The Real Treasure of Task Automation
It’s neither efficiency nor profit.
Virgin CEO Richard Branson famously said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” While employee-centric business models continue to be the exception rather than the norm, research supports the idea that happy and satisfied employees have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line.
A well-known article in the Harvard Business Review looked at the relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. They cite a study that found “a 5% increase in customer loyalty can produce profit increases from 25% to 85%.” This led them to conclude that “quality of market share, measured in terms of customer loyalty, deserves as much attention as quantity of share” (emphasis added).
They propose that the key to cultivating customer satisfaction and loyalty is employees. More specifically, happy employees. The connection between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, according to the study, is that companies with more satisfied employees see less turnover. That low turnover rate means a higher number of experienced employees who have time to build relationships and therefore customer loyalty. Low turnover also contributes to higher overall productivity.
Meaningful work makes a healthier, happier team.
This article delivers another relevant insight: according to a study they cited, the primary source of job satisfaction within one company was the “service workers’ perceptions of their ability to meet customer needs.” In this study, meeting the customers’ needs meant answering questions, interacting with customers, and providing assistance in ways that weren’t explicitly defined in the employee’s workflow. The satisfied employees were able to influence the overall goal of their work directly, instead of just focusing on a series of specified tasks.
In other words, job satisfaction may be affected by the ability and capacity to do the things that matter most. In this case, making sure customers were cared for properly. In their analysis of employee experience, Forrester’s found something similar:
Psychological research shows that the most important factor for employee experience is being able to make progress every day toward the work that they believe is most important. But when presented with this option, managers will consistently rank it dead last. (Forrester: Employee Experience Index)
Forrester found that even though things like pay, recognition, and benefits are important to employees, a true sense of satisfaction depends on being able to perform meaningful work. To that end, opportunities to free employees from work that doesn’t directly impact the end goal should be assessed for their automation potential. Doing so may lead to happier employees, which leads to happier customers, and leads to long-term growth and higher revenues for the business.
In this sense, task automation is about letting people do more than just check off a list of boxes. It’s about looking past the promise of efficiencies and profits toward something that matters more: purpose.
Automatic for the people
The point of automation is to make work better and to help people achieve their goals. Although automation reduces costs and speeds up workflows, it also creates value for enterprises by freeing resources that were previously spent on repetitive, routine tasks and redirecting them towards more complex and creative outputs.
Research tells us that keeping employees happy, healthy, and satisfied plays a pivotal role in long-term business strategy. Automation is one tool businesses can use to improve their overall productivity by creating tasks and workflows that are built to enhance the employee experience, rather than detract from it. While this might be true at any time, it is especially important in the post-pandemic era as new work models are gaining traction and the employee’s experience of work is shifting dramatically.
The automation horizon
Organizations who are most likely to navigate these changes successfully will be those who look beyond what these changes mean for productivity in order to see what they mean for the people on whom it depends. While the pandemic has brought many challenges in its wake, it has also opened the door to seeing automation as a liberating force that unfetters us from digital drudgery and helping us fulfill our potential as creative and energized parts of a greater whole.
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