Employees worldwide are reevaluating the role work plays in their lives – especially young professionals. From the Great Resignation to the latest buzz term, “quiet quitting,” work trends increasingly reflect the workforce feeling over-worked, under-valued and disengaged.
We need to change the role of work
In Gallup’s latest “State of the Global Workplace Report,” it was found that the majority (57 percent) of the world’s workers are not engaged and are not thriving in the workplace. This not only has serious implications for the overall well-being of workers, but it also affects businesses’ growth potential. According to Gallup, low engagement costs the global economy US$7.8 trillion in lost productivity and is strongly linked to performance outcomes, including retention, productivity, safety, and profitability.
Business units with engaged workers have 23 percent higher profit compared to those with reported “miserable” workers. Still, only one in five employees are engaged at work and, even among this cohort, those who are only engaged but not thriving have a 61 percent increased chance of ongoing burnout. Further, 19 percent of employees report being miserable, and nearly six in 10 report feelings of stress the day prior.
What’s behind the record levels of workplace dissatisfaction? Low value and meaningless work, lack of support, and unreasonable time pressures all play key roles, among other factors.
So, what is the solution?
Digital labor has the potential to make workers happier and more engaged. Executives are exploring how digital colleagues can be used to minimize repetitive, dangerous, or stressful work and leave their human colleagues free to perform work that delivers value and reward for employees and business owners alike. Increased awareness about how technology can make our lives easier is starting to translate into changing expectations in the workplace.
Why is a unified workforce beneficial?
With labor shared between digital and human workers, overworked employees have time to focus on value-adding, fulfilling activities. They are assigned tasks they are proven to excel at, thanks to the intelligent decision-making capabilities of digital workers. Operations run smoothly, businesses become more competitive, customers get a seamless and tailored experience, and employees are happier – which is imperative to long-term success.
The benefits of a unified human-digital division of labor can be multifold:
- Time savings:
With mounting demands and pressures on businesses and diminishing resources and expectations for fast delivery, time is an increasingly valued asset. By allowing digital workers to take over manual and repetitive tasks and delegate work to the most effective resource – human or digital – you can create more time for your business and put energy into growth areas.
- Skills and talent shortages:
By sharing workloads with digital workers, you can reduce the need for specific skill sets. Additionally, with a no-code platform, development is easier and faster, reducing specific talent needs in areas such as IT.
- Effective division of labor:
With a unified workforce, you get the best resource, every time, for a given task. Traditionally, it has been assumed all people can do things equally. But that’s not the reality – we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and some of us are better at handling certain types of tasks than others. When a task comes in, a digital worker can not only determine if it is best delegated to a human or digital worker but also determine which human is best for a task. This considers several factors: Which human worker has demonstrated they excel at this task? Do they have the capacity or availability to take this on? This effective division of labor empowers your people to focus on the kind of work humans are good at while leaving their digital colleagues to perform those tasks that do not require human talent.
- Regulatory compliance:
Digital workers can also ensure regulatory compliance. They provide audit trails to show how data has moved through systems. Verifying and tracking transactions becomes seamless and void of human error, an issue with the repetitive nature of many compliance-related tasks. As with human workers, businesses can implement quality control procedures to build confidence around digital workers’ governance activities.
- Reduced error rates and increased cost savings:
In many sectors, the costs of fixing mistakes can be egregiously high. Many organizations put a lot of time and money into procedures and processes to minimize error rates, as the up-front costs are far less than those at the back end of a mistake. Errors affect customer experiences, with real and impactful consequences in sectors like health or financial services. Subsequently, this costs organizations substantial time and money to resolve or minimize the damage. But with digital workers, error rates become negligible as the possibility of inevitable human error is removed in areas like data entry.
How do companies successfully build a unified workforce?
Before any organization endeavors to create a collaborative human-digital workforce, they need to take stock of where they are and where they want to go. I have had so many businesses come to me and say they want to do something with artificial intelligence and machine learning. Still, when I probe a bit further, they have no idea what that looks like, why they want those tools, or what it will take to implement them successfully. My recommendation is always to start with your people and determine what you really need them to do – what is the work that takes place in your organization that requires empathy, sympathy, innovation, or problem-solving? Whether a business does it on its own or with the support of a partner, they first need to devise a roadmap for where they want to go and determine critical factors along that journey: What is the timeframe? How much are they willing to invest? What are the return on investment (ROI) expectations?
Across the many customers we have worked with, no two are the same – they have different in-house capabilities and aspirations. One constant is the need for change management – a critical determinant of success. Organizations need to change their structure and how their processes flow and operate. They need to incentivize their people to want digital solutions to be successful because if your workforce isn’t driving change, you don’t have any chance of unifying it with digital workers. Businesses are often too close to operations to effectively manage this change and require external intervention to help devise what that looks like.
We regularly see businesses take on bottom-up projects in incremental and siloed ways separate from top-down initiatives. But fundamentally, the introduction to automation (or digital labor) is a people-first activity. Resources are wasted and progress is stunted. Our solution is to bridge those gaps across the organization, connecting work at every step and level, to align all work to desired business outcomes. Organizations are left with a cohesive team working together, using people where they should, and automating wherever they can. This creates the right balance of work for your workers, encouraging productivity, innovation and optimal customer service.
A unified workforce mitigates burnout issues and creates a work environment your employees deserve. Strike that balance, and you’ll facilitate a roster of fulfilled, motivated, and happy workers.