The rhetoric surrounding automation can be pretty inflammatory. Headlines scream “automation will cost millions of jobs” and things of the like. It’s no surprise, then, that employees can get a bit tense when the subject of automation is brought up. Even something as innocuous as CMMS which, realistically, is only going to improve well-being and productivity, can garner negative reactions.
Note the title of this article: helping your workforce adapt with automation, not to automation. Automation isn’t happening to your workforce; it’s something your employees can grow with, something that can make their lives better, enhance their skills, broaden their abilities, and give them more time for other tasks.
Tip #1: Highlight the Positives in Automation
There are a lot of metrics you can use to showcase the advantages of automation. Yes, CMMS can provide an incredible ROI and an increase in productivity. Yes, CRMs can drastically boost customer retention and improve sales. BPM can help you spot inefficiencies in your workflow and improve your bottom line. Scheduling software like BookedIn can decrease double bookings and generate new clients. When you’re making executive or managerial decisions for your business, you see all of this - automating is smart.
What do your employees see?
With CMMS, they might see a machine telling them how to do their job. CRM might strike them as another push toward listening to customer demands, even if it’s inefficient. BPM? Why should they have to change the way they’ve been doing their work for 15 years? Scheduling software? Might seem like job replacement to administrative staff.
You need to show how automation is positive for your employees. CMMS saves a lot of the time that would be spent logging maintenance and looking through maintenance logs - drudgework that few employees are interested in. What’s more, the money saved on purchasing could mean better pay and bonuses. CRM means fewer angry customers barging through the door and taking up everyone’s time and energy. BPM will help make their work easier, giving them more time to focus on the things they do well instead of wading through bureaucratic processes. Administrators can focus on other things when they don’t have to double-check schedules. Highlight the positives for the employees, not just for the overall business.
Tip #2: Provide Adequate Training
One of the biggest fears with automation is that new technology is hard to use. Testing new tech yourself before introducing it to the workplace is extremely important. You might opt to have a few select employees test it with you to get their feedback.
Once you’ve found something that suits your needs and is user-friendly enough, introduce it carefully. You’ll want to schedule ample time to train employees, making sure everyone feels at ease before you complete the transition. The more time you put in up front, the less time you’ll need to fix misunderstandings once new processes are in place.
There will almost always be hiccups of one kind or another when transitioning to new processes. Be patient and don’t hesitate to provide more training if necessary. The end results will be well worth it.
Tip #3: Automate the Right Processes
Not every process should be automated. The best automation will typically focus on tasks that are repetitive and tasks that are prone to human error. Rote calculation was (and is) the basis for the modern computer, after all. There are very few financial professionals who are upset that spreadsheets have replaced paper-and-pen bookkeeping.
The line between what should and shouldn’t be automated has blurred somewhat over the years. Advanced AI has led to software that can do predictive analysis - like how CMMS can help determine when machinery will need repair and what kind of preventive maintenance might be more cost-effective in the long run. That said, there’s an element of intuition and subjective reasoning that can’t be fully automated, and having a set of eyes is always handy.
You should be careful when automating client processes. In-house automation means you can train your employees for as much time as you need to before the new processes roll out; you don’t get that luxury with clients. You have to understand what to know when automating client processes: clients can be skittish about new technology and that if the automation is too complex or difficult, they may not be responsive to it.
Tip #4: Present Employees with New Opportunities
Automation should save your employees a lot of time and energy; that’s the goal, after all! What will they do with all that extra time and energy? You’ve gone out of your way to find these employees, to hire them, train them, and develop them into valuable members of your organization. They need to know that automation isn’t the end of their jobs, and that instead, it creates possibilities for expansion.
Offer cross-training, retraining, and job shadowing to your employees. You might provide them with time to pursue projects of their own design like Google does. Encourage communication between departments in order to find new efficiencies. Take more time to have meetings, brainstorming sessions, and group discussions. In other words, use the extra time you find to have high-level discussions - the kinds that automation can’t replace.
Tip #5: Lead the Charge
When you implement new processes, you have to lead by example. Use the new technology yourself, automate some of your own processes, and speak honestly about your experience. By automating some of your own work, you show others in your organization that automation is something to be embraced, not be afraid of.
Think about how much of your work has already been automated, from emails being sorted into the right boxes to efficiencies being found by BPM software. Share those stories; highlight how they’ve made your work more interesting. Highlight how automation has taken away drudgework.
Listen to employee concerns. Have one-on-one conversations and maintain an open door policy. When someone implements automation but won’t answer questions about it, employees can get suspicious. When you embrace automation and the concerns that come with it, you show empathy and courage - and that makes you a great leader.