What is workflow automation and how is it changing the business world?
Will AI and automation result in mass job losses?
Or will automation tools enhance employees’ digital workflows and improve the employee experience?
In this post, will answer these questions, learn the pros and cons of workflow automation, and address three important questions about workflow automation.
What Is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation refers to the use of machines or software to do tasks normally performed by humans.
Typically these tasks are repetitive and do not require human judgment or analytical skills. Data entry, transcribing documents, and performing mathematical calculations are a few examples.
Usually, the term “workflow automation” does not include the automation of physical activities, such as physical labor. In most cases, the term only refers to using automation platforms to handle office tasks.
Other terms used to refer to workflow automation include:
- Robotic process automation (RPA)
- Business automation
- Task automation
- Business process automation (BPA)
In many cases, though, people will simply use the term “automation.”
Regardless of the exact scope of the term or the context, the underlying principle remains the same – automation uses machines to perform tasks normally done by people.
While there are many benefits to workflow automation, a number of people are concerned about the digital skills gap and the potential for job displacement.
In the next section, we’ll take a look at concerns such as these.
How Will Workflow Automation Affect the Workforce and the Workplace?
Here are three ways to categorize the impact automation will have on the workplace:
- Automation will absorb human jobs and leave many people out of work
- The effect of automation will be positive, improving employee productivity and the workplace
- The outcome will be somewhere in the middle, having both positive and negative effects on the workforce
This last point is probably the most accurate – many studies suggest, after all, that automation will have a detrimental effect on low-skilled jobs, such as administrative positions and eventually, manual labor jobs.
Though automation tools will continue to absorb more job tasks over time, employees will have more time to focus on strategic activities.
The effect of workflow automation, therefore, is nuanced and will affect jobs, organizations, and even entire economies differently.
Among the chief factors that will affect workplaces is how organizations prepare for, react to, and implement automation tools.
Let’s look at these three points in more detail:
How should organizations prepare for automation?
Most research suggests that automation tools will displace certain types of jobs, while creating others, such as tech jobs.
The less that organizations prepare for these changes, the greater the impact automation will have on a workplace.
To minimize that effect, it is important to have a digitally savvy workforce.
Employees who are adaptable and digitally skilled will have a better chance of adapting to the changes brought about by automation.
Not only will they be able to learn new tools and workflows quickly, they will be able to better use those tools to improve business performance. For example, employees who know how to use composable software, such as no-code platforms, will be able to design new workflows, add more value to the workplace, and improve the organization.
There are several ways that organizations can help their employees stay ready for automation:
- Employee training
- Cultivating a culture of learning and adaptation
- Adopting automation tools early
- Communicating clearly with employees about the impact of automation tools
In short, it is important that organizations facilitate not only training programs, but also to foster new attitudes in the workplace.
How should organizations and employees react to automation?
In the previous section, we suggested that employees and organizations proactively prepare for automation. This implies, among other things, that organization is an employees should both willingly embrace automation tools.
While the fear of job displacement may have merit for some, it is important not to react negatively and push back against these tools.
Resistance to change will only delay the inevitable and hinder employees’ chances of adapting to the new world of work.
Employers can help in this regard by following the steps mentioned above, such as implementing training programs.
At the same time, however, communication is equally important, if not more so.
Employees should be made aware not only of the changes that are occurring, but also of the way these automation tools can benefit them – if, that is, they prepare properly.
How should organizations use automation platforms?
For some of the reasons mentioned above, many are hesitant to adopt automation platforms. In other cases, some don’t know how to use them effectively.
Since automation tools can have such a significant impact on business workflows, it is important that business leaders leverage these tools to their fullest extent.
- Re-engineering business processes
- Collecting data and continually optimizing
- Giving employees the freedom to test and use these tools freely
- Leveraging cutting edge automation platforms, such as composable software
In short, it is important to fully integrate these tools into one’s business. As mentioned, only by fully adopting automation platforms will it be possible to prepare the workforce and the workplace – and, at the same time, extracting as much value as possible from these platforms.