In the Age of Bots, What About People?

For the past few decades, there has been a healthy debate about automation and the future of work for people. It is particularly relevant in South Africa, with our increasingly high unemployment rate, and the recent impact of COVID-19.

 Nearly 50% of companies expect that automation will lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022, based on the job profiles of their employee base today. However, 38% of businesses surveyed expect to extend their workforce to new productivity-enhancing roles, and more than a quarter expect automation to lead to the creation of new roles in their enterprise. (The Future of Jobs Report 2018, World Economic Forum)

Does it have to be an “Or” model? While Bots are taking on some of the work, they are also enabling people to take on functions requiring creativity and intuition allowing for the creation of new roles not previously imagined. Companies will need to be adaptable and forward-thinking to identify those new jobs – it is not just possible, it is essential.

The discussion should be refocused on how Bots and people work together, rather than Bots replacing people. Bots are best at repetitive, structured work while only people can provide the human touch, and the creative thinking needed to manage the unexpected. Torch Solutioneers recommend a people-centric approach to automation to ensure that both the intuition of the human, and the speed and scalability of the Bot are leveraged.

This type of work division is not new. When ATMs were first introduced, bank tellers were worried that they would lose their jobs. Instead, their role changed to become more of a client advisor where they could take time to engage with the client to understand their needs and recommend the best outcome.  The glass partitions came down and people got closer.

Organisations will need to look at the type of work to find the best fit for both the Bot and the person. For example, a finance manager of an SMME could be enhanced by a Bot that captures orders and supplier invoices. Rather than letting the human go, the role could be changed to focus on the collection of overdue client invoices. During the follow up conversations on the phone, the person would be able to pick up trends such as an issue with a product or service which they would only discover through a discussion with the client, thereby passing this information on to the product team who could improve the product or service.

There is also a growing awareness that new and different jobs are being created as technology advances and gives rise to new opportunities. A consultative approach will be required to understand what can and should be automated, and how to find a new and rewarding role for the human being so they can contribute meaningfully to the business.

Torch Solutioneers work with you, applying our people-centric approach, to find the optimal automation solution for your team.