The pandemic has spurred on The Great Resignation, with record numbers of people leaving their jobs across the U.S., U.K., Canada and parts of the EU. This has left employers struggling to retain employees and exacerbated skills shortages – particularly in the technology and healthcare sectors, which have been seeing the highest resignation rates and greatest level of skills shortages.
Intelligent automation (IA) has the capability to fill the labor supply and skills gaps in those sectors – and beyond. Some businesses have already chosen to direct investment towards automation technology. Still, uncertainty and misinformation about intelligent automation has prevented some businesses from utilizing the technology to not only fill labor and skills gaps but also address some of the root causes of the talent drain.
Why are there labor and skills shortages?
The pandemic led many to rethink their roles at work and shifted expectations of the workplace. In the post-pandemic landscape, workers want flexibility, a work culture they align with and fulfillment from what they do.
The past few years have seen increased turnover, early retirement and childcare needs contribute to the reduced labor supply. At the same time, the pandemic incited an acceleration of digital transformation across industry, creating an influx in demand for technology-focused roles and widening the labor and skills gaps ever further.
For example, cybersecurity needs have expanded for most businesses, partly because of the increased attack surfaces created by remote working. However, the labor trends evoked by the pandemic only worsened existent labor and skills shortages in the sector. The global cybersecurity workforce would have to grow by 65% to fill the existing skills gap. The issue is further compounded by excessive workloads and the lack of resources to sufficiently cope with the challenges they face, which contribute to more workers leaving the industry, making retention along with recruitment key problem areas for industry leaders.
The evolving work landscape has also generated intense demand for adaptable workers with digital skills. Rapid technology advancements have caused many organizations to face skills shortages in areas that were non-existent as little as five years ago. Most companies around the world (87%) are either currently suffering from skills shortages or expect to within the next few years.
How does intelligent automation help?
While many, mistakenly, think automation is purely labor saving, it actually enables existing workers to focus on the job they were meant to do, increasing employee satisfaction in the process.
Intelligent automation (IA) combines automation technologies like robotic process automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning, enabling chains of complex processes to be automated. By integrating intelligent automation solutions that can collaborate with human workers, employees become less burdened and stressed, which increases job satisfaction, optimal performance and productivity, and results in higher retention rates.
IA frees up time and money while filling skills and labor gaps, which enables companies to invest in transformative projects and gives workers the time needed to focus on value-adding initiatives, including upskilling. This type of digital transformation fosters the agile and resilient workforce required in today’s rapidly-changing environment.
Why has there been hesitation to use intelligent automation to fill these market gaps?
Business leaders are often unsure of how to resolve labor and skills shortages. Their biggest challenges are identifying the risks of replacing human work with technology, identifying the skills workers will need in the future and communicating the effects of automation and AI to workers and stakeholders.
This lack of clarity is evidenced by a recent global survey from Deloitte which found that only a quarter of organizations (26%) have an enterprise-wide intelligent automation strategy. Respondents cited that this is due to a number of barriers that companies face when scaling their IA, the top three being: process fragmentation, lack of IT readiness and resistance to change.
However, by developing a center of excellent (CoE) team of skilled knowledge workers, companies can implement IA in a way that addresses their concerns and overcomes the challenges of integration. A CoE team can assist with integrating intelligent automation seamlessly across a business, using data and planning measures that allow companies to maximize the potential of IA at minimal risk and complication. CoE teams also ensure that the entire business is on board and excited about digital transformation – because, as business leaders know, for an initiative to truly succeed, all workers need to be on board.
By 2025, automation may displace as many as 85 million jobs through changes in the division of labor between humans and automation. However, what is often not realized is that this change will also foment the creation of 97 million new roles, resulting in a net increase in jobs due to automation rather than a decrease.
The biggest challenge for workers moving forward will be ensuring they are developing the skills needed for jobs demanding increasing levels of digital skills. For this, there are many resources for training and certification available online. These resources are also useful for employers needing to upskill their workforce.
The predominant obstacles for businesses moving forward are retaining employees and attracting sufficiently skilled workers – this is where intelligent automation can lend a helping hand.