Robert Rutherford, CEO of QuoStar, discusses the challenges that arise with ongoing advancements in technology and how staff concerns should be addressed and remedied to keep everyone on board.
With the huge leaps made in enterprise technology over the past few years, many businesses are taking full advantage of the innovations presented to them. Automation and AI have been at the forefront of these changes, improving the efficiency and accuracy of traditionally manual processes as well as saving on overheads. However, increased automation may have a knock-on effect with staff as they worry about their future in the company. Managing this challenge should be a priority for any businesses planning on rolling out these new technologies.
Drawing the line
To reassure staff, it is important to provide a clear understanding of the capabilities of AI and automation solutions in the company. For many, the successes of AI and machine learning have led to the impression that these technologies will completely remove the need for human employees. The reality is slightly different however. No matter how efficient a machine will be, there will always be the need for human oversight to ensure that the technology is consistently producing accurate results and meeting expectations.
As such, business leaders need to work closely with the IT team during the rollout of any enhanced automation solution and clearly communicate the impact and scope of the project to the wider team. This will help establish exactly what the technology can and cannot do, alleviating any fears of job losses and reducing any scepticism regarding the new applications. A clear understanding of the new solutions will also be helpful in encouraging staff uptake after launch.
While business leaders can reassure their staff, AI and automation will inevitably have an impact on how companies run. Manual processes have the potential to be entirely replaced by sophisticated programming, which could result in certain employees having their roles and responsibilities reduced. This does not necessarily spell redundancies or job losses, but instead requires companies to rethink how these individuals can continue to support the business.
As automation becomes more and more prevalent, employee job descriptions need to become more fluid. Employers should be reviewing these roles and providing alternative responsibilities to staff whose role will be supported by automated solutions. To start, these employees can be given quality assurance and approval of the automated processes and can help to validate data and work on continuous improvement initiatives.
These employees are also vital in sharing information across the business. Their understanding of certain processes needs to be communicated to new entrants and the rest of the team to keep the business informed on how data is being gathered and processed. This way, the company will be able to return to its manual processes easily upon a system failure.
Moving forward, businesses need to make sure that automated processes and AI applications are an integral part of each employee’s day. All too often, new technology can be ignored in favour of slower and less efficient methods used previously. However, given the huge advantages of AI and automation, companies need to ensure that these processes are evaluated, taken up – where applicable – and become part of their standard practices.
To that end, businesses should be looking to create ‘cyborgs’ in their staff – employees that are fully aware and integrated with the technological processes in place. They will be able to combine the accuracy and speed of AI with their own understanding of the wider business priorities. A cyborg employee is more than just efficient at their role; they have a clear understanding of the technology that is being used as well as its capabilities and limitations. There is therefore a sense of trust between the employee and the machine, leading to less concerns over job protection and greater success for both the employee and the business.
As AI and automation begin to dominate businesses both large and small, companies should be looking to improve how their team interact with any new technology being implemented. Business leaders should therefore be looking to diversify the roles available to staff and encourage trust and engagement with the technology available to them.