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The Benefits of Skilling up Employees for an Automated Future

In this article, Dan Gizzi. Vice President of Business Development at Learning Tribes  – discusses the importance of skilling up employees to work alongside tech, not only to help them maintain professional relevance but also as a means to accelerate a brand’s digital transformation

New research by Bain & Company indicates that by the end of the 2020s, automation may eliminate 20 to 25% of current jobs. The thought of a revamped and digitized workforce seems promising for future generations, whose workplaces could be teeming with AI-enabled devices and services – and tech we haven’t even discovered yet. However, Accenture reports that while 74 percent of CEOs expect to automate workplace tasks with AI within the next three years, only 3% plan to “significantly increase” spending on training to help skill-up employees to work alongside AI-powered tech.

This is bad news for workers, but it’s not great for companies either. The fact is, brands who hope to benefit from our current wave of global economic growth, improve their customer experiences and maintain relevance in our increasingly automated world are those that invest in their employees’ digital skill set and future growth.

Here are some easy steps to help brands disrupt their training processes, as well as examples of how they would benefit from a digitally empowered workforce.

The corporate mindset shift

The fact that more menial tasks are becoming increasingly automated should signal to brands an opportunity to give employees more autonomy than ever before. As humans, we have the ability to adapt and learn faster than the technology we create – so what could happen if contact center agents stopped answering questions about billing statements, and instead focused on improving language processing for voice-assisted chatbots to accommodate for an increasingly diverse customer base?

A new survey by The Workforce Institute shows that employees are already aligned with this approach, as the majority (64%) would welcome AI if it simplified or automated time-consuming internal processes, or if it helped to balance their workload. The next step – giving employees the decision-making power to thrive alongside AI – is up to brands.

For brands who are willing to get out of their employees’ way and help them (and their business) thrive, the disruption piece is really quite simple: adopt education tools that enable employees to uplevel your business goals.

Your employees work with your operational platforms and listen to your customers day in and day out, which means they likely have a keen sense of the pitfalls that are detracting from your customers’ experiences, whether it’s the inability of voice activation software to identify accents, frequent system crashes on your chatbot or mobile app or outdated FAQs on your site.

Educational tools in these instances could include language processing classes to help diversity your software, engineering sessions to improve lags in automated tech response times, marketing and communications lectures to update FAQs and product messaging based on customer feedback, and more.

The human-digital hybrid

Integrating the power of automation with the “human touch” remains vital to the customer experience, regardless of how advanced automation, AI, and other technologies become . Just think about the number of times you’ve heard someone say, “I spoke to an actual human!” regarding a customer service interaction. It’s probably rare, but I can guarantee that person was not only pleasantly surprised to speak with a live agent but abundantly satisfied with the level of service they received.

What’s critical for brands to keep in mind as they invest in tools to automate and optimize their operational efficiencies is the value add of live agents. The fact is, 83% of U.S. consumers (Accenture) still prefer dealing with humans for some of their needs, and customer demands are only coming increasingly complex in terms of predictive analysis, personalization and immediate gratification.

Data from Salesforce, for example, shows that 45% of consumers say that by 2020 they will switch brands if a company doesn’t actively anticipate their needs – indicating that technical-driven speed and human-powered emotional intelligence go hand-in-hand when it comes to delivering winning customer service

The key for brands to leverage the human-digital hybrid – not only to maintain a high level of customer service but to also achieve their automation goals – is to make agents key players in driving the digital transformation process forward. A new report by Dell Technologies shows that the majority (57%) of businesses surveyed are struggling to keep up with the pace of digital change. The survey also shows that the number one factor business leaders agree on (90%) in order to achieve digital transformation is employee buy-in – indicating that, without the support of and commitment from their team, digital transformation is simply not a reality.

Brands can pursue a variety of avenues when it comes to skilling up employees to help them achieve digital transformation, but the key is to hone the critical human skills that technology cannot and never will emulate – like developing product or service marketing copy that resonates with consumers and influences their buying decisions, offering project management support to your innovations team or offering technical solutions to address the most common issues brought up by the customers they interact with.

Let employees lead the future of automation

Investing in your employees and building their skill set to perfect the digitally automated tasks they have become expert in manually conducting is not only good for their professional future but crucial to your bottom line. Giving them the opportunity to manage, develop and apply expertise – activities with low-automation potential according to a recent report by McKinsey – to the automated tools you seek to adopt will not only ensure a faster and more efficient transformation, but will also allow you to retain an army of technically trained workers who are loyal to your brand and equipped to further contribute to its success.

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