Conquering ‘The Great Resignation’: Is Automation the Answer?


In 2020, the traditional working paradigm was flipped on its head. The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to embrace remote or hybrid working as a new normal almost overnight. Working from the office was replaced by a virtual and remote working model. 

In response, business processes were digitalized to support newly distributed workforces. Yet, despite the frequent success of this new model, with stable and even increased productivity levels, employers soon found themselves having to deal with another new workforce phenomenon… ‘The Great Resignation.’  

What is ‘The Great Resignation’?

One in five employees will quit their job by 2023, a PwC survey of 52,000 workers reports, while other sources forecast even greater resignation levels. This new exodus results from an increasingly accessible global job market, that offers new opportunities for a workforce with new expectations. These opportunities promise higher salary compensation, greater work flexibility and strong social support. Job descriptions now reflect new survey data, which finds both pay and work fulfilment to be the main motivators of job change.

As a result, organizations are facing a major challenge. The talent pools that they previously called upon to fill key roles are draining, creating lasting negative impacts. Backfilling open roles in the traditional recruitment market is tougher than ever. Traditional levers to attract and retain people, such as improved compensation, title, and development opportunity, no longer have sufficient impact.

The fundamental mismatch between companies’ demand for talent and the number of workers available is creating an unsustainable strain on the economy. Even when employers succeed in attracting workers from rivals, they are often simply reshuffling talent and contributing to wage escalation.

To address this underlying structural imbalance, business leaders and executives need to find new and innovative ways to transform their business.

‘The Great Resignation’ in Practice

Many companies have embraced this change and are adopting new models of the future of work, while others have remained strictly traditional in their outlook. In practice, the world of work is still adjusting to the extreme disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the new normal is a work in progress.

Microsoft cite their remote culture as the basis for their successful long-term hybrid work model. And many reports and analyses point to the positive aspects of hybrid working.

Meanwhile, several tier-one banks have directed employees to either return to the office or resign. This approach, also taken by Tesla, has created shockwaves among workers now accustomed to remote working, with people reporting a decline in morale, workplace diversity and talent, reports CNBC.

Can Automation Fix ‘The Great Resignation’?

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of automation technologies had presented a credible alternative to many human jobs or tasks. This stirred up fear and apprehension amongst employees, sparking questions such as, “Will robots…take my job? …take all jobs? …take over the planet?”

This anxiety is nothing new: technological innovation has been at the heart of all industrial revolutions and commonly caused concern in workforces. Still, these fears are mostly overcome when the true potential of technological innovation is understood and realised.

Innovation is not employed to the detriment of a workforce, but to further its success. Faced with the challenges of ‘The Great Resignation’, businesses embrace the affordability, scalability and speed of automation now available.

For the human worker, innovative automation allows job content to become more rewarding. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are now widely deployed to reliably execute an array of monotonous, repetitive tasks previously performed by people. The automation of these mundane and predictable tasks frees up teams and individual employees so they can collaborate on more transformational work, using their creativity and innovation to drive growth and development.

These technical advances have direct implications on the job market, with job descriptions changing frequently in response to market needs. Automation that assists the human workforce is changing the very nature of work. Dell Technologies reports that 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 have yet to be invented!

Forward-thinking companies are on their way to embracing these changes, by letting go of traditional human-only hiring and training. Large enterprises are working to build global, cross-departmental, multi-talented teams with equal parts technology and human ability. Businesses of all sizes are augmenting their human teams with automation that removes and accelerates mundane, repetitive work while assisting employees who execute higher-value and more satisfying work.

Why Invest in Innovation?

As ‘The Great Resignation’ continues and businesses struggle with its impact, it may seem difficult to commit to technological innovation. But, with 64% of CEOs stating that innovation and operational effectiveness are equally important to the success of their business, the case and sponsorship for innovation is strong. Savvy CEOs understand the benefits:

1. Connect with a diverse talent pool

The available talent pool is expanding and morphing, as the potential workforce diverges from “traditional” archetypes. Innovation now allows engagement of a diverse and changing talent pool more effectively.

Not only the traditional in-office workforce but also people whose circumstances or life-choices make traditional in-office work infeasible – all can now form part of a diverse, hybrid workforce.

Businesses that invest in innovation can adapt work formerly done only or primarily in -office, so it is completed just as efficiently by a talent pool working in a hybrid environment.

For example, innovative automation can provide 24/7 access to important documents from anywhere in a secure and managed way. This increases work flexibility, providing opportunity to those who are able to work anywhere/anytime and boosting the human capacity available to business.

2. Increase morale in the workplace

Businesses compensate employees with more than money. Stanford University work from home researcher Nick Bloom reports that employees equate a work from home environment to a 5% pay rise. Employees are motivated and compensated by work fulfilment and flexibility.

The morale of Tesla employees declined when the company forced a return to work in the office, with many quitting because of this request. Innovative automation offers an alternative, supporting in-office work but allowing the flexibility for productive remote working.

For many employees, work flexibility is a necessity. Acknowledging this, many businesses are choosing to provide hybrid work environments and are maintaining or increasing productivity at the same time.

3. Promote connectivity

While some employees value remote working opportunities and work flexibility, those aged 20-29 often value in-person mentoring and socialising more highly. Innovation plays an important role in bridging the gap and ensuring that in-person and remote collaboration can be equally effective.

Businesses can ensure that those working remotely are as valued and involved within their team as those working in the office five days a week. For example, automation can ensure that all employees, regardless of location, receive important documents and communications immediately and securely. This helps create an environment of inclusion in a productive hybrid workplace.

4. Streamline business processes

Intelligent process automation engages employees, partners, and customers wherever they are, unleashing the potential of distributed teams. Technological innovation streamlines business processes, automating mundane, repetitive tasks and assisting complex work. Whether working from home or in the office, workers are equally capable, thanks to innovative automation that stretches beyond traditional business boundaries.

5. Modernize operations

Modernized operations serve customers better, operate more efficiently, create better products, reduce time-to-market, and attract more talented employees. In what some call the “war for talent”, businesses that welcome innovation adapt better to new market trends and compete successfully from a place of strength.

The Time for Innovation is Now

Ours is not the first generation to experience a seismic change in how work is done, and to see technology play both a disruptive and a supporting role.

Successful businesses accept that traditional workforce models have changed for the long term, and they are now building a foundation for this new era. Their version of the future of work welcomes an innovative combination of workforce and technology.

They will be the agile, adaptable, and thriving businesses blazing a trail to sustained innovation-led growth. Those who fail to embrace this change will be left smouldering in their wake.

Contact us to learn how Lithe has already helped organizations adapt in days, not weeks or months, to the new world of productive hybrid working.

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