Terry Walby concludes his two-parter on automation .
Building a positive culture of automation
As well as having access to the right specialist technical skills, organisations need to focus on training the broader workforce on automation, to ensure all workers have the skills and competencies to feel comfortable and confident working alongside virtual workers.
And, with automation sometimes an emotive issue, fed by media reports that automation will lead to millions of jobs being replaced over the coming decade, it’s essential that L&D, along with the HR department, provides workers with the reassurance they need and a more rounded view of automation.
The fact is that automation will actually result in people having to do less mundane, process-driven work, and spending more on interesting, subjective and creative-driven tasks. Workers who were initially reticent or resistant to automation, will have completely changed their view once they realise they suddenly have more time to focus on the high-value work they enjoy.
It’s also important to ensure that each business department has its own ‘automation champions’ who can help their peers to get to grips with automation technology and to work effectively alongside virtual workers.
In a world where more and more workplace processes will be automated, the types of work and tasks that are undertaken by human workers will shift significantly over the coming years.
These individuals also have a crucial role to play in identifying a pipeline of processes that can be evaluated for automation on an ongoing basis – after all, it is the people working on the front line within each business unit who are much better placed to identify mundane tasks with high volume which are ripe for automation, rather than senior execs or the automation team.
A new approach to L&D in an automated workplace
Taking a step back from the specifics of implementing automation programmes, there is also a much broader consideration for the L&D function moving forward. In a world where more and more workplace processes will be automated, the types of work and tasks that are undertaken by human workers will shift significantly over the coming years.
That means that people will require different skills and competencies, as well as needing to adapt to new working practices and cultures. Increasingly, businesses will look to automation to handle technical and process-driven tasks, and they’ll look to their people to spend more time on value-add tasks, which require creative and objective thought.
This is surely positive for both business leaders and workers themselves, but organisations need to ensure they invest in their people to make sure they have the right mindset and skills to take on a greater amount of strategic and thought-driven work.
This is arguably the area of automation to which organisations need to give the greatest consideration over the next few years.
Organisations will need to predict the new skills that they will need to develop amongst their workers to maximise competitive advantage in a more automated environment, and to help them shape future-looking HR and L&D plans as part of building a business case for automation.
A golden opportunity for L&D leaders
What’s clear is that HR and L&D is an important part of the automation agenda and they need to fulfil their role in delivering the right cultural shift and skills required for success.
In a fast-changing business environment, where the L&D function has arguably (although understandably) struggled to keep pace and remain relevant within the organisation, automation offers L&D leaders a huge opportunity to re-position themselves as critical, strategic players within commercial and operational discussions at the highest levels of the business.
By ensuring that they themselves have the right level of understanding of automation and recognising it as a positive shift for both the wider business and their own personal development, L&D leaders can claim an important role, championing the skills and people agenda within workplace automation initiatives.