Culture is one of those ephemeral things that’s hard to define, harder to understand, and harder still to implement. When I started writing this blog about automation culture, I came across these words from Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb: Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion. I think Chesky has managed to hit the nail on the head.
A company where everyone pursues a common goal and works together to achieve it is most likely to achieve great success. In contrast, organisations with weak cultures struggle to translate their plans into action and actions into successful results. And one area where we see such struggles very often is in automation.
Many organisations assume that they can build an automation-ready environment with the right tools, technologies, and training. While this belief is not wrong and all these elements are essential for automation success, they are not enough. To ensure that the human and machine elements of such an environment work seamlessly together to create benefits for the organisation, these elements require a strong automation culture tying them all together.
Why a strong Automation Culture matters more than cutting-edge tools and technologies
Automation can change the game for organisations in every industry. Streamlining manual processes and workflows can lower operational costs, improve output quality, and create an effective hybrid workforce – all of which can positively impact a company’s bottomline, competitiveness, and even reputation.
But these advantages notwithstanding, automation also causes fear and uncertainty among enterprise workforces. “Will automation take away my job?” is a common worry. A strong automation culture can ease such fears and also ensure a successful transition to a human-automation hybrid ecosystem.
Companies with a human-focused automation culture never lose sight of the fact that automation is meant to complement its workforce rather than replace it. Furthermore, such a culture helps create an environment of transparency so people know exactly how automation can benefit the organisation – and them. They understand that automation tools can enable them to do their jobs better, save time, and improve their efficiency and output quality.
More importantly, their fears will be alleviated because they will understand that automation will not undermine them but empower them. It will allow them to move away from mundane repetitive tasks that lower their motivation and engagement and instead work on higher-value tasks where they can feel a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.
Automation Culture and the SmartUi Experience
According to one World Economic Forum report, the “the division of labour between humans and machines” will replace 85 million jobs worldwide by 2025. But before you start hitting the panic button, consider this other finding from the same report: automation will also create 97 million new jobs.
And as we saw earlier, automation technologies will “save” more people from tedious repetitive tasks and free them to work on more complex and rewarding projects. Thus, instead of displacing human workers en masse, automation will redirect their talents to activities that are more fulfilling for them and more productive for the company.
Moreover, for the foreseeable future, all automation tools will require human ingenuity and judgement. Thus, though these tools are getting smarter by the day, we are still very far from a fully-sentient Terminator or HAL 9000 that could take over all jobs and push all 7.5 billion of us into unemployment.
SmartUI’s own success at automating internal processes has shown us how unfounded the fear about automation-driven job losses really is. In our experience, successful automation does not mean laying off large chunks of the workforce. What it does mean is that companies can capture its many benefits without disrupting its workforce or causing unnecessary fear or panic.
And again, automation culture plays a vital role in this. It ensures that employees accept the potential of automation and willingly work side-by-side with automation tools to create an automation-first environment that creates win-win situations for all stakeholders.
Strategies to build a strong automation culture in your organisation
Gartner predicts that by 2024, many organizations will leverage hyper-automation technologies like RPA and AI to lower their operational costs by 30%. Furthermore, the global hyperautomation market will grow from $481.6 billion in 2020 to $596.6 billion in 2022.
These future forecasts apart, automation is already making an impact today, which explains why a recent Deloitte survey found that:
- 73% of organisations have started adopting intelligent automation
- 78% are implementing RPA and another 16% expect to do so before 2025
- 64% are using some form of automation-as-a-service (AaaS)
In all likelihood, automation is woven into the very DNA of these organisations because they have a strong automation culture. As a result, they are most likely to enjoy a successful transition to, as Deloitte says, pursue “organisation-wide reimagination” with automation.
Here’s how your company can join these ranks and create a strong automation culture.
Explain the “why”, not just the “what”
Automation affects processes as well as people. To remove employee resistance to automation, show them why the organisation needs automation. Also demonstrate how it will complement their efforts instead of making them redundant.
Allow them to do their own testing
An automation-first culture encourages testing and experimentation. Allow them to test a tool or participate in a pilot automation program. First-hand experience can help to convert sceptics into enthusiastic adopters and naysayers into passionate advocates.
Try to minimise disruptions to existing workflows
Successful automation is most likely when the tools are embedded into existing processes and workflows. Although some processes may require a complete overhaul, try to keep disruption down to minimise resistance and speed up the transition.
Engage the top leadership in automation communication
The company’s top leaders must communicate the benefits of automation to employees in accessible, easily-understandable language. A clear, unambiguous message from the top goes a long way towards cultivating an automation-first culture that pervades every level of the company.
According to one survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, one of the biggest automation hurdles for many organisations is an absence of relevant skills. That’s why education and reskilling are crucial for automation success and to create of an automation-first mindset in the company.
The bottomline is that an org-wide automation culture is the chief catalyst of successful automation. If you can create such a culture in your company, there’s every possibility that your automation initiative will drive company growth and create tangible value.
- To successfully drive and complete an automation initiative, a strong automation culture matters more than cutting-edge tools and technologies
- Automation-first culture can eliminate employee resistance to change
- It can ensure a successful transition to a human-automation hybrid ecosystem
- It is possible to create a thriving automation culture by:
- Explaining the “why of automation to employees
- Encouraging testing, experimentation, and learning
- Embedding automation tools into existing workflows, and
- Engaging top leadership in automation-related communication
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