Automation technologies which were initially adopted largely by the manufacturing industry are now being implemented at a rapid pace across various sectors. With increasing deployment of AI, IoT and other digital tools, organisations have begun to consider going beyond automation and examine the business outcomes by way of transformation of their human resources. The focus now is on creating more job opportunities and more productivity for employees rather than being concerned about job losses due to automation.
Digital tools can augment human capabilities in a number of ways. They have been able to add value at various stages of problem-solving, leading to decision-making, data analytics, harnessing of innovation potential, personalised and mass communication, better collaboration across teams and ongoing training support.
Other factors that are impacting the workplace include the expanding gig economy and the changing workflows and processes. In fact, by being able to combine the power of technologies such as RPA, machine learning and cognitive automation with the processes redesigned for the new workplace, enhanced efficiencies and effectiveness of augmented workforce are now becoming feasible.
Most companies are using digital applications to maximise machine uptime or automate processes, making monitoring easier and reducing dependence on human resources for mundane tasks or for managing large systems. Companies that wish to target higher levels of human effectiveness or innovation need to define these goals as part of their strategy for automation. While the digital tools have the potential to deliver these outcomes, it is important to outline the specific objectives an organisation wishes to achieve with respect to their resources. By identifying the challenges faced and the root causes of these, it would be possible to come up with the technology roadmap for transformation.
Schneider Electric, for instance, has been able to introduce continuous improvements in its operations. This would have been impossible without the active engagement of its workforce at all levels. Through intelligent automation, it has been possible to empower the workforce and capture their suggestions for improvements and redesign the processes. With this approach it is possible to get a maximum number of employees on the same level of skilling within the required timeframes. These technologies also support organisations in their objective to make the workplace more inclusive.
Further, in view of travel restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, these technologies have made it possible for employees, vendors and partners to connect on a regular basis and address problems together. In fact there has been an increasing recognition to extend collaborations facilitated by AR/VR technologies to ‘business-as-usual’ times with stakeholders such as the government and universities.
Augmented workforce development requires sensitising people on cultures as well as methods for building a healthy partnership between machines and humans. To begin with, employees would require to become familiar with the technologies and how to work with them. As they learn to master the technology driven work environment, new roles would emerge and employees would need to be upskilled to transition into them. Therefore, both leaders and employees would have to be on a continuous treadmill to adapt and succeed in a world that is experiencing several waves of automation.
The writer is chairperson, Global Talent Track, a corporate training solutions firm