The robots have arrived, should we run for the hills or welcome them with open arms?
Panic-inducing headlines like “Automation could destroy millions of jobs” which appeared recently in the Guardian, suggest we are entering some kind of automation apocalypse where the skills, jobs, and livelihoods we rely on today are set to disappear. Conversely, last month, Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, claimed the “Jobs threat from automation is overdone” as replacing people with machines will not always make sense.
So who are we to believe? And how can we navigate beyond the headlines and be ready to seize the opportunities automation offers?
At Adaptavist, it’s no secret that we are huge fans of automation. It’s a way of life for us, and we use it to help some of the world’s biggest brands transform the way they do business. That’s why, with our recent Future of automation report we set out to understand how people are feeling about automation, and crucially what is standing in the way of them embracing its full potential.
Our research suggests that rather than being feared, people are optimistic about automation, with 95 percent of those surveyed confident it will increase productivity and 78 percent believing that while automation technology will inevitably take some jobs, it is set to create higher value, and more interesting jobs.
The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Future of Jobs Report 2018 also supports this view, with more than a quarter of those surveyed expecting automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise.
So how can leaders take advantage of the opportunities automation offers and use it to make the future of work better for everyone? Here are our top tips on how to start embedding automation into your culture:
Get on board and lead the agenda
When it comes to automation, leaders should focus on creating a positive narrative on the benefits it offers the business and its people. It’s not about how many jobs automation can remove. Instead, leaders need to communicate its potential to augment not replace team capabilities, to reassure and encourage people to get on board with their automation plans.
Successful automation is not just about the technology, scripts, and tools you use. It’s about your people. Tackling people’s unease and fear of the unknown when it comes to any new technology should always be a priority for leaders.
- Talk openly about automation, its potential, and its challenges. Invite ideas on how it could be used to make your business more competitive
- Have a conscious and active strategy for automation - invest time and money to focus on it properly. Identify key people and teams to champion use-cases across your organisation
- Walk the talk - use automation to boost your own efficiency, show people first-hand how it can be used to benefit other areas of the business
Give permission to be creative
85 percent of respondents in our Future of automation report believe that automation will boost creativity and innovation in the workplace. It’s widely known that creativity is not easy to replicate through automation, and according to the WEF Future of Jobs Report 2019, human skills like creativity and original thinking will continue to grow more in demand in the future.
To win with automation, leaders need to nurture people's creativity. Encouraging teams to experiment, build apps and automate tasks. If you give people the time, space, and permission to be creative, and in the words of Adaptavist’s Jamie Echlin ‘solve your own problems first’, they can and will use that knowledge to create even better solutions for customers. Automation is not something that should benefit a chosen few, but should be open to all, without boundaries or barriers.
- Get your time back; it’s yours - look at the tasks that take most time in your day, break these down into parts that could be automated
- Share automation wins - even if use it to solve a small problem, chances are someone else needs a solution to the same problem
- Welcome ideas from across your organisation - boost confidence around automation by encouraging people to give it a go.
Create space for automation to thrive
Creating safe, sandboxed spaces to allow teams to play and experiment will go along way in accelerating your automation efforts. Running regular brainstorming sessions in a non-threatening and inclusive environment will help to make everyone feel involved and encourage people to get creative and experiment with automation.
Innovation through automation is not a one-time event; to be successful you need to make it sustainable, so it becomes an every day activity. Giving people permission-to-fail and supporting them through the journey, will help them adapt quickly and learn from their experiences.
Failure is part of the journey to success. But it's important to create an environment where people feel safe to experiment and take controlled risks ‘the key is to clarify right at the start that this is a learning process for the team or organisation, and not a blame game.” says Adaptavist’s Head of DevOps, Matt Saunders.
- Encourage teams to engage with others on how they are using and taking advantage of automation
- Use optimised environments to develop its potential further (Research and Development labs, Ideation events)
- Start small but keep scale in mind - encourage pockets of automation activity and amplify them
Automation success is not just about using the right software and writing the best scripts, it’s about using technology to empower your people to work better, faster and smarter. So let the robots arrive, safe in the knowledge we have so much more to gain than to fear.