Veronica Buitron is the CEO & Co-Founder of Tangocode, a Chicago-based digital marketing and software development firm.
Historically, the relationship between automation and employees has been seen, to varying degrees of accuracy, as an adversarial one. The fear was that automation would make thousands of jobs obsolete in order to cut costs and improve efficiency. In reality, however, the majority of the automation market doesn’t aim to replace employees at all; the goal is simply to optimize their performance, to help them do their jobs better. My company works in this space: our flagship product is an adtech automation tool designed to make digital marketers’ jobs easier. Through this process of optimization, we are seeing a ton of benefits for the employees themselves.
While greater efficiency and increased revenues are typically the main selling points for automation, there’s much to be said for its competitive advantage in creating a better work environment for employees.
As everyone is already painfully aware, the past few years have heightened the competition for talent. Companies are struggling more than ever to attract and, more importantly, retain employees. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how automation can help remedy this problem.
1. More Time To Be Creative And Problem Solve
Humans are at their best when they are creative and thinking critically. The freedom to think and ideate opens the door for new improvements for the business. Imagine all the ideas you could come up with if you had an extra hour or two each day to just sit and brainstorm. When we stifle free thinking time, we stifle free thinking.
More time also means that work quality is likely to see a big upswing. Far too often, people are pressured to crank out task upon task, resulting in quality and productivity suffering. One Stanford study found that productivity sees a sharp decline when a person works more than 50 hours per week. When your backlog of assignments doesn’t weigh on your mind, you have the ability to handle each task with care, ensuring it receives your complete attention. People take pride in their work, and being able to put out a product you feel good about does wonder for employees’ outlook and overall sense of well-being.
2. Avoiding Burnout
Burnout exists for a variety of reasons, but one of the most prevalent and obvious is being overworked. Working too much for too long can not only cause burnout and possibly lead an employee to quit their job, but it can have seriously damaging health effects, from stress to exhaustion to a whole host of diseases. In fact, a recent study found that 745,000 people worldwide died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to working long hours.
Reducing someone’s workload, even just by an hour a day, can be a huge step toward lowering their levels of stress and allowing them to stop feeling like they’re constantly fighting to come up for air.
The other type of burnout, which is typically less talked about but can have equally dire consequences, comes from being bored and unfulfilled at work. People want to feel like they’re making a difference, contributing to something larger than themselves. When employees are subjected to monotonous, repetitive work day in and day out, it can take a serious toll on their mental health, which can lead to depression and put them at greater risk for addictions.
Giving your employees the latitude to focus on more important, less monotonous tasks, and having some agency in how they go about their day is a guaranteed way to protect their mental health and foster a happier environment they’ll value.
3. Smoothing Out Growth-Related Speed Bumps
Growth is undoubtedly the top initiative for companies across the board. But even when high growth is achieved, the effort puts immense pressure on the business. These “growing pains” are incredibly tough, and more often than not, this pressure is applied to the employees.
Automation gives employees, and businesses, more flexibility to adapt to problems associated with growth. When your internal processes aren’t at risk of crumbling because a few new accounts were added, you have the luxury of growing at a more sustainable pace. When bandwidth isn’t stretched to the point of breaking, your team can temporarily fill in the gaps, giving you more ample time to hire and not feel rushed into a decision.
Using automation to gain time to grow the right way and hire the right people is a system that feeds into itself. The proper use of automation provides you the opportunity to foster a collaborative and healthy culture with the right people who will feel happier and more fulfilled, ultimately staying longer and continuing this much healthier cycle of employment.
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