Sink or swim – how automation determines the success story of your business

Some organisations have great potential to thrive in the future, while others run the risk of having to close their doors. What determines this difference?

  • Refusing to embrace change might lead to bankruptcy 
  • Not all businesses can be easily automated 
  • Employee-first companies have higher percentages of employee trust, satisfaction, and engagement
  • Pushing the technological transformation forward

Automation is already having a profound impact on how companies handle their operations. Many modern manufacturing plants have deployed robots to take care of tedious, repetitive work, leading to faster turnaround times, more efficiency, and increased productivity. As competition is getting tougher, more and more companies are reinventing their business strategies and increasingly adopting automation, a trend which will continue to dominate the future. A 2019 study conducted by Brookings Institute predicted that automation could affect 25 per cent of the workforce. In the future, an organisation’s success will be increasingly defined by its agility and willingness to automate its processes.

Refusing to embrace change might lead to bankruptcy 

Most ‘traditional’ organisations will eventually become a dying breed. What these organisations have in common is an unwillingness to embrace change. Resisting change is particularly pronounced in larger companies where work is done in big groups, and where employee satisfaction levels are low. Forbes predicts that these organisations are likely to fail in the future, for the simple reason that employees will eventually seek a more engaging, inspiring environment where their voices are heard, they have more autonomy, and their opinions are taken seriously. One of the reasons why companies are resistant to change is because change brings uncertainty – which can be uncomfortable and even scary. Also, an organisation that has had bad experiences with implementing changes in the past is quite likely to be hesitant to try again. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that change shouldn’t be implemented against employees’ will as this may also lead to resistance. It’s essential that managers discuss the entire automation process with their employees and help them understand the reason for these changes. Employees who are involved in and continuously updated on the process will feel valued and trusted and be less hesitant to go along with the changes.

Resistance to change isn’t, however, necessarily a bad thing. As Michal Wagner writes for the WalkMe Blog, resisting change will force company management to thoroughly examine each new initiative before implementing it to save time and money and avoid low morale. The possibility of employee resistance to change will also encourage managers to focus more on planning, communication, and identifying areas where resistance may occur first so that they can find ways to avoid this. 

Not all businesses can be easily automated

Then there’s organisations whose operations, for various reasons, are difficult to automate. Some companies, whose operations require or completely depend on creativity, aren’t likely to flourish when their human workforce is replaced by machines. Others are unable to automate due to the high costs involved in these kinds of processes. 

Expensive equipment, for instance, is the biggest reason why many agriculture businesses still rely on human labour to pick fruit and vegetables. Automation may very well speed up the picking process itself and make it more efficient, but the robots designed for this purpose are often still way too expensive. Take the world’s first raspberry picker robot as an example. Developed by Fieldwork Robotics, this autonomous robot uses 3D technology and sensors to detect when a piece of fruit is ready to be picked, and then uses its robotics arm to pick it. The machine can pick over 25,000 raspberries per day – compared to a human worker who can only pick about 15,000 raspberries during an eight-hour shift. This fancy robot may very well be faster than humans, but it also costs £700,000 to develop, which makes human pickers a far cheaper option. 

Employee-first companies have higher percentages of employee trust, satisfaction, and engagement

Companies who put their employees first – and automate as many tasks as possible to help workers save time and focus on more meaningful work – are much more likely to thrive in the future. Employees at these companies have also been found to be more focused on improving themselves and contributing to the success of the company. IT giant Cisco is a perfect example of an employee-first organisation. Named the “World’s Best Workplace For 2019,” Cisco fosters a healthy and strong company culture. As Forbes reports, 93 per cent of Cisco’s employees say it’s a great place to work, and 9 out of 10 employees look forward to going to work. Moreover, for 87 per cent of employees, the company represents “a psychologically safe place to work.” And when workers feel safe and included at work, they’re likely to be less hesitant to pitch new and innovative ideas. Cisco’s employees are encouraged to collaborate so that they can deliver positive outcomes for the company. And by supporting employees’ professional development, the company wants to motivate them to pursue innovation. To establish an atmosphere of dignity and respect across the organisation, Cisco pays special attention to diversity and inclusion.  According to Forbes, 97 per cent of Cisco’s employees say they are treated fairly and given equal opportunities regardless of their sexual orientation or race. Since fostering a positive company culture happens from the top down, the organisation’s leadership must be aligned with the company’s values and beliefs. 

International wholesale giant Makro shares similar goals with Cisco. To enable collaboration among employees and improve decision-making, the company implemented the digital communication tool ‘the Workplace’. The tool connects all employees to a central hub and enables them to collaborate directly with colleagues. This creates “a sense of fellowship and pride in the company while meeting the shifting needs of clients in real time.”

Pushing the technological transformation forward

Companies who are not afraid of disruption will continue to push the technological transformation forward. Global payment giant Mastercard is an early adopter of digital technologies. “We strive to ensure that we’re addressing emerging issues related to automation, personal privacy, career development, cybersecurity and other themes to meet our employee’s needs as it reinforces our ability to do so for customers in the world at large,” explains Priti Singh, a Senior VP of Human Resources at South Asia Mastercard. The company uses AI and machine learning to screen job applicants, and improve processes like on-boarding, training and performance reviews.

Similarly to employee-first businesses, disruptive organisations are also focused on prioritising the employee experience. Data analytics helps Mastercard’s leadership and management teams understand their employees’ needs. By collecting information that can generate actionable insights, managers can keep track of employee progress, identify areas for improvement and enhance engagement. The company even created a global digital program to help employees improve and maintain their physical and mental wellbeing through exercise, meditation, and healthy eating habits.

Business automation can be a game-changer for your organisation and offers many benefits, such as reduced costs, increased efficiency, improved customer service and streamlined productivity. When processes are automated, employees and managers will be spending much less of their energy on repetitive, predictable tasks. As a result, your organisation will be able to operate more seamlessly and accomplish more than you ever thought possible.

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

Trendwatcher, futurist and international keynote speaker Richard van Hooijdonk takes you to an inspiring future that will dramatically change the way we live, work and do business.

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