Automation has become a controversial topic in business and human resource management. There’s a disconnect between organizations that see the cost-saving and productivity-enhancing benefits of automation and the employees who fear their job security is at risk. In light of the massive layoffs following the global pandemic, that fear isn’t unsubstantiated.
Yet, automation can actually improve employee engagement and enhance their work experience. Here are some compelling benefits of automation to communicate with employees to help eliminate fear about the future.
Reduces Frustrating, Repetitive Tasks
In essence, automation is designed to take over repetitive tasks in the workplace. It’s this point that creates concern for employees who fear the removal of those tasks puts their job security at risk. When asked, “what are the benefits of robotic process automation?” the focus shouldn’t be on the fact that tasks are getting automated but on the nature of those tasks.
Automation removes the repetitive, tedious tasks that many employees find frustrating, like running reports or creating email chains with status updates. By reducing these tasks, it creates an opportunity for employees to upskill and find more purpose in their work.
According to research conducted by Mckinsey and Company, COVID-19 has forced many employees to re-evaluate their purpose as it relates to the bigger picture. Many found out that their sense of job security was a myth, while others saw the ugly side of business management. The purpose was always an integral component in employee engagement but said employees are now more aware of this need.
Eliminating those simple tasks can help employees find better alignment with the overall company culture and mission. Eliminating tedious and frustrating tasks to create opportunities for more meaningful projects is an essential first step in improving employee engagement through automation— and getting buy-in during change management.
Helps Employees Find Flow
“Flow” is a concept within positive psychology in which a person reaches a level of absorption and engagement that overrides time and environmental factors. In essence, it’s the science behind time flying when you’re having fun, or in this case, time flies when you’re engaged in your work.
According to Dr. Laurie Santos— Yale’s psychology professor specializing in the Science of Happiness and Well-Being— flow is about finding a balance between being challenged and being capable. In other words, you won’t find flow watching Netflix, as your strengths aren’t sufficiently challenged.
Removing those arduous tasks with automation, and replacing them with more challenging work, will help enhance employee engagement and productivity by making flow possible.
Enhances the Hiring and Onboarding Process
One of the most significant impacts of automation in HR is during the hiring and onboarding process. The implementation of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and centralized onboarding software has reduced redundancies and delays, streamlining the hiring process. With these improvements, top talent is less likely to accept an offer from a rival business while HR is busy manually screening candidates.
Another integral aspect of automation in the hiring process is the removal of unconscious biases. Automated onboarding systems focus on data metrics; they aren’t influenced by unconscious perceptions about ethnicity or gender when reading a name. Using these tools can help level the playing field in hiring practices, and research shows a positive correlation between workplace diversity and inclusion practices and employee engagement.
Forces Evolution in Leadership Practices
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of automation as it pertains to employee engagement is how it’s forcing leaders to evolve. Data-driven decision-making and task automation are also improving efficiency at management and executive levels.
Automation is also helping mitigate decision fatigue, ensuring leadership is making the best possible decision for the organization’s future without influence from environmental or internal factors. As a result, leaders have more time to lead— and employees expect them to.
In these ways, automation is revolutionizing employee engagement. HR professionals and leaders must position these changes in a positive light to get employee buy-in for the journey ahead.