Employees demand more, not less automation in the workplace

Employees demand more, not less automation in the workplaceOver half (52 percent) of workers in a new poll have admitted looking for a new job because of frustrations over what they see as outdated ways of thinking around work practices and automation at their current company. The Digital Work Report 2018 commissioned by Wrike, surveyed just over 3,000 workers from across the UK, France and Germany, and highlighted a number of perceived benefits around automation, but its findings suggest that calls for greater adoption by employees are not being taken seriously. Nearly half of those surveyed (45 percent) in the UK believe automation would give their company a competitive advantage. However, while 39 percent are considering automation tools for some of their job functions, just 4 percent of UK companies have an automation strategy (i.e. planning to implement tools/techniques within next 12-24 months) for the whole company – considerably lower than European counterparts in Germany and France (both at 8 percent).

Prof. Steven Van Belleghem, an expert in customer focus in the digital world and author of Customers The Day After Tomorrow says: “The reality is that automation is happening, and that means people and machines are going to have to work closely together. Simply saying “I’m not really interested in digital” in today’s job market is the equivalent of saying “I’m not really interested in learning to read and write” fifty years ago.”

In a bid to offer credible insight into workplace automation, the study looked into the willingness for workers to maximise their time spent on value-creating activities. The survey found that just over half of employees claim that between 21 and 60 percent of their work is repetitive or ‘cognitively routine’, with 86 percent interested in technology that could cut the amount of time they spend on such tasks.

Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike says: “Automation isn’t something that should be feared. In fact, in an economy where businesses are increasingly being required to work faster and smarter, automation becomes the key to competitive advantage.

“Our research shows an overwhelming 73 per cent of UK workers believe that technology can help with operational efficiencies by taking on repetitive tasks,” he adds. “Virtually any task that repeats itself is ripe to be automated. The real challenge is making businesses and individuals more aware of just how much of their day-to-day work is repetitive – and making sure employees are then allowed to invest their newly gained time into tasks that add greater value to the business.”

The study also shines a light on the differences with our European counterparts when it comes to automation. It found that UK employees have the most repetitive work, with 34 per cent of UK workers thinking that 61 to 100 per cent of their work is repetitive (versus 29 and 27 per cent in France and Germany respectively).

Examples of repetitive work cited in the survey include:

*   Sales or marketing emails
*   Scheduling meetings
*   Documenting action items from meetings
*   Copying information between systems
*   Preparing reports for executives
*   Searching for the information required to complete tasks
*   File management and documentation
*   Routine processes and workflows
*   Assigning work to the right team member

The top three tasks people would like to see automated are file management and documentation (23 percent), routine processes and workflow (19 percent) and copying information between systems (16 percent). Interestingly, a lack of a ‘single source of truth’ among UK workers seems to be a key issue, with work being done across too many systems, creating duplication of work and communication, seen as the number one barrier to operational efficiencies (30 percent).

Given the ability to gain ‘extra’ time in their working day, what do people say they’d focus on? According to the findings, creative work is the part of their job that most employees would want to focus on more (32 percent), followed by listening better to customers (26 percent).