How to Address Automation Anxiety as a Digital Transformation Leader

Embracing digital transformation is no longer a choice but a necessity for businesses seeking to thrive in the modern era. As a digital transformation leader, you understand the tremendous potential and benefits that automation brings to the table. However, you are also aware that this paradigm shift can evoke anxiety and apprehension among your workforce.

According to a recent study, about 38% of employees felt fairly concerned about a loss of income due to automation practices. Their concern is understandable: the World Economic Forum estimates that 85 million jobs will be replaced by 2025 due to automation. 

While this shift offers opportunities for businesses to increase efficiency and production, it can also lead to anxiety and fear among employees who feel their jobs are at risk.  Concerns about job security, skill relevance, and the unknown impact of automation can hinder progress and hinder a smooth transition. Read on to learn the strategies to support teams and help them see the benefits of digital transformation.

How Automation Is Entering the Workplace

When automation was first introduced into the marketplace, blue-collar positions were estimated to be the first to be impacted. About 20% of all robot installations in the world happened in the automotive industry alone. But that sentiment is beginning to change as experts believe white-collar jobs may actually be the first to be fully replaced by automation according to the Future Today Institute’s CEO, Amy Webb. She believes “law firms, professional services, and a lot of consulting groups” will be the most impacted due to the pyramid model they are based upon. 

As automation becomes more prevalent and advanced, employees may also feel overwhelmed by the speed of change and the constant need to learn new skills to keep up. A study conducted on over 36,000 information technology professionals found two in five workers suffered a high risk of burnout. 

Not only can automation anxiety affect team members, but it can also hurt a company's bottom line. Employees introduced to new automation tools may become unproductive and resistant to change, or look for a new position altogether.

It's essential to position new automation tools as an opportunity for growth and learning rather than as a threat. To do this, companies need to understand the benefits automation provides employees and how it can help the entire team succeed.

Communicating the Benefits of Automation for Employees

To create a supportive company culture around automation, companies must clearly communicate the upsides of implementing new technology. Doing so changes employees' perception of automation tools and helps them understand how these tools can benefit their careers. 

Using automation tools in the workplace can bring many employee benefits:

Frees Up Employee Time

Many traditionally manual tasks can be automated, reducing the time and effort required to complete them. In a study conducted by Gartner, financial teams estimated they saved up to 25,000 hours due to automation. These tools can help by handling repetitive tasks, such as data entry or report generation. These tasks can be time-consuming and monotonous, leading to employees experiencing burnout and decreased accuracy.

The additional time given back to employees will free them up to focus on more critical analysis tasks. Below are a few examples of scenarios where automation can help free up an employee’s time:

  • A financial analyst spends less time gathering and entering data due to automation and can, instead, spend their time analyzing data trends for a company’s spending patterns.
  • A marketing specialist spends less time manually tracking social media metrics for a campaign by using automation tools. This frees up time for them to analyze data trends, adjust campaigns, and develop new strategies to increase engagement with customers.
  • A customer service representative spends less time answering repetitive inquiries by utilizing chatbot technology to handle common customer concerns. This allows the representative to focus on more complex customer issues that require greater attention and empathy. 

Increases Productivity

Automation tools make every position they affect more productive. According to Zapier, 88% of small and midsize businesses cite automation as a way to compete with larger companies. As mentioned previously, repetitive tasks can be done more quickly and with more accuracy than any employee completing them. Not only will the company enjoy more production in formerly manual areas, but employees will also be freed up to focus on more intricate and creative tasks.

As a result of these benefits, companies can gain significant advantages from using automation tools. Firstly, greater productivity can lead to cost savings as employees can complete work faster with fewer errors. This can lead to greater efficiency and, ultimately, increased profitability. Secondly, automation tools can actually help improve employee morale as opposed to creating anxiety among staff members. According to Tradeshift, 71% of workers believe that automation would have a positive effect on their job satisfaction. This can help reduce recruitment and training costs associated with high turnover rates.

Reduces Employee Errors

Automation tools never get tired, and they never clock out for the day. They can reduce human error by following predetermined rules, providing greater accuracy and consistency. This is especially important if the automation process involves critical data or customer information that requires accuracy to remain secure. Verizon found that 82% of data breaches in the company were caused by human error.

Human errors can be costly and disruptive to the organization and even dangerous in some industries like healthcare or aerospace, where mistakes can result in severe consequences. Automating these tasks reduces the risk of human error, leading to greater accuracy, consistency, and compliance.

Helps Company Scale

By automating key processes, businesses can gain real-time insights into their operations, which can help managers make more informed decisions. For example, an automation tool that provides visibility into inventory levels can help managers predict demand and order supplies accordingly. This can help reduce waste and improve cost-efficiency, which can contribute to the company's growth.

Digital transformation leaders need to communicate with employees the concept of a rising tide raising all boats. As a company grows and succeeds, more opportunities for promotions, raises, and employee benefits become available for everyone within the organization. 

Building Trust Around Automation

Having initial conversations with employees about the benefits of automation may help them ease into the idea, but it won't sell them. Instead, digital leaders need to implement an automation strategy focused on job enrichment and employee success.

Here are a few ways companies can continually help employees understand automation and get comfortable using it:

Implement Employee Training

Most employees fear accepting automation tools because it presents an unknown variable. Employees are unsure whether the new tools will threaten their current job or make it more difficult. The more familiar and comfortable an employee becomes using the technology, the more likely they are to embrace it.

Companies need to implement regular employee training when adding new automation tools. Scheduling a few training sessions can help employees understand how to use the automation tools and increase their comfort level with them. Training should be offered to new and existing employees in ways that are flexible, scalable, and customized to each business’s needs. 

Communicate Regularly

Just as employers should communicate the benefits of using automation tools for employees, they should also share news or updates on the latest technological developments. Informing employees about recent changes to the automation process or how new technology is being used can help employees understand why certain decisions have been made within the company.

Employees also need to learn the positive effects of automation on a business. Hearing how productivity increased 25% from quarter to quarter after implementing automation tools will help employees understand the importance of continual use. They'll also be more engaged with the tools if they understand the ultimate organizational goal.

Emphasize Data Literacy

As automation technology advances, digital transformation leaders need to help their staff understand and become comfortable with the tools by incorporating data literacy strategies. This includes providing regular training on how to use automation tools as well as communicating updates about recent changes for employees to better grasp why certain decisions were made within the organization. Including data literacy courses or workshops in a business helps the staff become more flexible and adaptable to consistently changing tech and software. 

Get Employees Involved

The more employees are involved throughout the automation process, the quicker they will adopt the new technology and take ownership. Companies should encourage employees to contribute ideas for automation opportunities. This can be done through surveys or focus groups, where employees are asked to identify tasks that are repetitive or time-consuming and could be automated. This approach can help identify areas for improvement and enlist the support of employees in the early stages of the project.

Companies should also involve employees in testing and providing feedback on prototypes. This can involve setting up a pilot phase, where a small group of employees can access the automation tool and provide feedback on its effectiveness and usability. This approach can help to identify any additional areas for improvement and help to ensure that the final tool is user-friendly and effective.

Addressing Automation Anxiety in the Workplace

The rise of AI technologies and automation tools in the workplace is causing employees to become anxious about job security. To quell the fear, employers need to first communicate with employees about the benefits employees can personally gain from using automation tools. Employers must also find ways to build additional trust throughout the entire automation process, like setting up training sessions or getting employees involved with each step. Reach out to Correlation One for help closing the data and digital skill gap for your workforce, and using automation to create diversified talent and resilient employees.

Publish date: May 11, 2023