Helping employees transition to an automated workforce

Lee Schwartz, CEO of EnSight+, outlines how businesses looking to automate can set themselves up for success in order to get buy-in from employees

10Apr

Automation in the workforce is critical for running an efficient business these days. It will not be long before most workers – from welders to mortgage brokers to CEOs – will be working alongside rapidly evolving machines. In fact, one McKinsey report estimates that 30% of tasks in 60% of all industries could be automated.

But many business leaders have not changed the structure of their organizations to excel in this new reality. It might soon be time for you to answer this question: Is your company ready for a more automated workforce?

Is your organization ready?

I've noticed two major signs that an organization is likely ready to integrate automation into its business strategy.

The first is the most obvious: The organization has reached the point where it is repeating the same steps in multiple areas. While that might seem obvious, there is still an interesting dichotomy. While most staff members might find it demoralizing to do the same thing over and over again, they fear that automating those tasks could put them out of a job. Ultimately, the employees keep their repetitive tasks to themselves, and management is not aware of how easily they could gain efficiencies.

The second sign is not so obvious. When a company starts dropping the ball on basic tasks, it might be ready for automation as well. Things that used to be so easy, even second nature, start getting missed. Deadlines are missed, recurring inspection timelines are forgotten and assets start to deteriorate as a result.

Just like TV detectives follow the money, business leaders need to follow the data. Start at its source (the field technicians) and follow it all through to the end (your data warehouse/servers/database). Examine any employee's workday, and you will find opportunities for automation.

Four ways to help staff prepare for automation

Businesses looking to automate need to set themselves up for success in order to get buy-in from employees. I have found that there are a few things business owners and managers can do to make the path smoother:

Overcommunicate with employees

It is vital to communicate what is coming to your workforce. A corporate efficiency initiative that might affect everyone could be unsettling, so it is important to show your staff how their jobs will change – for the better. Maybe staffers will no longer have to deal with mountains of paperwork or track down people just to check a form. Highlight all the benefits of how the company and workers' day-to-day lives will improve.

Learn your team's fears and acknowledge them openly. This is a step that more businesses need to take. In a recent survey of 200 leading company executives undertaken by communications consultancy Duarte, 69% said they were planning or currently launching a major change, but half said they had not completely considered their teams concerns regarding the change. The more informed they are, the more they will be able to deal with anxiety over the changes.

Offer free workforce training

Let your employees know that they can learn a new skill and grow with the organization. This can be a big relief for many because more than half of the employers surveyed in the 2018 Deloitte Human Capital Trends study said they have no programs in place to build the skills of the future. If you can, help your employees move into the future.

A paper-focused organization, for example, could implement best practices in field service software and eliminate all paper work orders. This would, in turn, eliminate the need for office data entry personnel. Now this company could train its data entry people to do quality audit reviews on the data it used to enter. By implementing automation in this manner, a company could increase its visibility into real-time data, increase the accuracy of that data, and keep most or all of its staff employed.

Designate at least one business analyst per process

Business analysts do a great job as automation leaders because they are typically able to clearly document each problem and recommend several possible solutions. Make sure more than one set of eyes is on the solution chosen by the organization. Confirm that your automation tools are customizable so you do not get charged for every change you need to make in order to tailor software to suit your needs.

Ask staffers to document everything they hate doing

Track all mindless and repetitive tasks. If the staff hates doing them, they are a likely target for automation. For example, we had a client whose accountant hated tracking down receipts from field technicians who charged things on a company or personal credit card. By having all those receipts outstanding, the accounting staff could not close the monthly books on time. We implemented a software solution, and the client issued a companywide expense policy banning improperly submitted expenses. Guess how quickly that resolved the problem?

As the number of skills and tasks open to automation continues to grow, business leaders need to stay on top of the trends. When the time comes for your company to add automation, look around at your options and talk with companies that can help. By following the data through the workflow process, you will find an automation solution that can have your business working more efficiently and effectively.

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