How Automation and Reskilling Can Boost Employees’ Careers


Advancements in automation technologies call for reskilling employees. Once workers are trained to get the most out of automated tools, their productivity gets an immediate boost – as does their job satisfaction, writes Craig Peasley, product marketing leader at Adobe.

Advances in automation technology are digitally transforming the way businesses operate – enabling efficiencies and enhancing customer and employee experiences, especially with remote work. Despite the business benefits, perceptions of automation tend to be centered on the potential negative challenges: from employees that do not trust new technology – or their adaptability to it – to execs who stress over the time and resource investments to reskill those workers.

But when companies begin to lean toward adopting automation, they almost always focus on the immediate benefits that’ll be felt organization-wide. In 2019’s Voice of the Enterprise – Digital Pulse: Budgets & Outlook survey by 451 ResearchOpens a new window , 75% of respondents indicated they expect to increase their automation investment in the next 12 months. This isn’t just because it looks good in an investor report, but also because they believe it will lower costs, shorten or eliminate processing time, and improve employee productivity.

In fact, according to a 2019 Forrester TEI report commissioned by AdobeOpens a new window , enterprises saved 967 hours per year with Adobe Document Cloud’s automation functionality. These savings were enjoyed not only by IT admins but also by information security teams and customer service professionals.

What’s more, these benefits reach far beyond the executional level. Our research has found that once workers are trained to get the most out of automated tools, their productivity gets an immediate boost – as does their job satisfaction. They’re empowered to work more creatively, to think more analytically, and to contribute more of the uniquely human insights that’ll remain in high demand.

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How Process Automation Benefits Workers

Let’s take a closer look at how process automation frees up workers to focus on the most impactful aspects of their jobs – unlocking vast potential not only for your employees but also for your organization.

Automation frees people to focus on more impactful work

No matter how much we enjoy our jobs, we all occasionally find ourselves wondering, “Is this pile of paperwork really the most productive use of my time and ability?” Imagine if repetitive manual tasks like signing forms, filling out applications, and waiting for approval chains could be automated away overnight. What would you do with all the extra time?

Although your answer may differ from mine, my guess is you’d focus on one or more of the following themes: “I’d use that time to innovate and think more creatively,” “I’d spend more time solving problems from a high-level perspective, instead of getting stuck in the weeds,” or “I’d devote more time to driving tangible impact on results.”

Now imagine that it’s not just you who gains this bonus time and perspective – it’s everyone in your organization, from receptionists and executive assistants to accountants and customer service reps.

In a recent digital transformation survey of over 1,000 workers, ZensarOpens a new window highlighted some of the benefits respondents noticed after the implementation of digital tools – such as workers noting that it made them more productive (76%) and happier (28%).

For example, consider the administrative assistants who support your execs. With process automation, all the drudgery of aligning schedules and submitting expense reports simply disappears from their workday. After a brief reskilling period, they’re free to focus on creative tasks like designing presentations and problem-solving with external clients, strengthening not only their value in their current job role but also their prospects of stepping into an executive position someday.

Meanwhile, on the procurement floor, imagine your eagle-eyed auditors suddenly find themselves free of paper-pushing. Now they’re able to follow up on possible fraud cases or track down blockages in the approval process and make sure the largest purchase orders get approved more quickly. Again, their jobs and income remain secure, but with just a bit of reskilling, automated tools have vastly increased their value and career prospects.

Automation will transform organizational focus over the next 10 years

Enhancements of your employees’ day-to-day workflows are just the beginning of the process improvements that result from automation. Across the organization, staff no longer need to waste hours on repetitive manual tasks, and as a result, staffing begins to focus less on execution abilities and more on creative and analytical problem-solving skills.

Consider, for example, the role of the graphic designer. Today, much of your designers’ creative energy gets drained in administrative tasks that have little to do with creativity: tracking down images with suitable licensing, sorting out format compatibility, and completing multiple steps of paperwork associated with project management. The moment you release your designers from those tasks, you free up vast creative energy for the development of more unique and innovative campaigns.

By the same token, imagine freeing up your marketers from the daily grind of reporting, reviewing, and analyzing A/B test and campaign results. Now they’ve got hours of time and loads of mental energy to focus on optimizing their campaigns from a higher-level perspective. Again, the overall function of the marketing department remains unchanged. Your marketers are just better equipped to focus on meaningful improvements.

Analytical and creative thinking may be “nice to haves” for many employees today, but as automation becomes more deeply integrated into every job role, they’ll become crucial skills at all levels of the organization. In fact, these are precisely the skills that will remain in the highest demand throughout the coming decade of automation.

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Automation-oriented reskilling helps secure a meaningful future

From small-business entrepreneurs to global enterprises, the power of automation is rapidly becoming democratized. It’s not just data scientists who are multiplying their capabilities with machine learning and AI – automated toolkits are becoming increasingly essential for marketers, warehouse managers, and HR directors, not to mention sales and legal teams.

In light of these facts, it’s clear that automation-related skills aren’t just crucial for specific job roles – they’re essential life skills for any career trajectory. In 5 to 10 years, automation will be just as central to your industry as computers and the Internet are today. The workers who succeed in this near-future economy will be those who excel precisely where automation doesn’t do well: critical thinking, analytical problem-solving, and creative innovation.

So how can you begin building these skills out in your organization?

Start small. First, identify one initiative or project that’ll reap immediate measurable benefits from automation.

Next, sell that adjustment at the executive level. Keep your “experiment” open and transparent to help reduce anxiety and build consensus.

And finally, once you see consistent results, get support to start scaling this transformation across other departments.

We’ve seen this approach work time and again in large enterprises, across industries from finance to media to automotive. In fact, this kind of transformation is especially crucial for established companies that already find themselves behind the curve of digital-first disruption. Even if you’re not investing in automation and reskilling, the new kids on your block are – and many are already enjoying greater agility and innovation as a result.

Automation and Reskilling Are Imperative for the Future of Work

Automation and reskilling drive benefits far beyond the balance sheet. By eliminating manual processes, you empower your employees to live up to their full potential – dramatically boosting your employee retentionOpens a new window rate by creating happier, more loyal employees. That’s good for your bottom line, great for morale, and excellent for your brand’s future.

How do you think automation can help to streamline the future of employees? Share your views with us on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window .