Employees in highly automated workplaces are more productive and creative, according to a report from cloud computing firm ServiceNow. High levels of automation also allow for “digital workflows,” defined as humans both working with machines and also transitioning from repetitive to creative tasks, ServiceNow said. The report is based on a survey of 6,000 global full-time workers, a survey of about 800 U.S.-based IT executives and more than 20 interviews with global business technology leaders.
According to the report, 80% of employees in highly automated organizations said highly automated workflows raise productivity, compared to 59% of those in highly manual workplaces. Most of the former group also indicated that digital workflows simplify work processes, and 72% said such workflows increase the amount of time available for creativity.
ServiceNow also noted a slight impact on learning: 83% of those in highly automated organizations said they’re very interested in learning new job skills, compared to 70% of employees in organizations with highly manual workflows. But only 7% of respondents reported having a highly automated job process or a highly manual, while a plurality of respondents (45%) described their workflows as “technology enabled.”
News of automation coming to take away millions of jobs has been somewhat tempered by reports that automation will also create jobs. There will still be industries and career paths that will be disparately impacted, however, and some employment experts predict these will largely be repetitive-motion jobs.
An important part of the automation conversational is digital transformation, shorthand for modernizing organizations in preparation for future business trends. Yet, the percentage of employers that have started that transformation is relatively low — which may be comparable to the low rate of respondents in the ServiceNow report describing themselves as having highly automated workflows. HR leaders have said that the problem is a lack of resources, but organizations might have to invest in the upfront transformation costs to realize any long-term benefits.
ServiceNow’s research found that a large percentage of employees are willing to be trained for new jobs and opportunities. HR might take this as good news, and might also consider changing training processes to get ahead of talent gaps, especially those caused by new technologies. But training won’t necessarily be cheap; a World Economic Forum report estimates that retraining displaced workers could cost the U.S. a total of $34 billion, or $24,800 per worker on average.