Automation is here, it's happening, and it's already powering transformative disruptions in the global workforce.
According to Mercer's research, 60% of companies are planning to increase their use of automation, which promises to improve the employee experience by removing manual tasks and empowering employees to refocus their efforts on higher-value strategic work.
To successfully implement this technology, HR leaders and executives will need to proactively smooth the transformation by helping employees navigate changes and adapt to new opportunities, with a focus on providing a more engaging employee experience.
Here are some key insights for organizations and their HR leaders to keep in mind when developing strategies for this new era of digital transformation.
Are You Ready for Digital Transformation?
The new era of advanced automated job technologies and its possible effects on employment is often presented in the media as a threat to people's jobs, making employees fear that they will be replaced by robots or that their work will become obsolete. More than half of executives believe that automation and AI will replace one in five current jobs, but ultimately, automation is not a job destroyer.
While it may eliminate certain roles, automation is more likely to be a net job creator and a job transformer. In fact, the World Economic Forum anticipates that this new wave of workplace technology will create 58 million new jobs. Digital transformation and automated processes will also present workers with new opportunities to work differently and tackle challenges that require innately human skills, such as creativity, collaboration, service and emotional intelligence.
Despite some fears and challenges, executives are feeling optimistic about how resilient and adaptable their organizations can be in the face of digital transformation. Our research found that four in five executives believe that their company can be a leader in disrupting their industry, and nearly all executives surveyed said they were taking proactive steps to prepare for the future of work.
Do Your Automation Efforts Align With Your Organization's Goals?
Think about your organization's high-level goals for improving the employee experience by implementing new technology. Are you looking to bring efficiency to people's current jobs? Do you want to repurpose roles? Do you need to eliminate or streamline repetitive, manual tasks that distract employees from doing higher-value work? Do you want to use the power of automated processes to free up more of your employees' time and energy, so they can bring emotionally intelligent human insights to a problem?
For example, an HR recruiting firm might use AI technology to listen to phone interviews or evaluate resumes, which could allow recruiters to devote more time to conducting higher-level interviews and building relationships with candidates. Or a manufacturing plant may seek to implement a new automated process that streamlines functions and enables workers to provide higher-level quality assurance support, instead of manual, repetitive tasks.
Another prominent example, which various companies are already implementing, is to use AI chatbots for customer service to respond to high-volume, low-level questions. By helping customers get their easiest questions answered more quickly, automated processes and AI are freeing up the organization's employees to handle more complex, higher-value conversations that require human insight and initiative.
Before you begin any level of implementation, you'll need to take time to examine exactly what your organization's goals are and how automated processes will support them.
Manage Employee Expectations and Improve the Employee Experience
Clear communication will be extremely important to curb fears about job losses and changes. Educate employees about the changes upfront and explain that this is an opportunity to help them do more of what they do best, including adding more value to the bottom line, providing higher value services to the company and potentially developing new career skills.
If you have employees who have worked with a certain spreadsheet or system for many years or served as subject matter experts or process owners for a certain domain of information within the company, they may be resistant if they feel like the new technology puts their roles in jeopardy. Instead, be proactive about showing employees how the new technology is going to make their jobs better by removing manual tasks and providing a more enriching and efficient employee experience.
Companies will need to rely on their talent for their unique human intelligence and insights, and this will require training on new technology, upskilling employees and preparing them for different roles. To keep things running smoothly, you'll need to communicate exactly what the expectations will be for employees and how this will help them succeed alongside the new technology.
Create a Company Culture of Adaptability
Technological change is inevitable. Every era of human endeavor, from the Industrial Revolution to today, has led to transformations in how people add value at work. But this new era is about more than just embracing new technology — it's about driving broader shifts in company culture to provide a more engaging and empowering employee experience.
Companies need to be proactive in providing opportunities for upskilling and education, and HR leaders and executives need to be at the forefront of showing how the technology is creating a more engaging employee experience. Show how automated processes are not "replacing" jobs but are making people's jobs better. Show your employees how the new technology is eliminating repetitive manual tasks and opening up higher-value opportunities for them. Align your culture with the new technology to transform your employee experience and unleash your people's potential to do more of what people do best.