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A popular topic that is going in the business process outsourcing world is how to integrate humans with the new technologies that are shaping the workplace of the future. What’s the buzz all about? Here’s all you need to know.

No, robots are not out to invade the workplace.

Actually, they are already here. They’ve been here in excel sheets, telephones, and even those old-school calculators that are part of the movement. They’re just getting smarter.

There’s a misdirected notion that robots are replacing humans and taking over our jobs but as we’ve seen from time and time again, technology is just changing the landscape. From back-breaking fieldwork to easy-breezy tractors, some tasks are just being simplified to enable humans to move on to more complex problems. Farmers are now using technology to work on the sustainability of their processes, controlling temperatures and improving their supply chain.

It’s the tasks that are being replaced, not the workers. As long as there are humans, jobs will never run out. But there’s a catch.

Jobs are requiring a higher level of skills.

Now that businesses are adapting to a digital work environment, they shift to automation in expediting menial tasks and producing more accurate results. Rote tasks are being handed to these machines. With an ever-increasing labor force, companies have their pick in sourcing talents who have medium-level to high-level skills. As jobs transform, it’s only inevitable that some roles become obsolete.

Here are the types of tasks machines are much better at than humans:

  1. Processing large volumes of data
  2. Storing and retrieving information
  3. Producing accurate and consistent results
  4. Handling continuous, repetitive tasks.

Automation, for the most part, is likely to impact jobs involving these tasks. So yes, the idea that robots are displacing humans in the workplace has some basis to it; but that’s not the whole picture. The right question to ask is, “Where are the jobs going?”

Technology has always created more jobs than it displaces. Predicting what skills it would demand, however, is not so apparent. The business process outsourcing community is looking at the value of the human workforce and what makes them different from machines.

Here are the types of tasks humans are much better at than machines (for now):

  1. Physical sensing for jobs requiring human contact.
  2. Empathizing and socializing with others
  3. Creative and flexible work
  4. Exploring new, unpredictable tasks

Everyone’s adopting technology.

Machines offer companies with significant competitive advantages in reducing operational costs and increasing its efficiency. Once one business adapts, the rest need to follow or risk getting left behind. Automation is now being adopted by enterprises across industries from payroll to healthcare.

The global service industry is staying in the game.

The business process outsourcing industry has also started integrating technology with their human workforce solutions.

Impact on Service Demand

Customer service is changing as the administrative, routine job roles are being automated; customer interaction is moving to self-service chat and email services.

Impact on Labor Demand

This shift from transactional to automated interactions is also evident in the internal operations. The roles that are taking the spotlight is now moving towards relationship management and career development, with an increased emphasis on soft social skills and hard skills in analytics. The World Economic Forum lists problem-solving ability as the top demand for the future workforce.

World Economic Forum’s Top 10 List of Skills for 2020

  1. Complex Problem-solving
  2. Critical Thinking
  3. Creativity
  4. People Management
  5. Cooperation
  6. Emotional Intelligence
  7. Judgment and Decision-making / Analytical Skills
  8. Helpfulness
  9. Negotiation Skills
  10. Cognitive Flexibility (the ability to balance creativity, logic, and sensitivity)

Impact on Operations

As technology is rapidly developing, job roles are continuously changing and toppling down the traditional business hierarchy structure with its unpredictable nature. Agile working is more favored as a faster, more adaptable way of working to face the uncertainties of the future. In an exploratory work environment, the end justifies the means.

Impact on Results

Automation is time-saving for shareholders. It has the processing power to process years worth of analog work into months, solving issues in backlogs and increasing demands. However, employee work value increases in complexity. This means that employees will have to work on more complex requests but have inversely smaller although better quality results; all while giving them more meaning in their work. The effect on customer satisfaction also increases as the service delivery reliably becomes consistent and efficient.

How can your business join in the movement?

Having a deep understanding of what is going on is crucial. Know how the processes are changing, consult with platform ecosystem experts to implement the platform tools needed, define which skills are needed to upskill and train your staff and redeploy employees, reconstruct human jobs towards high-value activities, encourage cross-team virtual collaboration, and most importantly keep updating processes and integrate cross-platform tools.

Implement Technology.

Mary Lacity, author and Walton Professor of Information Systems and director of the Blockchain Center of Excellence at the University of Arkansas defines five stages of automation adoption. She states that it takes at least six months after deployment to see the results of service automation.

Stages of Development in Adopting Service Automation for Business

Change Management.

Taking an interest in this article and reading it means you and your business are at least in the second stage of service development. To move forward, understand whether your enterprise would be better off with a build or a buy strategy by looking at the long-term needs of the company. Consider the sourcing model to follow; whether to: buy by outsourcing or using Software as a Service (SaaS), or build by consulting experts for in-house operations.

Also, please note that project management for an early service automation deployment requires a different approach from older tested deployments. It’s exploratory, more costly, and with clear goals but no measurements. It’s ROIs take different timelines and the risks are high. The worst pitfall is to pick the wrong tools for the wrong tasks for the wrong projects. However, done right, automation has the power to significantly increase the reliability, scalability, and adaptability of processes.

Underlying all this effort is great people management. It plays a huge role in the future of work as agile working requires re-designing collaborative workspaces, technology is quickly shifting job roles, and business and individual alignment becomes crucial in a gig economy with high employee attrition rates. The right messaging of what automating processes means for employees can keep them engaged and cooperative; instead of threatened and disempowered. Incentivize employees to maximize the tools, not work around it.

This is all due, of course, with the changing business structure brought by the automation adoption. Now, do you think you’re ready for the fourth industrial revolution?

Consider getting the latest business process innovations with outsourcing.

Reach out to us to know more about how we could help you adopt technology for your business.