Automation Technology: Benefits and Concerns

Robotic hand pressing a keyboard on a laptop 3D rendering

With the advent of more advanced technology, many workers are understandably concerned about automation and the impact it could have on their jobs. Computers systems grow more advanced each and every year, leading to improvements in artificial intelligence that have unskilled workers in certain industries where automation is king. Let’s explore some of these concerns, including why some of them have merit while others may be a long way off yet.

How Do We Define Automation Technology?

Automation in its most simple context is anytime technology is used to fulfill tasks that would normally be performed by humans. The idea is that as human input is minimized; workflows can be made more predictable, repeatable, and efficient, reducing the risk of user error and other unforeseen issues getting in the way. Computing systems have been using automation for a long time, but recent innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning have opened up the floodgates to a whole new realm of possibilities, leading many workers to question whether they will be replaced by technology in the near future.

Should Workers Be Worried?

The answer to this question is not as clear as you might think. Some people are worried when they really should not be, whereas others have much more cause for concern. About a quarter of today’s workforce feel that automation might come for their jobs within the next five years. Young people in particular are worried about the future of their jobs (about 37 percent), as they are generally more aware of how technology can influence businesses to work toward automation. There is a trend showcasing that the older a worker is, the less likely they feel they can be replaced by an automated system.

Age disparity and the income difference associated with it also play a part in this equation. 34 percent of workers that make less than $50,000 annually are fearful their job will be automated. From that point onward, the fear decreases exponentially as income increases. Since most jobs being replaced by automation are filled by unskilled workers, this trend is hardly surprising.

If you look at automation by industry, you will find that many human jobs have already been lost to it. In industries like automotive, business support and logistics, advertising and marketing, and retail, automation presents considerable risk to jobholders.

Truck drivers are the perfect example of those who might be concerned about these developments in automation technology. Self-driving trucks are not just a developing technology; they are already here. With the signing of legislation and a bit of further refinement, truck drivers could very well be at risk of losing their jobs. The biggest concern here is that these workers may not have other skill sets that could land them employment elsewhere—at least not with the same financial stability as with their current profession.

The long and short of it is that most workers know if their jobs are in any danger of being replaced by automation, and while they might not be ecstatic about switching careers, the truth of the matter is that automation takes away opportunities and replaces them with new ones.

Can Automation Technology Help Workers?

While many workers worry about their jobs due to automation, much more are using it to make their jobs easier and more manageable. People have specific skill sets that allow them to succeed in any given role, but it is a fact that much of managing a business involves small repetitive tasks. Technology can be used to make these tasks easier to accomplish, allowing employees to refocus their efforts and skillsets on larger tasks that would otherwise be mired underneath everyday operations. When skilled employees are allowed to flourish in this fashion and utilize their skills to the best of their abilities, productivity can soar. If automation is used to this end, businesses have much to gain from it.

Through automation, companies can save money, work smarter (not harder), and fully leverage their available resources. When businesses are operating as efficiently as possible, the quality of their products/services and demand for them can increase, leading to the creation of more jobs and opportunities for workers. Does this scenario sound likely to you? What are your thoughts on automation in the workplace? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments and check our blog regularly for technology-related content.

Why Collaboration is Crucial to a Successful Business

teamwork collaboration

If there’s one buzzword heard more than any other in today’s workplace, I’d be willing to bet it could be “collaboration”… and no wonder. Collaboration serves a very important purpose in today’s operations, which is why establishing the processes that encourage it makes sense for your business’ well-being.

Let’s examine what really makes collaboration, well, collaboration, and how you can encourage such habits in your own business.

Separating Teamwork and Collaboration

First thing’s first, we need to establish that—while closely related—teamwork and collaboration are not the same thing. While there is no collaboration without teamwork, teamwork is possible without technically collaborating.

Consider the bucket brigade. Once upon a time, when a fire broke out, that was the preferred method to extinguish it—passing buckets of water up a line to the flame that needed to be put out. By lining people up to pass the buckets down, the people involved were all collaborating toward the goal of putting out the fire. Now, consider the alternative: everyone running back and forth with their own bucket, waiting for their turn to refill as the fire blazes on.

Teamwork, sure, but nothing collaborative about a frantic free-for-all.

Teamwork is the combined action of a group. Collaboration is the act of combining a team’s resources to accomplish each step of a given action.

Here are a few other ways to tell an example of teamwork, from an example of true collaboration:

  • There’s a tendency for a team to have a set leader to set the course of whatever project is being worked on, while collaboration thrives in an egalitarian group setting.
  • Teamwork can be effective in completing a business’ short-term goals, while long-term goals are better served by collaborative behaviors.
  • As we hinted at, teamwork requires someone to be in control of the group. Collaboration requires the group’s members to trust one another.

The Benefits of Collaboration in Action

Embracing collaboration brings universal advantages that you can enjoy.

Improved Operations

Why have one person working on a problem, when you have a whole team of people who could all think of a solution? With a workplace culture steeped in collaborative habits, problem-solving becomes much easier. Employee engagement also goes up, allowing you to enjoy side effects like increased revenue, greater productivity, fewer mishaps, and less turnover.

Satisfied Employees

Collaboration can also have a marked effect on the experience your employees have in the workplace. In addition to the knowledge-sharing capabilities that collaboration encourages, employee relationships can improve. This isn’t nothing—office friendships have been identified as one of the most important components of employee satisfaction. One survey ranked it as most important to 70 percent of workers. Collaboration also offers the benefit of increased morale, which itself brings better productivity and heighted retention rates.

What You Can Do to Encourage Collaboration

Endorsing collaboration in your office doesn’t need to be too difficult. In fact, there are a few simple methods that have proven very effective.

Bring Your Team Together with a Shared Mission and Expectations

If it weren’t for your team, your company couldn’t be as successful as it is. Make sure that they understand their value to the organization, and how their responsibilities play into those of the larger group. This is made easier with a shared company goal (also known as its mission).

By establishing this mission, you can then set the benchmarks and objectives that your team needs to meet and assign your team members with the appropriate responsibilities to do so.

Enable Innovative Collaboration Through Encouragement

Make sure that, as your team works to implement their newly collaborative processes, you are showing them your enthusiasm for their efforts. This will only encourage them to continue their adoption of them. You should also consider being equally encouraging toward any innovative ideas that your team members may have. Who knows—your team member may have discovered a way to complete a task more productively. If not, you’ll at least have confirmed that the status quo is the better option for you in the moment. Don’t be afraid to encourage input from those with hands-on experience.

Provide Tools for Collaboration

Perhaps obviously, your different employees are going to have different contributions to bring the table. Maybe someone is good at placating an irate caller, while someone else is particularly adept at organizing processes within your management software. Don’t be afraid to give these jobs to these people while giving them more opportunities to work together using your collaborative solutions. With many still working remotely, these tools are crucial to far more organizations than ever before. Give your team access to these tools and make the most of their capabilities.

If you’re in need of collaborative technologies or the strategies to put them in place, reach out to 4 Corner IT, a WheelHouse IT company, at (877) 771-2384. Our team is ready to help.