Communicating Automation: What could you do at work if you had one extra hour to dispose freely?

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It’s a fair assumption that you’ve come across the term automation in your organization, for example when looking increase productivity and streamline operational processes. Automation is often pitched as a new software, such as RPA, or simply as a concept to be invested in under the umbrella term “innovation”.

Automation is perhaps the biggest disruption being implemented in every industry today, and no sector is left unaffected. Organizations as we know them are getting more automated and there are no implications of the innovation pace slowing.

This can of course seem rather abstract in terms of effects on business. So, what is it that organizations are buying when investing in automation? The answer is time. Automation is just reducing the time consumed by human workforces on repetitive work tasks, most often administration. The question therefor is rarely Should we automate? but rather How should we automate?

How do we communicate automation within the organization to employees?

Historically automation has been perceived as terrifying, linked with terms such as mass layoffs, unemployment, and insecurity. There is good reason for this; automation can be frightening at first glance as history shows us that it often lead initially to a reduced work force. While this is still true for some, far from all organizations implementing automation today does so with layoffs as an aim or result.

Alleviating the staff of monotonous administrative work. This in my experience doesn’t lead to redundant staff but rather a staff that now has time to do what they were hired to do. Since the aim rarely is layoffs and automation is more often than not helpful to your employees, then why do we so often see resistance to the initiative. The reason is often simple. Resistance likely stem from initial communication about the automation initiative. 

The problem is often that automation is initially communicated as sexy technology, reducing FTE’s, “Large Scale”, the “New Thing”, Robots, AI, and so on. This way of introducing and communicating automation to your team is both intangible and unrelatable.

This kind of communication, although often appealing to senior management looking to improve business and reduce costs, is more likely to create misunderstandings and resistance with employees. And you want your team to work with the automation initiative, not fear it.

How to successfully pitch automation in your organization

Automation is time for doing the qualified work you and your team was hired to do.

When communicating automation, we want to focus on what the actual effect is. You aren’t implementing new tech without a purpose, you are implementing tech which allow your workforce to do what they were hired to do, to pursue what they’re passionate about, and to do less mind numbing repetitive tasks they wish they didn’t have to do.

How big is your backlog on administrative work during peak season? How often do you put aside side projects that you are passionate about in favor of administration? How often do you feel that the administrative tasks inhibit you from doing what your job description say should be doing? Automation can be described as buying time for everyone on your team; something to alleviate you of repetitive and time-consuming tasks.

In conclusion I believe what is the key take-away we want employees to think of when hearing the term “automation” It’s simply “Time”. Time for you and your team to do other things than administrative work, to participate or lead projects, for engaging in creative and strategic work.

When we communicate a new concept in our organization we should focus on the tangible, the relatable, and applicable aspects of everyday operations, rather than its intangible future output from a corporate governance perspective.

 

Max Thörn is a management consultant and business analys at FiloProcess, an independent Swedish consultancy firm passionate about realizing the value of product information.