How Can Automation Improve Employee Engagement?
The onset of technology in the workplace environment has received a mixed reaction. Those in management widely hail automation for its productivity-enhancing and cost-saving benefits. Do employees appreciate the automation of their duties?
Many employees apprehensively recoil from automation because they believe or claim that it leads to mass layoffs. Their apprehension is understandable because some industries lay off workers when they automate their processes.
However, contrary to what many think, automation enhances the workplace environment. It also markedly improves employee engagement.
Company leaders have to engage time and resources in educating their employees to appreciate the advantages of automation. The education goes a long way in helping allay their job security fears.
What is Automation?
Task automation uses technology automatically to complete tasks with little human effort. Automation uses machinery and software technology to reduce the human labour to complete specific tasks.
It describes the various systems, tools, and tactics used to automate processes to achieve results faster and efficiently. You might wonder if automation can replace humans and improve employee engagement. Of what benefit is it to both employers and employees? First, let us find out what we mean by employee engagement.
What is Employee Engagement?
Employee engagement refers to the staff’s emotional commitment to an organisation and its goals. The employees strive to and care about their work. They believe in the business and want to see it succeed, as it is a positive part of their life.
When employers take their time to understand and meet some of their employee’s needs, build trust, have honest and meaningful two-way communication, and work together with their employees.
Employees feel part of the team. Their work is not just a daily job they have to go through, but they look forward to working.
Why should employers bother with engaging their employees? Your employees are your brand, marketing team, and clients. Disengaged employees are more likely to complain to those in their company, whether internally or externally.
For certainty, word of mouth, which social media platforms amplify, spreads like wildfire. You want the word spreading about your brand and company to be more positive than negative.
The more your employees engage with your company, the more they perform productively, and you will realise higher sales. Your business becomes more competitive than competitors who do not engage their staff.
A Gallup study reported that firms with high employee engagement significantly outpaced their fellow competitors’ earnings per share. Therefore, in what ways can automation improve employee engagement?
Elimination or Reduction of Repetitive Tasks
One intention of automation is to take over frustrating and repetitive workplace tasks. Employees should not concentrate on the fact that employers are automating their jobs. Instead, they can focus on how automation can reduce tedious and repetitive work and will allow them to perform better in essential areas of their tasks.
With the reduction of monotonous assignments, employees free up energy and time to engage in more meaningful work assignments or projects. These include generating reports, data collection, data entry, sending bulk emails, manual reconciliation of accounts, and other tasks.
Contributes To Flow in the Workplace
The term ‘flow’ refers to the staff’s absorption in their work that they lose track of time and other environmental factors.
A good workflow balances the employees’ satisfaction with performing their work duties and meeting challenges. Watching your favourite series does not achieve flow, as it does not challenge your abilities.
Therefore, removing repetitive and unengaging tasks by automation and replacing these with more stimulating work contributes to employee flow.
We can take the example of a grocery store that has replaced its cash register with a computerised system. The cashier scans the code of the purchased items, and the scanner transfers the product details (code, product name, unit cost) into the cashier’s automated software system. This process reduces the cashier’s workload.
It eliminates the manual recording of goods sold. The only detail they insert is the number of items purchased and the total amount that appears. Both cashier and the client see the exact amount of cash to pay, reducing the loss of giving incorrect change or payment.
The manager or accountant can easily retrieve the information, balance the daily record, and produce automated reconciliations, invoices, and bills. All the grocery staff (employer and employee) appreciate the time spent on routine tasks. The client appreciates the fast customer service and is more likely to return to the store.
Improves the Hiring Process
Before the inception of automation, the Human Resource personnel manually screened the resumes of hundreds of potential employees. There is no small task in a job advertisement that attracts many applicants.
The result? Redundancies and delays in the job hiring process. Top talents often get lost in the selection maze when HR staff do not fully understand the requirements of a technical position.
Introducing a centralised onboarding software and applicant tracking systems streamlines the hiring processes.
Various personnel given restricted access can quickly analyse whether the resumes reject or accept an applicant’s resume. This process allows for quick collaboration between the hiring department, the interviewers, and the HR department.
Automating the hiring processes overcomes the common tendency toward hiring unconscious bias selection.
These automated systems do not ignore ethnicity, age, or gender and instead focus on data metrics and applicants’ suitability. The resulting workplace environment becomes more diverse and inclusive and thus enhances employee engagement.
Improves Leadership Practices
Tasks automation and the subsequent generation of data can aid the decision-making process. It contributes to improved management and executive efficiency.
A company’s leadership has a better platform for making strategic decisions for the organisation’s future. How so?
With the automation of organisational processes, leaders have more time to lead.
The result? Leaders contribute more toward creative ideas, keeping up with new trends that benefit the employees and the company.
Enhances Workplace Collaboration
Automation enhances collaboration between coworkers, departments, and teams. Customer contact centre software, for instance, serves to simplify and streamline business communication and customer interactions.
This way, it becomes easier to connect and figure things out, solve problems, identify redundancies and recurring issues, and ensure general agreement among the staff. An added advantage of automation is that different departments can quickly collaborate on a process.
For instance, if your company is a wholesaler with a warehouse and distribution services. An efficient way to track your inventory is through automating tracking software. Warehouse personnel record ordered items, delivered items, counter-check remaining stock, and upload these into the tracking system.
The accounting staff access this information through the tracking system to write invoices and balance the accounts. Storefront cashiers access the system and enter items the customers buy and the cash spent.
Personnel in the track delivery department input the number of goods they will deliver into the system, counter-checking the order against the delivery documents.
The executive can see the check and retrieve various records from the system. Data that helps them make constructive decisions. Both the employees and management benefit from the automated system.
Enhancement of Remote Working
Although remote work existed before the COVID-19 period, worldwide workers almost instantly had to adjust to working from home and delivering on their assignments. Technology came into aid.
Video conferencing platforms, cloud storage, sharing services, and collaborative platforms enabled some businesses to continue performing. Workers had to use automated services to carry out tasks remotely.
However, we can understand that not all companies could benefit from these online-automated services. Factories came to a standstill, air and ground transport systems came to a halt, and restaurants closed.
What many employees feared most came into effect. Globally staff faced mass layoffs. By July 2020, according to a Bloomberg report, the airlines fired approximately 400,000 airline employees, while some staff members took unpaid leave.
How do remote workers benefit? Because of the automation of some company processes, employees can work and collaborate online while still caring for their families.
In fact, according to a PWC report, 55% of employees preferred to work remotely (at least three days a week). Remote working contributed to a better work-life balance. Their reaction shows a fundamental sign of their appreciation of the automated processes that allowed them to work from home.
Employee Acceptance is Essential
No matter which kind of automation you bring into your company, your processes will slow down and not speed up as planned if your employees resist change.
A case scenario. A few years ago, one remote hospital introduced computerised patient records and a financial system. Management applauded this initiative.
The developers took a couple of weeks to implement the program and train the relevant staff. The funder spent significant money purchasing computers, accessories, training, and installation in different offices.
All elements were ready for performance. However, a couple of days later, the staff stated that the system was not working. It was slowing down the completion of their tasks. Therefore, they returned to manual data collection of patient information and payment.
The funders sent their developer to investigate why the initially functioned system could not operate within the same week. The result? Workers sabotaged the system by, among other factors, partially removing the power cables from the sockets so that it seemed the computers were not working during different shift periods.
What went wrong? The workers felt that most of them would lose their jobs, bringing hardship to their families. The hospital management had a well-throughout plan to deploy some affected staff to boost other areas. They, however, failed to engage the workers and reassure them of their job security.
Lesson learned: Any company wishing to automate its processes must engage its staff. Engage them through meetings, reassurance, and presenting them with a plan to reassign staff to improve the systems. Without taking this necessary step, the automated process might not improve employee engagement but cause more problems to solve.
Once the hospital executives reassured the staff, the patient queues reduced, the revenue increased, doctors saw more patients, and the employees applauded the reduction of manual workload. The automation system improved employee engagement and communication with different departments.
Automation is the dawn of a new era for companies and businesses alike. Automation assists an organisation’s relevance, keeping up with trends, and staying ahead of its competitors. However, a business requires more than just adopting automation. They must inspect their businesses’ processes and find areas where automation will increase employee engagement and satisfaction.
Technology is here to help companies improve their time management, lessen human errors, free up more time for other competing tasks, and improve overall customer experience and business success.
In this fast-paced world, your business cannot rely on only the manual way of doing things. Your competitors who automate systems and engage their employees will shoot ahead of you. The company then will lose some business.
Loss of revenue eventually leads to loss of income for both the employer and employees. We cannot deny that the goal of many companies, the bottom line, holds the highest priority. However, executives must balance how much of their business they can automate compared to human labour. Automatic machinery will not market your brand, but people (employees) will.
Some people believe AI robots, automated systems, and other technology will take over 80% – 90% of human labour (doctors, retail workers, market research analysts, etc.).
However, a note for thought: who are the clientele, and who needs to use the products? Is it not people?
The COVID-19 pandemic was a revelation. Without people buying products, using transport systems and restaurants, and going on shopping sprees, many businesses lost much revenue, while many others closed.
Therefore, if the future world exists with approximately 80% of workers left without a source of income, stipend, or government support, who will purchase the products and services?