Many manual tasks, previously performed by people, are now being replaced by automation or digital tools. Does this mean an end for the traditional office worker?
Within the manufacturing sector, automation is well established. Assembly roles previously held by people are increasingly being replaced with machines. One company in China replaced 90% of their staff with robots, increasing production and improving quality as a result.
Office workers are not immune from this trend. Technologies like RPA, Robotic Process Automation, or better still, fully integrated ERP systems, are reducing the need for many administrative roles.
Just as the robots in the manufacturing sector, automation can make your day to day operations much more accurate and efficient. People aren’t perfect. We make spelling errors, mathematical errors, we miss deadlines. Computers do not. For many administrative tasks, automation is a no-brainer.
While this is good for the overall productivity of the organisation, workers are rightly concerned about technology taking over the job market.
However, we should also consider some cases where we are seeing people claim back their roles.
Research from BT Business showed that UK SMEs lose £90m in sales annually through failing to pick up phone calls. The technical solution to this is virtual assistants and online chat. A robot can speak to many customers at once without getting confused.
The problem with this approach though, is that people like talking to people. Not robots.
In a recent survey, 80.5% of respondents said they preferred human interaction over electronic systems. We've all heard the "your call is important to us" message, but isn't the best way to show that "your call is important" simply to answer the phone and have a conversation?
This has given rise to an opportunity for PAs and Virtual PAs to step in and provide the human touch. Even if the person you are trying to reach is unavailable, you still get through to somebody who may be able to help, who is able to maintain the brand personality and make you feel like your call is valued.
Direct mail is seeing a trend in hand fulfilment and handwritten letters. Personally, I've received handwritten letters and envelopes from several large advertising agencies. This leaves a lasting impression - much more personal and engaging than a typical pre-printed mail merge.
I received one of those letters a couple of months ago, but I'm still referring to it today — it's memorable. Whether you are b2b or b2c, people buy from people.
Don’t steal jobs from computers… unless of course it adds value!
What should be the role of a human VS the role of a computer? People are creative, emotional, able to react to unforeseen circumstances and engage with other people in a way which we can’t replace with technology.
People shouldn’t be wasted on inputting data between their sales CRM, their accounting system, their stock system, this spreadsheet and the other spreadsheet. If the task is purely administrative or repetitive, then the humans should leave the computers to do their thing! We add no value here.
Computers don’t replace people, they free them up to add value where technology can’t.
People are able to respond to unpredictable scenarios, where software or computers can't. Just like you wouldn't want a computer in charge of your customer service or sales negotiations, you also wouldn't want a person in charge of entering repeated data.
You hire the best for the job. Sometimes it's a person and sometimes it’s a computer.
In conclusion, yes it's likely that some jobs will be made redundant by technology. But that gives an opportunity for people to add more human value to a company. It can only mean great things.