Learn how to deal with staff concerns and hesitancy when implementing automation technology
Automation can bring a wealth of new possibilities to your organisation. Properly implementing this exciting technology into your existing processes and practices can improve operational efficiency but what can’t be underestimated is how automation can affect your workplace culture.
If you’re planning on implementing automation in your organisation or expanding its use, you must take some time to reflect on how your broader workforce may be affected and what steps you can take to ensure the technology is introduced smoothly to everyone it impacts.
Can automation negatively affect your culture?
Without proper leadership, the blunt answer is: yes.
You must remember that not everyone in your organisation may be ready to adopt automation as eagerly as you or your senior leadership team. Some employees worry that automation technology is here to replace them by providing a cheaper, more reliable option. With the cost of living at the front of everyone’s minds, technology such as RPA is seen as a risk, rather than an opportunity. Worries about job security are only natural.
Automation should not be seen as solely a ‘tech’ solution. It’s a solution that can affect your entire workforce. Workplaces of all kinds – from warehouses to call centres, accounting offices, hospitals, and retail stores – can utilise automation in a variety of ways. This means a wide range of staff may use the technology you implement, and the more people you affect, the greater the range of technical aptitude you have to deal with.
Employees can also grow confident and comfortable in their existing roles. When you apply technology to those roles and potentially change the tasks and responsibilities those employees must carry out, they can naturally be hesitant. You’re changing their role and not everyone may be ready to make the transition smoothly.
As you can see, automation affects your culture when there is a lack of communication and leadership. When you bring new technology into your organisation without properly communicating it through all levels of your staff, they can feel that it is being ‘forced upon them.’ This can breed reluctance and misinformation, and ultimately stop automation in its tracks before you have a chance to reap its rewards.
How to prepare your workplace for using automation
Staff appreciate honesty, transparency and consideration from their leaders. These qualities are paramount to discussing how automation will change their roles for the better and help them develop. Below are five essential steps to improving your workplace culture:
Employees need a central point of information when they want to learn more about how planned automation is going to affect them. This helps you control what information they hear, ensuring them that they never misunderstand your organisation’s implementation plans, and inspires confidence throughout your workforce. Try to assign yourself this role or champion a member of your staff with a high level of technical knowledge and a wide understanding of how the business operates.
Speak with your staff regularly
As we’ve mentioned earlier, you don’t want staff to feel as though automation is being forced upon them. Host discussions with your staff as early as possible in your implementation plans to show that you’re making decisions with their opinions in mind. After this initial conversation, keep them abreast of developments and continue to communicate with them.
You should also regularly canvas their opinions to find more opportunities to utilise automation. Who knows the ins and outs of your business better than the staff on the front lines? Asking what tasks they want to automate turns tech implementation into a collaborative process, rather than an edict that staff may resist.
Reinforce the benefits of automation
When faced with opposition or questions about automation, keep the benefits of the technology at the forefront of your discussions. You’re trying to help your staff complete tasks faster, with more accuracy, and free up time for responsibilities that demand their time. Some staff may not buy into the expected advantages of automation from the start, so keep their perspective on the long-term benefits they’ll feel and show your plans aren’t just a flash in the pan.
Plan and explain technical training
Other members of staff may be on board with automating parts of their work but have doubts about the training they’ll need to complete. This can be particularly true for workers that have heavily-manual roles such as warehouse staff. You can relieve these doubts by providing a clear training plan to your employees to show how they’ll develop their skills to incorporate elements of automation. Emphasise that this is a chance for professional growth and reframe a daunting prospect into an opportunity.
Be clear about what kind of automation you’ll use
The perception that automation technology will ‘eliminate’ or ‘replace’ regular workers is still prevalent. That’s why you must not use ‘automation’ as a catch-all term. Be detailed in your explanation of how it will be applied and how your staff will still play an important role in your operations. One clear starting point is explaining the difference between attended and unattended automation, which clearly shows how bots can be used as assistants to tackle repetitive tasks while complex ones (such as specific customer service requests) are elevated to a human supervisor.