Inspire your team to embrace new technology, not fear it

Business Chief Digital Officer, Global Business Services at Bosch.

For millions of people in the workforce, the rise of automation is cause for concern. It’s easy to understand why: As artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and robotic automation grow more advanced, there are fears that they could displace more and more human jobs.

According to recent studies from Stanford University and the World Economic Forum, automation, AI and other forms of digital transformation will eventually create more jobs than they replace. It will take some time, and it will require some reskilling and adaptation, but the future is bright for the workforce. The power remains in the hands of all employees to take advantage of the new opportunities digital transformation will create for them.

In order for employees to understand and embrace the opportunities ahead, they need guidance and support at organizational level. They need organizations to help demystify automation and eliminate the fear factor with any digital transformation project. Successful organizations provide plenty of hands-on experience with new technologies, clearly explain the goals behind digital transformation, and empower all employees to solve problems creatively using new state-of-the-art tools.

These valuable experiences, combined with organizational transparency, can make or break any digital transformation project. A recent digital transformation survey by the University of London, Goldsmiths and YouGov found that 59% of employees worry that automation will replace their jobs in some way, and 49% are scared when a digital transformation project is announced. However, according to this Futurum Research report, 94% of workers want to be actively involved in digital transformation efforts, but only 10% understand what they can do to help.

In other words, when employees are left in the dark about the goals and technologies at the heart of a digital transformation project, it raises their fears. They do not feel that they are part of the process. They don’t know how to help. They can assume the worst.

It doesn’t help that many automation projects represent a high degree of complexity, some of them requiring many months of work to go from idea to implementation. That complexity often creates barriers when it comes to understanding and support throughout the organization.

One of the best ways to advance this understanding, I have found, is through inclusive hands-on labs that provide freedom for individuals to actively shape change. In these environments, employees bring real challenges to the table. They then learn about the technologies that can solve the specific problems, make discoveries at the personal level and put their knowledge into practice.

Even without the use of real-world challenges, colleagues should feel comfortable engaging with the technology. Lowering the barrier to entry and increasing the ability to see short-term gains can bring people and technology closer together. Ultimately, creating this freedom in the organization gives employees the opportunity to experiment and at the same time feel safe enough to try it.

Ultimately, these experiences inspire employees to ask the right questions about the benefits of automation at work, think about the day-to-day efficiencies they can unlock, and pursue the training they need to take their careers to the next level.

Success will mean that your team will realize that automation is more than a black box. They will begin to see it as a solution. They will be eager to pursue new skills that can help them make the most of powerful new tools.

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