One of the double-edged swords of the pandemic has been the acceleration of automation and digitalization across all industries. While the rapid adoption of digital tools is a boon for business leaders looking to streamline and mechanize often tedious or human-error-filled tasks, this drive – which follows many other dramatic changes in day-to-day operations in the workplace – can cause not only significant anxiety, but even resistance from employees, who may feel that their roles, livelihoods and need for the business are under threat.
It is important that managers make these suspicious employees understand that they are not obsolete, quite the contrary. More than ever, there is an increased need for the types of skills that cannot be automated. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Future of Jobs report, skills grounded in complex thinking, innovation, and problem solving are expected to be “top employer needs” by 2025.
So how can managers with reluctant (and eager!) employees help their employees embrace technological change, retaining their much-needed institutional knowledge and soft skills while keeping them open to new digital technologies? Here are some of the key points to highlight, both to communicate their benefits to your team and to proactively steer the direction of the C suite towards a paradigm that leverages the power of new technologies and finds ways to imbue employees with these skills.
Free yourself for “human” tasks
One of the most obvious and important benefits of most new SaaS options coming to market, especially those that use AI or machine learning, is delegating tasks that can be automated to a machine. This allows employees to avoid wasting time and energy on tasks that basically don’t require human contact, and instead focus on businesses that rely on empathy, creativity, and innovation.
Increasingly, we see many solutions like this in the medical field: digital scribes, AI-based case triage, testing, scanning, monitoring and machine learning tools to extract information from electronic health records (EHRs) and insurance profiles. Unfortunately, the adoption of these tools has been slower in other industries, especially the dental field, which still struggles with lagging technology adoption and outdated processes that consume too many man-hours. Employers need to impress on their employees that learning about new technologies will save them a lot of “busy work” and allow them to direct their attention to more meaningful, challenging and satisfying aspects of their work.
Create a future-ready workforce
For better or worse, the future is digital – and, indeed, employees know it, even those who are tech-averse. Providing employees with the ability to become more comfortable and agile with these new tools will not only close skill gaps within a company, but increase employee value and flexibility in a competitive marketplace. This creates a win-win; what is good for the company is also good for the future employment prospects of individuals.
In order to develop and retrain their employees, forward-thinking companies use creative strategies such as gamification and reward-based training strategies. Others may outsource skills building to bootcamps or other institutions that follow the Silicon Valley model by offering certificate programs in high-demand tech skills (such as through Amazon, Google, etc). previously earned college degrees, find themselves far more versatile and valuable in the job market (and able to command higher salaries, to boot.)
And if you are an employer who offers these opportunities to your employees, you can also expect a high level of retention; Several large-scale workforce studies have shown that providing training is the single most important weapon against employee attrition.
The benefits of skill coding
Companies that can foresee the in-demand skills they need to succeed – both hardware and software – and plan ahead will have better prospects for the future. It is a conscious process, involving several steps: Determining which roles within a company are crucial for productivity; identify the skills needed to perform each of these roles optimally; decide on a system for measuring or evaluating these skills; and finally, the implementation of training programs so that existing employees can be upgraded or requalified, rather than having to recruit new ones.
Many well-known companies focus on codifying in-demand skills, as well as employee pathways to obtaining them. The business case for doing this is clear: in addition to the significant opportunity and monetary cost of trying to recruit new talent whenever a skills shortage arises, training employees to meet the demand for Your company’s skills create happy workers who provide a real competitive edge. Plus, employees who see their company considering them for business-critical positions, and taking the time to train them for those positions, will no longer be afraid of these changes – they will be re-energized and motivated.
Move at the speed of change
Managers are ultimately responsible for taking their employees to the next stage of automation; leadership must come from above in order to generate bottom-up change. Successful managers are able to take a human-centered approach to alleviating the fear and anxiety surrounding technology adoption, acknowledging understandable reluctance while emphasizing the party line that ultimately making these changes (along with relevant upgrading and reskilling) will be for the employees. ‘ benefit as well as that of the company. In this dynamic technology landscape, savvy leaders know that when it comes to widespread adoption of digital tools, there are really only two outcomes: if you’re ready, there’s an opportunity. Otherwise, it is a threat.