Covid-19 and efforts to eradicate it will have a lasting impact on both employers and employees worldwide. As the U.S. and other countries recover, it’s clear that the way we work has changed significantly and permanently. As they struggle with labor shortages, many companies are turning to automation because it’s impossible to hire their way out of the situation. According to Forrester’s Predictions, 2021: “Advances in AI, changes to work patterns, and a fierce global recession have made this drive for automation inevitable — and irreversible.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI), low- and no-code solutions, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and other innovations will mean that the future of work in all industries will involve some levels of automation. As a result, adopting a lifelong learning mindset and embracing new skills will be essential to staying relevant and succeeding in this rapidly automating, AI-driven world.
Although automation will be essential to stay competitive as an employer, some employees may worry about AI’s true purpose. Are employers simply training a robot to replace them? Any tech leader driving an automation initiative must acknowledge this reality and address your employees’ concerns. It starts with a solid foundation of trust. If you want to gain trust as a leader, you must exhibit transparency and consistency in what you say and do. If you get it right, it’s far more likely that employees will get on board with your automation and AI initiatives.
For tech leaders undertaking automation and AI initiatives, three crucial alignments are key factors for success.
1. Organization Preparation
To succeed, many employers will need to lay a foundation to increase employees’ general digital literacy in coping with technological changes and to develop Automation and AI skills. Employees can acquire the skills they need to succeed and grow if you prioritize your education efforts.
Beyond education, employers should also look to instill a positive culture of automation within the workforce. You should actively encourage employees to share their experience on how automation and AI can remove the burden of mundane and laborious parts of their work and create new sources of business value. To build this kind of culture, you must communicate a steady stream of actual examples showing how automation and AI help individuals, teams and the organization be more successful.
In my organization, NuCompass Mobility, we have started a “citizen automation” initiative leveraging a low-code/no-code Microsoft Power Platform. Through training and mentoring, we are empowering business users to build apps and workflows fast and gain insights from data in their daily jobs.
2. Employee Mindset
Trying, learning and, yes, even sometimes failing promotes personal and professional development. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls this having a “growth” mindset (versus a “fixed” one): “The perspective of a fixed mindset is that failure is evidence of a lack of intelligence, while the growth mindset embraces the challenges and setbacks along the way and continues to find a solution.”
Starting with a growth mindset, employees must be ready for reskilling and upskilling, which forms a key enabler for learning the array of new technologies in the workplace and securing their future and relevance.
Employees with automation and AI skills will increase their career posture. A UIPath survey found 44% of surveyed executives believe automation and AI skills can increase employees’ responsibilities, 64% cite that these skills can increase employees’ pay, and 67% say it can give employees more opportunities for career advancement within their organization.
At NuCompass Mobility, we identify early adopters of new skills to ensure different business units have “automation champions.” These automation champions help their peers gain an appreciation for automation technology as well as identify a pipeline of processes that can be evaluated for automation on an ongoing basis.
3. Opportunity Identification
Not all use cases that can be automated are worth automating. Automation of business processes should have a positive impact on your organization that outweighs the resources spent. The processes most likely to benefit from automation are:
• Time-consuming and time-critical tasks with high transaction volumes that hinder human work but do not affect performance.
• Regularly performed repetitive business processes.
• Tasks that are prone to mistakes where eliminating human error will raise the quality of work.
• Disintegrated systems that use the same data.
Organizations must avoid the temptation to say “yes” to every automation project. At NuCompass Mobility, we started with just three projects to learn the process and earn the trust and buy-in of the business communities. Over time, we continue to mature and adjust deployments while gathering insight and sharing positive stories. We want employees to become invested in the journey and comfortable with the idea of automation and working alongside AI.
AI does potentially put low-skilled workers, whose jobs could be easily automated, at risk. Work in the future will be different, requiring new skills and far greater workforce adaptability than we have seen. Leaders in organizations should create a vision for what an “augmented workforce” looks like — and evolve it as employees’ capabilities advance. Training and retraining workers will develop technology to take us beyond AI to the next big revolution.