Augmenting Your Workforce — Automation and Humans Working Together for the Better
No, automation and artificial intelligence isn’t replacing jobs, it’s augmenting your workforce to make their work more valuable and fulfilling.
Augmenting Your Workforce — Automation and Humans Working Together for the Better
I’ve long been a believer in the concept of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) augmenting the human workforce, so employees can focus on more high-value, complex tasks and projects. If you’ve been following my recent blog posts, you’ve seen this concept mentioned a few times. Today, I want to explore this concept in greater depth and discuss the research and real-life outcomes around automation’s potential of augmenting your employees’ work for the better.
Putting the stigma to rest
As automation becomes a household concept, from robotics to artificial intelligence, more hype has been created around both its benefits and concerns. One concern prevalent in debates in the media and from top tech masterminds (like Elon Musk and Bill Gates) is the idea that AI is “coming to take jobs away”. However, current research and implementation outcomes have proven the opposite. Top research firms like McKinsey and PwC, as reported by Automation Anywhere, purport that “automation will likely replace 58% of work activities and 30% of tasks, but only 5% of jobs in their entirety”.
Let’s not dwell on this panic or try to explain why so many have these unfounded concerns (blame science-fiction films and novels over the past hundred years, for instance). Instead, I want to share with you the theoretical and practical evidence that proves otherwise and talk about the benefits automation and AI can bring to your organization’s workforce.
What makes work valuable and fulfilling?
Before we dive head-first into the data and practical applications for augmenting your workforce with automation and AI, we need to identify what makes work valuable and fulfilling.
What makes an employee’s work valuable is when the work best leverages their unique skills, talents, and creativity. To explain further, I’d like to share my personal story:
In my personal hiring practices, I’ve always prioritized hiring highly creative, clever and motivated employees. But, despite their most valuable assets being their problem-solving skills, artistic instincts and compelling personalities, they were spending much of their time on mundane tasks like data entry and updating documents or reports. It pained me to see their talents going to waste and so much of their time being sucked into tasks that didn’t require any of their special skills (what I hired them for in the first place).
Automating mundane tasks for my employees allows them to truly shine in their respective, specialized abilities by eliminating the repetitive, daily, time-consuming tasks they had to fulfill previously. This augmentation of their daily work has not only brought more value to my company by better leveraging their talents and skill but has also made their work more valuable and exciting for them to execute. By heavily reducing humdrum tasks, my employees are more engaged and feel more valued than ever.
It’s been long understood that humans are happiest when they feel a deep sense of meaning in their life. By proxy, they’re happier at work when their jobs are fulfilling. In the book Authentic Happiness, there are five key elements of feeling happy:
1. Positive emotion
Offloading mundane tasks to automation and giving employees’ more opportunities to focus on complex, creative and valuable work, helps achieve these elements, with a specific focus on engagement and relationships.
When workers are doing the tasks they excel at, that they’re excited about, by nature they are more engaged with their work. And, by freeing their time from mundane tasks like data entry, it gives them more opportunity to build stronger relationships with their collaborators and customers. By proxy, achieving higher engagement and deeper relationships brings employees’ more positive emotions, meaning and a greater sense of accomplishment to their daily work. This benefits your business by inspiring employees to be more focused, productive and take more care in their projects and tasks.
What the research says about artificial intelligence and making work more human
As recently reported by Harvard Business Review, “while automation can sometimes substitute for human work, it also more importantly has the potential to create new, more valuable, and more fulfilling roles for humans”. They go on to highlight these benefits in greater detail:
“…we have found that automation often results in higher compensation for workers, with those costs often being offset by greater productivity…By reinventing jobs to optimize work between humans and automation, organizations can attract a larger and more qualified applicant pool and achieve better retention, greater safety and increased diversity.”
– Ravin Jesuthasan and John Boudreau of Harvard Business Review
To better understand these outcomes, check out the case study included in the article. In it, they site a work reinvention on an oil and gas rig where:
- “optimizing the core drilling performance produced a 45% increase in profitability and a significant reduction in performance variance between rigs”
- “acquiring and training workers with [relevant] skills required increase[ed] pay levels between 7% and 15%”
- “The applicant and worker pool now included more women, and those with more diverse family situations who possessed the cognitive skills required to perform this reinvented work.”
The Automation Anywhere report I cited above, Making Work Human: 5 Challenges, “Just 38% of workers we surveyed currently use automation technology to perform some of the tasks in their role. Importantly, workers across all regions believe that opportunities to work with AI [artificial intelligence] and automation technologies such as RPA [robotic process automation] will increase their productivity”.
Co-bots, not robots
An automation benchmark study published this year (2019) by Forbes in collaboration with Kofax echoes these sentiments. Chief Automation Officer at Dentsu Aegis, Max Cheprasov, is quoted in the report saying, “We shouldn’t call them [cognitive AI agents] robots. We should call them co-bots — because what they’re really doing is collaborating with humans. They cannot do anything without human input and participation.”
The same study reports that companies that have implemented RPA to automate processes are seeing twenty-five-percent or more improvements in employee satisfaction, efficiency and customer retention. In the conclusion of the report, the authors note that, “Executives have overwhelmingly voted in favor of intelligent automation solutions. They check every box — time savings, collaboration, cost savings, employee satisfaction, customer experience, competitive advantage and increased revenue.”
Helping your workforce embrace automation
Once you’ve made the decision to implement automation in your organization, I recommend reading my blog series on the different types of automation, approaches and use cases to help you get started. The piece I don’t discuss much in that blog is how to have the conversation with your workforce to adjust the culture of your organization to be best positioned for this digital transformation. An article by Business Insider outlines four points, in simple terms, to address with your workforce:
1. Ensure your workforce, from top to bottom, understands how automation will augment their work and quell concerns about it replacing them in their jobs
2. Embolden your employees to contribute to the process by asking them to look for opportunities to automate their own work. Ask them where they “spend a large portion of time with little or no payoff (tracking down status updates, handling customer communications, building reports, sending recurring invoices, etc.)”
3. Find no-code, automation and AI solutions that make automation accessible to all your employees, regardless of technical ability
4. Offer training and educational programs to empower your workers with the new, soft skills that will be critical to their work going forward and give them the confidence they need to excel in this new work environment
Partnering in your AI automation projects
At Social27, we strive to understand your business needs and jointly develop the right AI automation strategy with the help of a step-by-step framework and best practices from across the industry. Subsequently, our automation products and solutions can enable rapid deployment and value realization.
Please visit social27.com for more information. We would appreciate the opportunity to partner in your intelligent automation journey.
Social27 is an AI powered Automation, Augmentation and Analytics platform. Social27 Playlists empower B2B marketers to deliver a personalized and ‘binge-worthy’ content experience in real-time. Our AI Assistant identifies buyer intent, qualifies leads, and schedules meetings; accelerating sales and revenue growth. Social27 Deal Room automates all the repetitive and time-consuming processes in the deal workflow, keeping all calls, contracts, and compliance in one place. And finally, the Partner Ecosystem Accelerator enables velocity across your ecosystem by enabling a #NoFriction customer journey.