Three things to think about when preparing employees for autonomics

Autonomics refers to self-managing IT systems that can execute physical, transactional, and cognitive tasks with limited human input. Handing complex business operations over to autonomic systems allows companies to achieve once-unthinkable levels of efficiency, while human workers are freed to apply their experience, creativity, and soft skills where it matters most.

This fundamental reinvention of work may prove to be a source of both anxiety and hope for employees, so companies should consider how to manage workers’ fears and expectations. Here are three approaches to consider as your company implements autonomics into its operations.

Be hopeful (but don’t oversell)

Despite doom-and-gloom media stories about autonomics and AI taking over all human tasks everywhere in the workforce, studies show that many workers are actually optimistic about the potential effects of automation on their roles. According to a study of information workers by smartsheet, a majority of respondents think automation will reduce wasted time (69%), allow them to spend more time on the interesting or rewarding aspects of their job (78%), and make them more efficient (80%).

There is also some apprehension about the impact of autonomics – the same study found that 33% of respondents think their job could be replaced by these technologies. Companies should highlight how automating tasks will help make employees more efficient and allow them to concentrate on more meaningful tasks. However, they should be sure to not gloss over the fact that some human roles will no longer be needed, or that they could be retrained to take on new roles that are supplanted by autonomics.

Autonomics will augment, rather than replace, many roles within an organization.

In many cases, humans will partner with these technological tools to amplify productivity. For example, a digital colleague like Amelia may partner with humans as “whisper agents.” Allstate tapped Amelia to assist human agents while they are on the phone with customers. During the trial period, Amelia collaborated with live agents on more than three million calls, lowered average call duration by 9%, and reduced the need for a follow-up call by 24%. However, the most relevant takeaway here is that 99% of Allstate agent said they were completely satisfied with working with Amelia. Reinforce the notion that Amelia can be a tool that will make benefit customers, the company, and employees.

Be transparent

A company should clearly communicate the technological changes it’s developing and – when possible – provide a timeframe. This will give employees a chance to prepare for the next phase of the company’s evolution, rather than be blind-sided by any sudden maneuvers. This isn’t only respectful to employees, but also allows companies to tap employees’ on-the-ground insights to define what the next phase looks like (more on that below).

When implementing any autonomic systems, there is necessarily a transition period. While some AI solutions can come out-of-the-box with industry-specific functionality, they often need to learn how a business works by observing how employees react to specific situations. For example, a system in charge of inventory at a manufacturing plant might observe humans ordering a specific part in early summer in preparation for a holiday rush, so it would learn to follow a similar strategy in the future.

Invite employees to be part of the discussion

Autonomics will augment, rather than replace, many roles within an organization. While autonomic systems will become more functional with each generation, there are many tasks that these systems will be able to handle for the foreseeable future. This is where existing employee experience, creativity, and application of soft skills (e.g. human-to-human interaction) will become invaluable. As your company approaches this change, engage with employees about the potential of autonomic technologies and invite them to define new roles and new possibilities.

There is no one pre-defined roadmap for implementing autonomic solutions for all companies – each roadmap will be unique to each organization. Employees who are working “in the trenches” can provide valuable insights about how these new solutions can deliver value.

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