Office Automation – Efficient Technology or Job Loss Nightmare?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation promise more efficient, less costly ways of performing traditional business tasks. Is this a new era of effortless processes and freedom from tedium or is it the prelude to job loss? How do business bring about exponential technological changes without disrupting the workforce and breaking their workers economic autonomy? Interestingly, the technology that causes job loss in one sector can be the same technology that creates jobs in another sector.
Take office jobs – your typical “white collar” job -- or in a less-flattering depiction -- the typical “paper-pusher.” Let’s face it, there are a lot of us out there. We work in small mom and pop companies and in large corporate enterprises. We pay invoices, analyze data, generate contracts, and so much more. From banks and doctor’s offices to government agencies and schools, there’s an entire, and mostly invisible, “back-office” that manages the paperwork that keeps every organization going.
Does office automation eliminate these jobs? Or does it create opportunities? It all depends upon how you look at it...
Technology and automation contribute to job loss? According to Forbes magazine, the economy as a whole is in a constant state of job churn: About 10% of the workforce is fired every year; 10% quit one job and move to a better one. So, over a five year period, 50% to 100% of all jobs will change. And here's the thing (Forbes says): “each of those firings and quits involves some small amount of technological change. It might be entirely trivial: that the new job uses red pencils not green ones. It might be a bit more: one company does the accounts on an internal server, the next does them in the cloud. But there always is technological change.”
Technological change happens. Employees quit, get fired and rehired. Those are facts. And, they happen independently of each other, except for about a 0.3% crossover in the 100% churn (again, those stats are from Forbes).
The question becomes how can organizations and their employees mutually benefit from job churn and technological advances.
At least one thing is clear. Doing nothing is not an option. Entire industries have evaporated from the American economy. This will only expand in years to come. Rather than fight technology, we should embrace it and prepare workers whose fields move overseas or are learned by robots. Every human deserves the opportunity to learn skills that will carry him or her into the future. The alternative effectively holds disadvantaged members of our society back, building a future enjoyed by the few at the expense of the many. Both government and employers can and must do better.
Go with the flow!
Embrace Office Automation
It’s relatively apparent how companies benefit from office automation:
- Greater efficiency
- Easier access to information
- Reduction in errors
- Higher ROI
- Higher customer satisfaction
- Greater employee satisfaction (and better work outcomes)
What may be less apparent is how employees benefit:
- They acquire new skills – Yes, it’s true. Automation doesn’t end a job, it provides an opportunity to learn new skills that make employees more valuable. Whether the individual ultimately stays, gets fired, or quits…every additional skill legitimately list on her LinkedIn profile is an asset.
- They have new opportunities – A big advantage of office automation is the elimination of rote, repetitive (some would say mindless) activities. Common office jobs such as data entry, mail delivery, invoice approvals, filing, patient check-in and more can be more efficiently done through automation, enabling these employees to take charge of a process, rather than being lost in manual detail.
- They contribute more fully – The process of automation requires enormous input from the employees who currently do the job manually. Managers are often astounded when they see the insights these employees contribute. It never hurts to be noticed by management!
- They have greater job satisfaction – Recognition of a job well done, by a modern, forward looking, technologically advanced company is every bit as important as a paycheck.
- Better work outcomes – Office automation is a win-win. Both the organization and the employee are better for the embrace of technology.
In the business world as in life, change is constant. Businesses that anticipate and plan for change are almost always the ones that succeed. Avoiding change, or refusing to accept that change needs to happen, are recipes for disaster. Organizational change can be a positive or negative event, though many changes incorporate both aspects.
Change management is the process of helping individuals and your organization transition from the current state to the desired state, for instance from manual processes to automated processes in your back office. Investment in training the workforce, as well as in technology and office automation, ensures that both corporate entities and workers succeed.