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Sep 24, 2019Company & Culture

How Automation Makes Work More Inclusive

By: Cay Gliebe, Nancy Hauge
How Automation Makes Work More Inclusive

Creating an inclusive workplace is one of the most important things any business leader can do. But in the process of doing this, how often does anyone stop to consider if the technology they’re using—or preparing to use—is really going to help them achieve that goal?

So far in this series, we’ve looked at two very important business trends and how they intersect individually with technology. In this blog, we want to connect these ideas together by looking at this question of how technology can play a role in making an organization more inclusive.

Each Generation Views Technology Differently

Just because a solution works, that doesn’t mean it’s inclusive—not when the processes involved are convoluted or inefficient.

As business leaders think about the solutions that will help them create a more inclusive workplace, they need to remember that people may view technology differently depending on what generation they belong to.

There are currently five generations in today’s workforce:

  • Traditionalists – born before 1946
  • Baby Boomers – born approximately 1946 – 1964
  • Generation X – born approximately 1965 – 1980
  • Millennials – born approximately 1981 – 1995
  • Generation Z – born approximately 1995 – present

It’s understandable, then, that some people will simply be more tech savvy than others. Some will also be more enthusiastic about certain solutions than others.

This is especially true of automation and machine learning. People have genuine concerns about how these tools are going to transform the world of work—and these concerns need to be acknowledged.

But the inclusive potential of these solutions also needs to be acknowledged.

Employees of Diverse Ages and Backgrounds Can Benefit From Automation and Machine Learning

Leveraging low- or no-touch capabilities, automation and machine learning are designed to take the tedium and complexity out of tedious and complex tasks—and who wouldn’t want that?

Whether you’re a member of Generation Z or a Traditionalist, replacing repetitive, manual work with work that’s more meaningful and human has cross-generational benefits for employees at every stage of their career.

Because of this, automation and machine learning stand at the nexus between upskilling and employee engagement, the two trends we’ve talked about so far.

When workers are stuck doing manual, repeatable tasks, they have less time for learning new skills or improving on existing ones. As a result, they may feel less engaged and satisfied with their work. If this continues long enough, your workers may be less prepared for success in tomorrow’s workplace.

This doesn’t just hurt your employees—it can hurt your whole organization.

Seen from this perspective, the move towards automation and machine learning is a positive. Because of their power to simplify processes, these solutions can supply you with one of the most crucial resources for upskilling and improved employee engagement—time.

But unless you clearly communicate this message, employees who are less open to emerging technologies will struggle to see their inclusive potential. Leaders must understand how they’re going to communicate their vision for the future, and they must have a plan for translating it into reality.

Positive Transformation Starts at the Top

Creating a more inclusive organization doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process requiring significant thought and communication. And as with any change management initiative, it’s better to overcommunicate than to under communicate in order to dispel as much anxiety or resistance as possible.

You also need to have a plan for how you will train your employees to use these new solutions effectively. Because of their low- or no-touch capabilities, these technologies should be easy for workers of all ages to use.

It’s possible, though, that some workers will benefit from reverse mentoring. When we think about mentoring, we typically imagine someone younger learning from someone older. But if you’ve ever asked one of your children or grandchildren for help with your smartphone or computer, you already have experience with reverse mentoring.

Schedule plenty of time for training and make it clear that learning anything new will take more time for some people than for others. Creating an atmosphere of understanding and encouragement will help all of your employees, regardless of age, adjust to a new way of working and help them prepare for larger changes on the horizon.

*This is the third of five blogs co-authored with Automation Anywhere, the global leader in robotic process automation. Cay Gliebe is senior vice president of Marketing and Product Management for OSV. Nancy Hauge is the chief human resources officer for Automation Anywhere.