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article imageQ&A: Companies can retrain employees as the workplace automates Special

By Tim Sandle     Jul 28, 2019 in Business
Companies can support their employees amidst automation changes, according to Sean Chou of Catalytic. He says that companies which invest in retraining employees can keep pace with the future of work.
Accenture is eliminating certain job roles that automation can now handle on its own. To retain the employees whose jobs are being replaced, Accenture is doing what some companies do not. Instead of laying off workers, Accenture is retraining them in software roles.
As automation becomes more popular, roles will need to evolve to keep up with the new technology. Both Dentsu and Bosch, for example, have promoted employees into new roles after automating systems, and they are actively training people to manage automation.
Sean Chou, CEO and Co-Founder of Catalytic, tells Digital Journal how companies can support their employees amidst automation changes, as well as how it’s worth companies investing in retraining employees to keep pace with the future of work.
Digital Journal: What are the main forms of automation, disrupting businesses?
Sean Chou: The main forms of automation that are disrupting businesses (for the better) are those that reduce employees’ time spent on low-value tasks and also create new value for the business. These solutions often also improve experiences for customers, suppliers and employees by expediting processes and moving faster.
At Catalytic, most of the automation we implement for our customers impacts knowledge workers. With automation, businesses are able to orchestrate people, digital workers and systems working with documents and data. With this type of automation, one of the top examples is leveraging the technology to mine through heavy volumes of unstructured data.
Many employees, in nearly every industry, work day-in and day-out with a vast amount of data, so this form of automation enables them to gather, extract, process data and generate documents in way less time than if they did so manually. We’re also seeing automation being used to reduce backlogs, sales and marketing (such as generating PowerPoint presentations), admin HR tasks (such as onboarding and candidate scheduling), finance and accounting processes.
DJ: What effects are automation having on the workplace?
Chou: Automation is making a huge impact on worker efficiency and morale. Employees now have time to focus on important projects they couldn’t get to when they were overwhelmed with simple (yet tedious) administrative tasks, like logging data, compiling decks or cross-referencing information. It also lets them move onto more rewarding work that serves a larger purpose for the organization and their own professional development.
This kind of automation can also lead to potential promotions for employees. A manager may not promote an employee if they’re afraid of losing the work the worker does within their current role. But if they see that automation can handle these tasks by itself, the employee has an opportunity to move up and leave their administrative tasks in the hands of automation solutions.
DJ: How are jobs changing?
Chou: Jobs are becoming more efficient with automation — they’re becoming more about the core responsibilities of a role with less emphasis on tedious administrative tasks, which applies to industries across the board. For example, procurement workers won’t need to sift through purchase orders, healthcare administrators can focus on attending to patients rather than paperwork, and manufacturers can spend less time in the back-office and more time supporting their workers on the factory line.
DJ: How can companies best support employees in terms of changing their work roles?
Chou: As more work is automated, it is the moral responsibility of employers to retrain employees and/or help move them into new occupations. Amazon, for example, recently said it will retrain one-third of its U.S. workforce on technical skills. However, I think it’s dangerous to think that everyone wants or can be trained as developers. Instead, companies should focus on making their automation solutions more accessible to technical and non-technical workers – which is why there’s been a large trend towards low or no-code solution development platforms.
When armed with these types of automation solutions, companies can help their employees build and manage automation without deep technical expertise. This ultimately improves their “digital quotient” (or DQ). By empowering workers to become more comfortable with digital technology, they can become more efficient in their jobs.
Additionally, companies can help their employees get ready for the jobs of the future by retraining them to be “business partners.” This means molding employees to be invested in pursuing new opportunities for company growth and strategic management of initiatives to engage competitive edge.
DJ: To what extent is automation leading to job losses?
Chou: It’s undeniable that automation is changing the job market. Automation will replace some jobs, yes, but many companies like Accenture and Amazon are working to support those employees so as to not leave them out to dry. On the other hand, automation is creating more jobs than it’s replacing. For example, we’ll start to see the rise of the chief automation officer to head all automation efforts within a company, and they’ll also require people working under them to handle managing automation solutions on a day-to-day basis.
The real question we should be asking is how will we backfill the decreasing workforce. How will we be able to truly harness all of the data that we are accumulating at a rate faster than humans can possibly process? It’ll be interesting to see how we begin looking for the solution to this question in the coming years.
More about Automation, Work, Workplace, Robots, Accenture
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