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Automation Doesn’t Always Mean a Staff Reduction

Feb 1, 2019 12:12:00 PM

by Charles Bystock

Moves to automate certain processes within a company can sometimes feel like a covert operation. Employees can be wary of automation because high levels of automation often go hand in hand with layoffs. But does automation always mean cutting down on staff?

Automation has a bad rep, especially in manufacturing

While some may point to offshore outsourcing as a key drain on employment opportunities, automation has a long history of job reduction. Just think back to the decades where a single plant may have required 500 workers to function at full capacity. Nowadays, factories need only a fraction of that many employees to maintain increased output.

As automation moves into more sophisticated, higher-skilled sectors — thanks to advancements in AI and machine learning — analysts are looking more and more at the potential job loss due to automation. Estimates on automation job loss range from 1.8 million by 2020 to 2 billion by 2030. Numbers for job creation stemming from automation vary as well but tend to be much smaller: between 1 million jobs created by 2020 to 890 million by 2030.

The belief in the power and future good of automation depends on who you talk to, especially in the tech industry. These opinions range from techno-optimism to techno-pessimism. As you might have guessed by the name, techno-optimists see the promise of automation for its pros whereas techno-pessimists see it for its cons.

For example, some techno-optimists see job elimination as a good thing, leaving more resources and opportunity for the creation of new, higher-skill and better-paying work. Others admit that the job loss might hurt, but it might not be as painful as some research has suggested. Conversely, techno-pessimists worry that automation and other advancements may cause apathy in the face of current social, economic, and environmental issues.

Wherever you fall on the optimism spectrum, you should understand that automation in your company, no matter how big or small, doesn’t always mean cutting down your staff.

Benefits of automation to your team

If you decided to run an unofficial survey of your IT team right now about what they’re doing at work versus what they would rather be doing at work, you’d likely hear about how much time repetitive, manual processes take from more interesting and often more revenue-generating work. Time that could be spent redesigning an application is pushed aside for security event management. Excitement about a new product might get drained by a massive but necessary architecture management project.

If you’re looking to reduce talent costs, automation is a great way to do it. But automation is also an incredible tool for reducing pressure on an overburdened team while giving them the space and ability to contribute more to your business. This comes with the added benefit of creating more challenging and engaging work, which can help increase job satisfaction.

Overall, automation offers a way to increase productivity without the need to hire more people. This can help reduce the strain of IT’s ongoing talent shortage on your business, as well as create opportunities to further train and develop your own team.

Automate with care

There will always be a lengthy pros and cons list whenever businesses consider adding more automation capabilities to their workforce. If your goal is to not only reduce IT costs but also boost morale, automation doesn’t automatically mean a reduction of your internal team. When eliminating positions is unavoidable, offering training or lateral movement opportunities can help soften the blow, especially if you have dedicated employees who may be a valuable resource in the future.

Automation might not always be the best for everyone on the team, so it’s a good idea to tread lightly and have a solid plan in place before discussing automation opportunities in your organization.

The Windsor Group can help you find the best automation strategy for your business while balancing your success benchmarks and staffing goals. Start with a strategy session today.

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