The workplace is changing, faster than ever before, and automation technology rests at the very forefront of these developments.
The past decade has witnessed a steady influx of companies willing to test the waters of this technology—automating preliminary functions like email marketing, candidate screenings, and even their customer relationship management. But all signs point toward a future of work that is only more automated as bot capabilities expand and automation’s market size broadens its horizons.
The pervasiveness of automation has to do with its adaptability; automation isn’t exclusive to any single industry, job category, or business size—meaning that it will more than likely have some impact on your own business, as well as your competitors.
That’s why it’s important for you and your organization at large to understand the implications of a highly automated workforce, and how this technology will allow everyone to re-envision the way they work.
But first—what exactly is automation?
As the name suggests, automation is all about leveraging technology to autonomously perform certain tasks, monitor your work processes, and deliver completed goods or services—all without direct human involvement. Particularly when it comes to work that is repeated often, susceptible to human-caused errors or feels menial in nature to your employees, automation provides new avenues for continued improvement. Understanding exactly what automation is and how it works is the first step toward making the best use of its services.
However, you should understand that the word “automation” serves as an umbrella term, or a broader category for a number of different solutions that all automate different aspects of a business in some respect.
One specific deviation is known as Robotic Process Automation, abbreviated to RPA. RPA is a variant of automation technology that enables virtual bots to perform software-based tasks, similar to the way in which you or anyone on your team might work.
These bots, however, have the ability to continue operating at full capacity around the clock and scale with the growing demands of a business. With an increasing number of business operations migrating to digital platforms, RPA supplies organizations with the ability to maximize the potential of the virtual toolbox they’re already using.
Alternatively, technology like Industrial Automation, which prioritizes the physical or mechanical components of automation’s capabilities, has found its way into factories, warehouses, and production lines. On top of potentially reducing overhead costs, standardizing the quality of your product output, and integrating analytics to drive your progress with data, Industrial Automation can promote safer work environments for the people working the floor.
Where you might have once required human labor from start to finish, automated machinery can now tackle those high-risk aspects of your workflow.
A glimpse into the automated workplace
Try picturing what an automated office looks like and you’ll likely find yourself testing the limits of your imagination. Part of what makes automation such a difficult technology to envision is that its role is not exclusive to one type of work. The ways that businesses choose to implement this technology can vary in terms of whatever objectives they believe are in the direst need of improvements.
With being said, there are a few noteworthy patterns or trends that broadly paint a picture of the future of work. Because of the types of responsibilities automation will be able to execute on its own, the workforce as a whole may see a decline in jobs that are centered around menial, iterative tasks. Your employees will, therefore, be able to concentrate their efforts on more stimulating projects.
This is not so much to say that the demand for human labor will decline; instead, the type of jobs and responsibilities that require manual efforts will shift accordingly. Similar to other digital solutions that have been widely adopted into the workplace, automation offers the potential to create more jobs than the ones it has replaced, and investing in the right technology—whether you’re at the helm of a scaling enterprise or an ambitious entrepreneur—has the potential to actually boost the number of people you are able to employ.
Technology that aggregates data will still require a human eye to make sense of these insights and develop a narrative to take to customers. Any tools that are used throughout a company may require a larger training or onboarding team to ensure everyone is making full use of these services.
And as the workforce begins to rely more heavily on technology to accomplish all types of work, businesses will need to devote serious investments toward technical infrastructure, hiring teams who are able to both optimize these tools and keep them operating smoothly.
Automation’s impact on employees
Now that we’ve looked at automation’s influence on employers and their workspaces, let’s examine how employees can brace for the automation wave and set themselves apart from others on the job market. Largely, this begins with reskilling and retraining your approach to work.
Unless you are responsible for engineering or repairing your company’s IT infrastructure, there’s a good chance that you won’t need a comprehensive understanding of how to develop and build these tools on your own.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to grasp these tools at a base-level and operate them as an end-user. Make an effort to hone your digital proficiencies by attending training sessions that your employer is hosting, signing up for a free (and reputable) online class, or visiting knowledge bases online.
Automated workplaces will also give preference to the employees whose strengths are unable to be replicated by software bots—that is, the soft skills that may not directly contribute to your everyday work but are instrumental in your overall performance at work. By sharpening your ability to lead others, communicate transparently, present in public gatherings, and manage your time to hit deadlines, you will develop a humanized skill set that robots and software will never be able to fully imitate.
Finally, those who are able to exude flexibility and adaptability in the face of changes and challenges at work will prove to be the most valuable assets in a workplace landscape that is only projected to transform more rapidly.
Embracing these changes, understanding their impact, and using them to your full advantage will be the best way for employees and employers alike to stand out against the rest. How have you personally experienced automation at work?
In what ways is it being used, and how has it changed the type of work you do? Start a conversation in the comments section below, and be sure to read our other suggestions for the best AI tools and robotics in the workplace.