisations what is going to happen, but it’s important to keep a level head around the topic. For instance, rather than entire occupations becoming automated in the near future, it’s more likely that certain activities will.

This will lead to business processes being altered and job titles redefined rather than a complete revolution of the workplace. A great example of this is the fact that while there are now driverless cars, ‘carebots’ for the elderly and automated check-outs making their way into daily workplace practices, these still require some form of personal interaction along the line.

HR departments are a great example of teams experiencing a similar turn of events. Tasks such as staff training have become more efficient by using computerised testing programmes and recruitment has been impacted by the rise of social media.

>See also: Are we breeding a generation of workers that act like automated robots?

The key for individuals whose jobs are requiring more interaction with technology is to see the opportunity, rather than the threat. By embracing the concept of automation, and even the use of robotics, for the more transactional tasks, it can actually free up more time for employees to focus on adding real strategic value to the business whilst also improving their own department’s bottom line.

To deal with, and better understand, automation in the workplace, there are three things that I think businesses can do straightaway.

1. Define the difference between relationship-driven activities and those that can benefit from automation

Identifying and acknowledging the differences allows organisations to better understand the current mix they have, and therefore recognise the changes they need to implement.

This can be done by revisiting job descriptions – including analysing the skills required, key responsibilities and day-to-day activities – to establish where jobs could be done more efficiently when enabled by technology.

2. Conduct a ‘talent audit’ to determine where various skills and behaviours add value

With the outcomes from this, organisations can plan how to develop and evolve their employees’ skills to enable the automation of tasks. This should be led by HR teams but needs to be supported by the wider business in order to be done most effectively.

3. Create a team of change-makers

Bring together a group of people from a variety of backgrounds with differing perspectives and experience. Once organisations identified the individuals who can champion the automation process, they can make upskilling them a priority. The group will help attract like-minded digitally savvy workers, as well as driving forward engagement with digital tools.

>See also: How robots will transform your workplace

When undertaking the journey to automation, it is essential to be consistently clear with both current and potential employees that the organisation will remain people-driven.

As the aforementioned research suggests, there are often conceptions around digitally forward companies that new technology will inevitably outpace employees – but this really is not the case.

This is why it’s down to an organisation’s employer brand to emphasise the importance the business places on its talent, and to stay true to it.

Putting out positive messages about how the company has embraced and engaged with digital tools whilst still valuing its people is a great way to convey this, as well as helping to attract the right talent with the coveted digital skills.

But no matter how tech-savvy an organisation’s employees are, there are a number of skills that automation will never be able to replace, such as leadership, social acumen, responsibility and creativity.

Activities such as team idea creation and the streamlining of processes through team deliberation are qualities of the workplace that will always be important and irreplaceable by machines.

That’s why it’s imperative that businesses communicate this to their employees. As long as human interaction is still the core of business, the workplace will be able to grow and benefit from changing technology.


Sourced from Jo Matkin, Capita Resourcing

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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