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Historically low unemployment calls for innovative solutions

    • People used to think automation caused unemployment. Now it can help address staff shortages.

      The latest Australian seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 4.2%, the lowest since August 2008 [1]. According to the Reserve Bank, the rate could be 3.75% within two years [2], which would make it the lowest rate since the 1970s [4]. Perhaps it’s no wonder that 18% of Australian employing businesses say they don’t have enough employees [4].

      Organisations are using a variety of tactics to address the shortfall: more emphasis on good recruitment, increased overtime, paying higher wages and other retention strategies for existing employees, retraining staff in other roles … the list goes on.

      One tactic that doesn’t seem to be getting much attention is automation. How much more effective could an existing employee be if you could automate part of their job?

      Let’s be clear here: we’re not talking about industrial robots replacing jobs in their entirety, which has been shown to have a negative impact on employment and wages [5]. No, this is about intelligent automation replacing the more mundane, repetitive parts of a person’s job, so that they’re freed up to do more productive work. Deloitte call this a shift from hands to heads to heart: for some time, we’ve seen a growth in ‘white collar’ jobs at the expense of manufacturing; but even more than roles involving brains, jobs will increase in caring and creative areas. As Deloitte put it, “we are not facing a dystopian future of rising unemployment, aimless career paths and empty offices. Quite the opposite – we can use technology to our advantage to create more meaningful work.” [6]

      Let’s look at some figures to show you what we mean.

      • 86 percent of the jobs created in Australia between 2019 and 2030 will be knowledge worker jobs [7]
      • By 2030, one quarter of Australia’s workforce will be professionals. Most of these will be in business services, health, education or engineering [8]
      • Two-thirds of jobs will be soft-skill intensive by 2030 [9]
      • Every one of the top twenty fastest-growing occupations in the US is non-routine (ie hard to automate), from caregivers to sportspeople [10]
      • 74% of organisations using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) said that they could do more work without increasing headcount [2]

      What do we need to do to make this rosy future a reality? We see several key steps that organisations can take to facilitate automation of mundane tasks and so free up employees for ‘head and heart’ work:

      • Choose the right automation platform for your business. RPA, LCAP, Process Mining, IDP, Case Management, AI … there is a plethora of automation options (and initials) on the market. Selecting a platform by combining ingredients that serve up what you need is imperative to achieving your strategic goals. One of Procensol’s strengths lies in helping our clients to navigate the market and choose the right combination of intelligent automation technologies for their needs.
      • Look for all the opportunities to pass off tasks to machines (and back again). The workforce of the future is a human-digital hybrid, with “a robot for every worker.” [1] Remember, developers are scarce too, so look for opportunities to save their ‘head’ and ‘heart’ work for the toughest jobs.
      • Provide training in ‘new’ skills. Australia will need 156,000 more digital technology workers by 2025, or a quarter of all new jobs. But a quarter of employees say their data skills are inadequate and half receive no employer provided training. [2] Training and empowering your staff will aid in retention as well as enabling them to be more productive.
      • Start with a small pilot project. For organisations yet to embark on automation in any serious way, it’s best to start small. A proof-of-concept project, targeted at ‘low-hanging fruit’ will not only prove its ROI, but gain acceptance from staff and senior management alike. Although almost 75% of workers are open to having robot assistants, for example, almost half have concerns about job security, automation capability and team reduction. [3]
      • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Broadcasting the success of projects, illuminating the skills gaps in the organisation and how to fill them, as well as “PR” for automation all go a long way towards increasing employee positivity.

      We believe that automation can not only supplement workers by taking over their more repetitive, mundane tasks, but fill the skills gaps that many organisations are discovering to their cost.

      More importantly, though, employees will feel more satisfied with their role. In a recent US survey, 89% were more satisfied with their job and 84% more satisfied with their company due to using automation in the workplace. And 91% said automation saves them time and offers a better work/life balance [4]. All this points to more satisfied staff, and higher retention rates. With such low unemployment, automation deserves a more detailed examination in most organisations than we are seeing currently.

      [1] https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia/latest-release#
      [2] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-02/how-is-the-unemployment-rate-falling-to-such-low-levels/100796028
      [3] https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/employment-65000-unemployment-rate-falls-42
      [4] https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/business-indicators/business-conditions-and-sentiments/latest-release
      [5] https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/a-new-study-measures-actual-impact-robots-jobs-its-significant
      [6] Deloitte, ‘The path to prosperity: why the future of work is human’, 2019
      [7] Ibid
      [8] Ibid
      [9] Ibid
      [10] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm
      [11] IDC, ‘A Robot for Every Worker: Are We Ready for a People-First Automation Mindset?’, 2020
      [12] Ibid
      [13] https://online.rmit.edu.au/blog/top-emerging-digital-skills-2021
      [14] IDC, ‘A Robot for Every Worker: Are We Ready for a People-First Automation Mindset?’, 2020
      [15] https://www.zdnet.com/article/automation-leads-to-lower-employee-stress/

  • About the Author

    Dan Cooke

    Managing Director, Australia and Co-founder

    Dan Cooke is the Managing Director of Procensol Australia and one of the founding members of Procensol UK. Dan is responsible for managing the operations of the Procensol Australia office, including delivery of high profile consulting projects. Under Dan’s leadership, Procensol Australia has successfully established a strong presence in the Australian market, most notably with the award-winning “Connect” project for the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and heritage Protection. (A project that has attracted attention from government departments nationwide and from the global Appian business). With 15 years of IT and BPM experience, Dan has led many enterprise improvement and digital transformation projects in both the UK and Australia.

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