Employees are fearful of being replaced by automation

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Automation is transforming businesses and directly impacting bottom lines as a result of improved productivity. But it also raises employees’ concerns about their job security, according to a new study by research firm Forrester and UiPath, a robotic process automation (RPA) software company.

Some 41% of companies say their employees are concerned that their existing digital skills may not match what their job will require in the future, the study finds. However, by training employees, providing them vocational courses, or encouraging them to pursue digital qualifications, companies can help them to overcome fears around automation and embrace it as a productivity-boosting asset.

“We need programs that not only train you to be a better employee at an institution, but advances your digital skills as well,” said Craig Le Clair, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, speaking during a recent webinar. “We need a new form of education and training that can keep pace with the technology, particularly due to automation.”

Companies having their own training programs at work — trying to mimic the kind of experience that you have in traditional education — is a legitimate and important development, because traditional education cannot keep pace with what's going on, Le Clair said.

Companies are increasingly investing in automation — including technology like AI and RPA — and is now the driver of most organizations’ digital transformation strategies. For 66% of companies in the study, RPA software spend is going to increase by at least 5% over the next 12 months. Forrester predicts that the RPA services market will reach $7.7 billion, and eventually balloon to $12 billion by 2023.

The dynamics of the labor market, technical feasibility, and acceptance of the more advanced AI building blocks like deep learning and conversational intelligence are just some of the factors that will determine the pace of workforce automation.

Automation can not only benefit employers, but also employees. Automating repetitive, rule-based tasks enables employees to focus on higher-value activities that require advanced skills and improves employee engagement. The study found that a 5% improvement in employee engagement leads to a 3% increase in revenue, indicating that more engaged employees means higher growth.

“Organizations can view the future of work as a competency, as something that they have a view on and has a distinguishing approach to,” Le Clair said. “This is going to help with recruiting and retention, and help [companies] deal with these transformations that are occurring. It can change the way you serve customers for the better. You can get more of your humans working on the thing that humans do the best, which is carrying on conversations with other humans. [Automation helps you] extract that labor value and move it into the right places.”

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