Preparing for the Oncoming Wave of Automation and Artificial Intelligence

Lance Johnson, Sr. Director, EQMS & EHS

Disruptive technologies have transformed our world. From self-driving vehicles to online purchasing with near-instantaneous product delivery via drones, innovation continues to change the status quo for individuals.

Similarly, over the past few decades, established companies have found maintaining ‘business as usual’increasingly difficult, as technology and global markets – and global competitors – have emerged.

Ongoing changes in technology and the workplace are projected to increase and accelerate. A recent report from the Brookings Institution (a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, DC) predicts the following:

•        25% of U.S. jobs will face high exposure to automation within the coming decade

•        Nearly every occupation will be affected by the adoption of currently available technologies

Additionally, 54% of all employees will require significant upskilling by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum.

What companies and leaders can do to help employees prepare for change:

1.     Create, strengthen, and maintain a corporate culture of Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement is the process of making small incremental changes to improve efficiencies and reduce waste. Adopt a structured methodology like Lean or Six Sigma and utilize tools like DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) or PDSA (Plan, Do,Study, Adjust). Adapt the methodologies and tools to best fit your business.

Get executive management involved. Without executive buy-in, any improvement effort or initiative is at risk for being viewed as unimportant or unsupported. Leading by example is powerful and communicates strong commitment.

If your organization is new to Continuous Improvement, it may be prudent to start small. Pilot with one department or one office and work out any process issues on a small scale.

Reward and recognize participation. Employees are vital to making the culture successful. Implement selected ideas quickly to demonstrate the value placed on Improvement.

Regularly review completed improvement initiatives and demonstrate the cumulative and compounding impact small improvements can have on an organization.

2.     Promote a constant learning mindset  

Increasing the amount and frequency of employer-led trainings can create a mutually beneficial relationship between the employee (who experiences career and skills growth) and the organization(which helps the company fill emerging critical needs).

In addition to employer-led trainings, facilitating and providing employee access to online learning resources and certifications expands opportunities for skills growth.

Building and maintaining an inventory of skills by employee helps the company align resources with specific job needs.  It can also reveal and uncover existing abilities in employees that were previously unknown by the company.

3.     Provide perspective and strengthen communication

Automation replaces human labor with work done by machines.  The goal is higher quantity and quality at a reduced cost.  Recognize, though, that automation is a substitute for tasks, not jobs. A job is a group of tasks – some of which are best done by people.  The tasks most likely to be impacted by automation are those with a high degree of routine, predictable, and codified work. Automation complements labor; whatever task is not done via automation becomes more valuable and generally more productive and rewarding. Additionally, when employees are freed from mundane tasks, they have more capacity to innovate.

Leaders can help reduce employee anxiety by establishing a regular cadence of communication and by providing clear, concise direction when employee responsibilities are likely to change.

4.     Ensure systems are in place to manage change and retain data

Have an optimized electronic systemin place to track employee skills, manage and update training records and trigger new training courses, and to facilitate change management within the organization.

If you’d like to speak with experts who regularly help companies and customers embrace change, establish and strengthen a culture of Continuous Improvement, promote ongoing education,strengthen communication, and architect systems to manage critical information,we’d love to chat. Gerent has been helping customers design and implement Salesforce solutions for over a decade. Contact us today to find out how we can help your company prepare and be positioned to embrace change.

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