The Future is Now: 7 ways workplace automation empowers employees
Editor Soundarya, takes us on a journey of what automation is and its power. Read more.
From grocery stores to Fortune 500 companies, automation is everywhere.
Rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and robotics are pushing the boundaries of what we can automate. For instance, we humans spend hours writing, but tools like ChatGPT write blogs, novels, and even software codes in seconds.
These kinds of machines are eliminating the drudgery in offices and factories and boosting employee productivity. They save time, money, and resources for businesses, lifting profits along the way. No wonder firms are swiftly adopting workplace automation. Seven out of 10 companies are at least piloting automation in one or more departments. And the trend is only going to speed up in the coming years. 95% of IT leaders say their companies are prioritizing automation.
Keep reading to learn more about automation technology and its benefits. With examples, we'll also see how businesses can find automation for their needs. First, the basics.
What is automation?
Automation is the use of technology to perform a task with minimal human assistance.
Imagine your order from an online store. You instantly get a confirmation email. The shop gets your order details on the backend, keeps an eye on their inventory without manual data entry, and sends out orders. Once it's shipped, you get timely updates on your phone. This process is automation.
Automation can be as simple as automating a workflow that schedules follow-up emails or creating a workflow in Slack that automatically posts messages.
Companies can automate repetitive manual tasks, whether it’s an easy routine like the above example or a complex business process, across different business units. It’s found use in different industries like manufacturing, IT, retail, and finance as businesses embark on their digital transformation journey.
Automation has evolved from robots that help with physical tasks on factory floors to software robots that take care of high-order tasks. Just like machines transformed the industrial age, automation has the potential to transform the workplace today. By 2025, machines will handle half of the work tasks worldwide.
7 ways automation improves workplace productivity
The business world is eagerly embracing automation, so let’s study some of its effects on productivity.
Automation saves time
Over 40% of workers waste at least a quarter of their week on repetitive tasks. They burn the most time with emails, data collection, and data entry tasks. But automation can eliminate these time thieves. Workers say they save 6 or more hours every week with automation because automation systems analyze data much faster than the human brain, and they function around the clock without getting tired or bored with what they do.
KME, a steel manufacturer, used automation tools and robots in their factory for welding and reduced their cycle time by almost 65%. A job that took their workers 6-8 minutes was completed in 1-3 minutes with automation.
So if you don’t have enough time to get it all done, it's probably time for automation to add bandwidth to your day.
Automation simplifies tasks
In a business, work involves different people from various teams performing a series of tasks. The bigger the project, the more attention is needed to ensure team communication, task transferring, and evaluation.
Take employee expense reimbursement. The process involves the employee, their manager, the finance department, and payroll. Coordination between all is necessary for successful and speedy reimbursement.
Now, if we automate the process, there’s no need for anyone to send emails or have back-and-forth communication. Instead, the system forwards the report and processes the payment once approved. The employee can also see the status of their expense report without any follow-up. Workplace automation simplifies the whole process and solves communication problems.
Another example is data collection and automated report generation. Today, there’s no need for manual data entry or collating enterprise data from various sources. We have plenty of tools that automate data collection. Augmented with NLP and AI, some tools collect data from digital sources and paper documents; they process all structured and unstructured data according to the company’s needs and generate reports.
Deloitte, for instance, used RPA and reduced its report generation time from 5-8 days to just one hour.
Automation reduces human errors
We humans are prone to make mistakes, but those mistakes can be costly in business. Automation removes the often-unpredictable human variable to make your business operations more efficient and reliable. More than 40% of employees believe automation reduces manual mistakes.
Consider this case: Manufacturer Horizon Global was facing challenges from manually entering and processing more than 35,000 customer orders that came in unstructured formats every year. Entering and validating each order manually was a time-consuming and error-prone process. To solve this, the company started using RPA. The result? It got a 99% increase in data entry accuracy and saved 105 hours every month.
Automation enables flexible, remote work
Automation not only simplifies tasks but also makes it easier for teams to collaborate and talk. Using workflow automation, you can design an automated workflow for a business process and assign tasks to your team members. Once a person completes the task, the person responsible for the next step is automatically notified. They can review and approve or deny the work by clicking their mouse.
Automation makes it easy for remote workers to connect and coordinate instead of running from pillar to post for necessary information. 90% of IT leaders say automation has made them much more satisfied with collaboration across departments. Further, machines work 24/7 and scale up or down with demand, creating previously unavailable capacity and increasing operational flexibility.
Automation boosts employee productivity
Any high-volume, repetitive, and tedious tasks suck the joy out of the work you do. In fact, nine out of 10 employees feel burdened with repetitive and boring tasks. With workplace automation, bots perform mundane, recurring activities, so employees spend more time on complex and higher-value work they enjoy. They get time to learn new skills, take on challenging new projects, and deepen their relationships with different stakeholders. This, in turn, delivers more employee satisfaction.
More than two-thirds of workers say that automation has made them productive. Nearly 9 out of 10 full-time workers note more work satisfaction due to automation and say it improved their jobs. And 91% of them say automation gives them a better work-life balance.
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Automation increases customer satisfaction
Instant gratification is the norm today. Buyers demand responses to their questions and concerns quickly, if not immediately. Customer service representatives can easily get overwhelmed with requests, especially in a fast-growing company. That’s where automation comes in. It refines customer experiences, resulting in higher sales and greater customer satisfaction. Implementing chatbots powered with natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) is a great example of customer service automation.
Bots field multiple customer queries at lightning speed 24/7. They can learn customer preferences and tune their responses accordingly. Personalized and instant communication provides a superior customer experience. Automation also allows the customer service team to focus on complex customer requests.
Automation reduces operational costs
A direct and obvious benefit of automation freeing up time and resources is cost savings. McKinsey estimates that automation can lead to average cost savings of up to 30% within five years. Uber, for example, saves $10 million a year because of 100+ RPA. Its automation has saved nearly $22 million in 3 years.
Top 4 workplace automation examples
These examples of workplace automation can serve as a starting point for your automation journey.
Customer service automation
Businesses are fast adopting customer service automation because they know excellent customer service is vital to their long-term success. Whether you work as a solopreneur, a small-to-midsize business, or even a large enterprise, customer service automation is now essential for providing a seamless omnichannel experience. You can use automation for tasks like:
- Responding to a customer query via chatbots or interactive voice response systems.
- Triaging customer support tickets to appropriate reps.
- Approving refunds or processing returns.
- Updating customer information in the database.
- Sending emails and messages.
- Tracking customer interaction with the brand and updating it in CRM software.
Tobi, Vodafone’s chatbot, solves more than 70% of customer support queries and has even doubled its website conversion rate since its introduction in 2017.
Another business unit ripe for automation is human resources (HR). HR automation elevates the employee experience to better serve them with self-service options, customization, and efficiency and while making the job less burdensome for HR professionals. It finds its use in
- Résumé screening.
- Offer letter management.
- Employee onboarding and training.
- Employee data management and HR analytics.
- Attendance and timesheets.
- Vacation requests.
- Payroll and expense management.
- Performance management.
- Exit process and offboarding.
Dell put in a suite of automation for its HR process and improved its efficiency by a whopping 85%.
💡 Article pick: Forecasting the Future of HR Trends in 2023
If you’re in a business that involves inventory moved to and fro from a warehouse, then consider warehouse automation programs. Machines and robots pick, sort, and return goods to their shelves, simplifying tasks for workers. These machines improve safety and increase the speed and efficiency of human employees. Some warehouse tasks that can be automated are
- Scanning barcodes and inventory dimensions.
- Sorting inventory.
- Using automated guided vehicles (AGV) and autonomous mobile robots (AMR) to transport goods within the warehouse.
- Monitoring goods moving in and out of the warehouse.
- Storing and retrieving goods from specific locations.
Amazon uses more than 500,000 robots in its warehouses, along with thousands of humans.
A number of IT processes in business can be automated, much to the relief of the IT staff. From provisioning laptops for new employees to replying to their IT support requests and other security incidents, automation has varied use in IT. Take a look at IT tasks that can be automated.
- Employee onboarding and offboarding, including the creation or deletion of accounts
- Tirage IT support tickets
- Respond to employees' common IT queries
- Cloud deployment and management
- Configuring software, applications, and tools
- Security incident response
Consumer goods company, Rickett, automated its IT functions with more than 80 bots and saw 20% cost savings in IT operations.
Other business departments, like sales, marketing, and finances, also benefit from automation.
Will I lose my job to automation and AI?
Knowing we can automate most of our tasks instantly leads to the question: “Are the robots finally coming for our jobs?”
It’s true automation, and other advanced technologies will displace 85 million jobs by 2025. But as we adapt to the new technology, 97 million new roles will emerge. Technological advances simply alter the types of jobs available and what those jobs pay. With automation, jobs involving mundane tasks will get eliminated, but more roles focused on complex tasks with competitive salaries will arise.
Think about the time when ATMs were first introduced in the 1970s. Between 1995 and 2010, the number of ATMs in the US rose from 100,000 to 500,000, and everybody thought bank tellers would soon be out of jobs. However, bank teller employment grew during that time period. They moved from cash-handling jobs to relationship-building.
In the same way, automation won’t bring in a “jobless future” but rather create a future with more exciting jobs that involve critical thinking and creativity.
Let robots do the job
The benefits of automation to workplace productivity are crystal clear. Firms need to adopt workplace automation to improve employee productivity and efficiency and ultimately boost their bottom line. Smart enterprises are already getting their hands on the latest automation solutions as force multipliers. Others are moving fast to keep pace. Businesses are changing. Will you?
New ways of working for organizations of the future.