Will There Be a Threat From Automation?

How Workflow Solutions Will Change the Future Workplace

Whether fueled by subtle references to SkyNet or inspired by click-bait articles from fear-mongering news organizations, many people have needless worries about the “threat” of automation. Mainly, people want to know if automation is a threat to their jobs. It’s a valid question, but one that comes from a misunderstanding of what automation is the benefits it provides. 

What Is Automation?

When we speak of workplace automation, we’re talking about the ability to use computer programs and machines to carry out repetitive, sometimes dangerous, and time-consuming tasks. It can be as simple as extracting data from a spreadsheet or it could be as complex as making burgers in a restaurant. In either scenario, machines do the heavy lifting and leave employees with more time to focus on high-level outreach, innovation, and customer service.

does automation pose a threat to the service industry?

Why We Need Automation in the Workplace

Repetitive tasks waste an estimated $1.8 trillion each year. How? “Workers spend on average 520 hours a year (over one day of work each week) on mundane tasks that could easily be automated. Based on the average national hourly wage of $25.39, this translates to businesses losing $13,202.88 a year per employee on unproductive tasks.” Those numbers add up. Big time.

Meanwhile, customers’ expectations continue to rise. We live in a world where you can have restaurant meals delivered to your door, pay for purchases with the wave of your phone, and build bridges using a 3-D printer. The more accessible and deliverable a service can be, the greater the chance a business has of success. In the end, automation helps make businesses work faster and deliver on expectations by freeing up employees from mundane tasks.

We Can’t Fight Automation

It would be a mistake to try and go up against automation. Doing so would be the “Kodak” of strategies. You cannot change this rising tide of automation. It’s a powerful force, driving innovation and growth. And it will continue to do so because the market demands it. Automation offers a way for businesses to compete at a level they never thought possible. 

wave of disruption

Think back to the assembly line in the early 1920s. The ability to rapidly build cars and provide new products for consumers helped add jobs while speeding up the manufacturing process. But, it didn’t just provide new products and quick service, it redefined the industry.

The same is true of automation. 

Businesses will continue to turn to technology as a way of staying competitive and fulfilling their customers’ expectations. Meanwhile, they’ll continue to discover new, innovative ways to make that happen. The result is a disruption in the market. If you can adapt, you’ll grow in strides. But if you fight it, you’ll end up struggling to stay afloat.

Are Workers Worried About the Threat of Automation?

The threat of automation can be a scary scenario for many businesses, partially because the news often fails to capture the full picture. This can make many worries that automation might threaten their jobs. But, the reality is much different. In an eye-opening survey titled, American’s Perceptions of the Future of Work, workers were asked about their feelings of automation. 

Of the 1500 workers surveyed, 67% felt that automation can help make them more efficient while only 31% worried that automation would be a threat to their jobs. And over 57% of the workforce have no fear of losing their jobs to automation. Many feel the benefits of automation while at work and site a list of menial tasks that automated processes remove. Tasks like data collection, completing ruinous spreadsheets, and scheduling meetings. 

These stats highlight a far more realistic view showing that employees don’t see automation as a threat to their jobs. Still, there’s one-third of employees out there that do feel as though their jobs are at risk. And it would be a mistake to overlook them, especially when it’s so easy to avoid. 

What Jobs Are Threatened By Automation?

Technology changes the workforce; it doesn’t wipe it out. As David Tobenkin points out that, “Despite the increasing prevalence of automation, only one of 271 occupations categorized by the U.S. Census Bureau has been eliminated by technology—the elevator operator.” So, it would appear that historically speaking, automation isn’t a threat to jobs. Unless…

automation threat to jobs

There are plenty of jobs that expose people to unnecessary risk or jobs where people are simply inefficient. Tasks like data entry, for instance, where human entry errors lead to costly mistakes. Even dangerous tasks like milk tank inspections can be carried out by robots, removing the risk to human life. As the roles shift away from these tasks, employees will have to adapt to new demands. But, employers have both the time and the foresight to start the tradition sooner rather than later. 

And it is in their advantage to do so.

Management’s Role in Reducing the Threat of Automation

We live in a digital age, and any business that fails to understand that will go the way of Kodak. Simply put, automation is here and will only continue to grow. Any business looking to remain competitive will need to adapt automated systems to help them achieve their goals. But, that doesn’t mean that the workplace should abandon its current workforce in exchange for robots. Quite the opposite, actually.

By offboarding the boring, menial tasks to robots, you open up your staff to focus on high-level, complex tasks, tasks robots cannot do. For instance, by collapsing your back office with custom workflow solutions, you have the freedom and the resources to position your staff into customer-facing positions. All that’s needed is to provide those employees with the training they need to succeed in their new roles. 

Sadly, many businesses lack a sound automation strategy. C-level executives sometimes lack the full perspective. They see automation as a tool and want to start plugging it into their business process management every way they can to stay competitive. However, they forget that automating a poorly design workflow doesn’t improve it; it just automates it. 

The Real Threat from Automation

threat from automation

There is no “set-it-and-forget-it” mentality with automation. While automation can help reduce boring, distracting, and time-consuming tasks, like any other tool, it still needs oversight. Robots and programs follow guidelines, faulting programming or a misguided automation strategy can lead to costly mistakes. And as businesses grow, people need to evaluate which systems need to be automated next and which services should be overhauled to remain competitive in the digital era. 

Simply putting automation into place and letting it run without oversight isn’t a solution. Businesses need to use the resources freed up to stay competitive, innovate, and connect with customers on a deeper level. Failing to do this, relying wholeheartedly on automation as a panacea, will give companies a false sense of security.

Worse, it can lead them to lose sight of automation’s real purpose: a tool to improve the customer experience. If your organization is going to get the most out of automation, then it needs a strategy and it needs to know what to expect once automation is in place.

How to Prepare for a Future with Automation

Don’t let a fear of automation distract you from automating your business. And don’t fall into a “set-it-and-forget-it” mindset. Your company can reduce costs while increasing efficiencies with a strategy and the right automated solutions in place.

But automating a business isn’t easy. And without the right experience, efforts to digitize can backfire, potentially ruining your company.

The best way to sidestep these obstacles is to hire a professional automation consultant. By teaming up with an automation specialist, you learn everything you need to start streamlining workflows. And by properly educating your staff with the right guidance, you’ll help put to rest any fears about the threat of automation.

Quandary Consulting Group leverages the power of Quick Base and Workato to help organizations automate their business processes. And with a process adoption rate of 100%, our results speak for themselves. Reduce menial tasks within your organization and put your employees back in front of your customers. For more information on how to effectively automate your business, contact us today.

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