Think about the technological innovations of the past: the personal computer, the internet, the smartphone. These devices and the technology that underpins them have dramatically altered the operations and structure of the modern workplace in the last few decades. However, instead of taking jobs away from humans, they’ve simply made them easier to perform and, in many instances, created new positions.
Today, as the transformative capabilities of artificial intelligence and the digital workforce have captured the imagination of business leaders everywhere, another organizational change is on the horizon.
While thoughts have generally been fixed on the operational and technological benefits of automation, such as reduced costs, improved customer service and productivity boosts, it’s also important to balance the needs of the human workforce.
But it’s not just a case of addressing those who are directly affected by automation, such as those whose roles and responsibilities are set to change. It’s also important for executives to think carefully about how their teams are structured and prepare their employees for automation at scale.
Here are some tips to successfully change your organization's culture and approach to automation and prepare your human workforce for an exciting future.
According to a Torben Rick study on the barriers to organizational change, 39% of business failures related to organizational change are due to employee resistance. This change can almost always be tied to a failure of communication between leadership and the human workforce.
That means communication is absolutely essential throughout your automation journey. People don’t like ambiguity; they want to understand what’s happening in their workplace and how it impacts their role within it. As such, business leaders planning to implement intelligent automation need to develop a comprehensive strategy of communication to bring employees along with them.
A successful communications strategy can be developed using the five ‘W’s – Who, What, Where, When and Why – and How.
- Go into specific details about what the change will be, articulating this message to all teams implicated in the change.
- Outline when it’ll happen, making the timeline clear and whether you’re going for an incremental approach or a short-term overhaul.
- Why are you bringing a digital workforce into the mix? Make clear the ways in which automation processes (like robotic process automation, for example) serve the overall business strategy and enable your growth plans.
- Consider where the implementation will fall, identifying which areas of the business are going to be affected and involved at each stage of your automation journey.
- Who is going to be involved? Identify the main stakeholders in your automation program and who you need to engage in the conversation.
- Finally, how are you planning to achieve all of this? Will different teams help guide the transformation? Importantly, consider how you’ll identify opportunities and engage your workforce throughout the process.
Once you’ve considered the five ‘W’s and their H-lettered companion, you can use your answers as a guide when communicating with your workforce about the automation process. Take notes and draw up a shareable plan to distribute to the wider organization. This not only helps to prepare your workforce for each upcoming stage also reduces resistance with consistent communications.
To construct this messaging, it’s helpful to engage your communications and/or change management teams. They’ll be able to help you build strong messaging and can help you create a sound structure that governs the frequency of messaging required. Ideas generated from this group could include communications, such as an update in a monthly newsletter or even weekly meetings.
Adapting your company culture
Another important aspect of preparing your workforce for the future is altering your company culture to reflect the changes you plan to make. You should actively cultivate an organizational mindset that sees the benefits of an augmented workforce, conscious of the ways in which digital workers can enhance rather than threaten the abilities of your employees.
When businesses incorporate humans and digital workers into the fabric of their culture, they can create an agile, flexible and collaborative workplace fit for the future. This is reflected in a recent Blue Prism report, which found that 76% of business decision makers are already actively changing company culture to incorporate the digital workforce.
You need to be able to demonstrate that automation essentially acts as an assistant to your employees. You can do this by having members of each team work alongside developers as they deploy the first batch of automations.
Additionally, make sure you consistently champion the power of uniquely human skills. Championing these abilities will mean that your workforce can spend more time being creative and thinking about how best to deploy digital workers themselves.
Set up some sessions to generate ideas about the value this new digital workforce could add to the organization. By getting your employees to embrace an augmented workforce, they’ll recognize the extra time this creates for strategic thinking and meaningful collaboration with co-workers.
Learning and development
Finally, a business-wide talent transformation strategy should be prioritized as an essential part of any automation journey. The development of digital and non-technical soft skills is a necessity for workers whose roles will be augmented by digital workers.
Employees responsible for repetitive tasks or straightforward customer-facing interactions may need to take on new responsibilities as you roll out automation technologies. Consequently, soft skills such as empathy, emotional intelligence, problem-solving and creativity will grow in importance as you progress on your journey.
You can’t teach these skills in a classroom, but with the free time generated by automation, you can strengthen them with the right learning and development planning.
The path to preparing your workforce for the future of work is complex. But with a careful internal communication strategy, time spent fostering a new culture and investment in new skills for your employees, you can keep pace with the rate of change and scale automation across your organization.
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