Up-skilling workers is as important as updating technologies, says Aspect Software

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Anxieties over automation are reaching new heights, with new figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showing that 46 per cent of jobs are likely to be “significantly affected” over the next 20 years. But organisations looking to digitally transform should not forget about the needs of their employees, as human engagement will always remain an instrumental part of business.

This is according to customer engagement specialists Aspect Software, which warns that the most effective businesses will encourage collaborative working between humans and robots. This includes giving employees a detailed lowdown on how automation can actually help them to do their jobs more efficiently, by acting as a tool to support them in their daily activities.

Regarding this developing business requirement, Stephen Ball, senior vice president of Aspect Software says: “Research shows that digital transformation is now the top strategic priority for businesses, as the applications of new technologies become more clear. This is particularly the case in customer service, where automation through tools such as interactive voice response (IVR) and chatbots is resulting in some of the most burdensome and costly tasks to be simplified, and in many cases, eradicated.

“These developments are causing understandable anxieties within the sector, so it is important that organisations work with their employees to ensure they are fully informed on how they will be affected.

“According to the OECD, automation is more likely to influence individual tasks rather than whole occupations, so non-routine elements of work, requiring social and interpersonal skills will be more important than ever. Meanwhile, standardised tasks which some employees can find repetitive and dull, will be increasingly carried out by technology, meaning that the chance of human replacement is low.

“As an example, in the contact centre automation will allow simple queries to be dealt with immediately, leaving more complicated issues to be solved by a customer service agent. A simple query of ‘when will my delivery arrive?’, can be easily dealt with via an automated response, whereas multiple questions relating to a delivery may need to be dealt with by an experienced agent, who can process more complex issues quickly and deliver a personal service.”

Stephen adds, “the key is to make sure that staff are properly trained so that they can feel empowered by these technologies, rather than threatened by them. By encouraging collaborative working between humans and technology, organisations can greatly streamline their operations, while adding to the satisfaction of their employees. In this way, new technologies can be viewed as a tool to support staff in their daily activities, rather than replace existing practices. Employee fulfillment and happiness should therefore be prioritised alongside digital transformation, as this can only aid productivity and contribute to better customer outcomes.”