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How to Support Your Staff in Using AutomationGraham Richardson
Automation can have spectacular benefits for businesses of all sizes, in all sectors. Whether it involves new software, equipment, or a combination, automation can drive efficiency, better resource management, and greater cost-effectiveness.
However, introducing automation can often be met with resistance from your team. They may be alarmed by the prospect of job cuts, or substantial changes to the way they work. So, supporting a team throughout this process is crucial.
Let’s look at the different ways that you can help your staff to embrace automation.
#1. Focus on Communication
The prospect of automation can create uncertainty within your team, both in terms of the security of their jobs and changes to day-to-day tasks. To alleviate these fears, it’s important to communicate with your team throughout the process.
Be open and honest about the types of automation that will be introduced; don’t leave your staff in the dark. Not only will they be fully aware of upcoming changes, but it will also help to preserve the trust held in their management teams.
Additionally, your organisation’s management structure is crucial at this stage; cascading information from the top through to individual team members must be done promptly, ideally as soon as decisions are finalised.
Internal Communication Channels
It may also be useful to produce newsletters or regular round-up emails to let your staff know how implementation is going, the timelines involved, and any possible disruptions to their work while this takes place.
Keeping everyone on the same page helps the process of introducing automation to run as smoothly as possible. Plus, it makes your team feel involved and relevant.
Reiterate Job Security
When your team hears the word ‘automation,’ they might assume that their jobs – or at least, their usual way of working – is at risk. It’s important at this stage to stress that new processes will not threaten the security of their employment.
Automation will usually prompt changes to the way that people work. This needn’t be a negative change; often, there are substantial benefits to be had – which we’ll take a closer look at in the next point.
#2. Explain The Benefits
Automation comes with a wealth of benefits, including improved efficiency, greater accuracy, better resource management, and cost-effectiveness. Although these benefits are generally well-known by management, they might not be entirely understood by the wider team.
As such, it’s important to emphasise the benefits of automation to each individual. For example, if an automated process is more efficient than the manual alternative, this can free up valuable time, allowing the team member to focus their efforts on tasks that require their individual expertise. In turn, this alleviates some of the pressure on them, reducing stress and improving job satisfaction.
It’s also worth taking time to fully explain the benefits to line managers so that they are prepared to communicate with their team and emphasise the positive aspects of automation.
Don’t make them take your word for it, offer demos or workshops they can attend that show the new software in action! Whilst it may not have been rolled-out companywide just yet, you could still show a test version and they can see the benefits for themselves.
#3. Recognise Concerns
Once the benefits of automation have been fully explained, there may still be lingering concerns about the long-term impact of automation on your team. This is understandable; as we mentioned above, uncertainty can breed opposition.
Don’t gloss over the legitimate concerns of your team. When they raise issues that are important to them, don’t just reel off a scripted monologue about the wonders of automation. Instead, actively listen to the points that they raise – it can be helpful to jot them down – and work through each one. Acknowledge their thoughts and do your best to alleviate unease with practical advice.
Your line managers, again, will be crucial. Not only will they oversee on-the-ground implementation, but they will also likely be able to anticipate their team’s concerns in advance. Work with them to prepare for such questions, and if you receive feedback further down the line, ensure that you respond promptly, so that the message can be cascaded back to individuals and teams.
#4. Offer Ongoing Formal Training
The most crucial aspect of implementing a new automation process is training your team to use it effectively. This involves two parts: theory and practice.
Understanding The Theory
As we explained above, communication is critically important when implementing any new process. Before they are trained, your staff should be aware of new processes, understand their benefits, and the impact on their own tasks and job roles.
During training, there will be an opportunity to reiterate these points. Make sure that your team understands why a new process is being introduced, its rationale, and the tangible improvements it provides.
From there, staff will be formally introduced to the new software and/or equipment, given demonstrations, and provided with learning resources. Make sure that training is always relevant to their job role. Encourage them to ask questions, receive clarification, and leave their training with a solid understanding of how they will work moving forward.
Having a process demonstrated is great as an introduction, but real understanding comes from actually getting hands-on experience with a new system. For automation software, request training accounts to allow your team to test out their skills and make newbie mistakes in a safe environment. How often have we learned an important lesson from a simple mistake? Having one-on-one time with a new system before it’s fully rolled out encourages familiarity and a solid working knowledge, in plenty of time before using it live.
#5. Create Bespoke Team Resources
When you implement a new system or platform, there will most likely be generic resources available from the developer. These are useful when familiarising yourself with new software and act as a handy guide once it has been rolled out.
However, for your team, a bespoke approach is recommended; that is, customisation of existing resources, or creation of new documents. Staff need to know how the software relates specifically to their jobs, routine tasks and the organisation as a whole.
Again, involve line managers in this process, but extend the invitation to their reports as well. Nobody knows a job better than the person doing it; they are the experts and should be treated as such. Work with team members to iron out any issues, and to ensure that manuals, how-to guides, and tip sheets are relevant to their tasks and processes. Having staff review these important documents also expands their skill set, develops their understanding, and makes them feel involved during what can be a challenging transition.
#6. Provide Encouragement During Implementation (And Afterwards)
Change can make anyone feel uneasy. In the workplace, new processes might be met with hesitation, and much of the time, it’s because staff simply do not feel properly supported.
Reassure your team that they will not be going it alone with the new process. Emphasise that the entire organisation is behind them, whether it’s a universal roll-out or niche software that’s pertinent only to select functions.
More directly, line managers will be the main source of support during transition. Ensure that they are well-trained in the new process and have sufficient time during implementation to provide additional support and help solve teething problems. Additional one-to-one meetings are recommended, where team members have the opportunity to share their experiences, raise concerns, and receive support. It’s also worth setting up some team sessions to allow colleagues to be candid with their managers and one another; these meetings tend to inspire peer-to-peer support, which should also be encouraged by managers.
#7. Listen to Feedback
Your staff will no doubt have feedback on their new automated processes. Encourage them to share their opinions, either in meetings with their managers, peer-to-peer sessions, by email, in a dedicated discussion thread, or anonymously through a survey.
Receiving positive feedback is always a pleasure! Analyse the points that your team have found to be most useful about the new process, and highlight what has worked well in follow-up meetings and communications.
There’s also a lot to be learned from constructive criticism. Review all of the neutral or negative feedback you might receive, and respond proactively where possible.
Look for trends that may point toward systemic issues, and take steps to address them.
#8. Keep Staff Updated
Keep your staff informed; create summary documents about the feedback they’ve submitted. Acknowledge any problems they’ve experienced and outline how you plan to address them.
Remember that new processes are rarely implemented without a couple of hiccups.
Learn from the experience and use it to grow as a united team.
#9. Review Automation Effectiveness
Implementing an automated process is not the end of the story. Perform regular reviews to ensure that the systems and components involved are still a good fit for your organisation. If things are going well, it might prompt you to look for other ways to add automation to your business. Again, involve your team; their positive experience can prompt fresh ideas on how to expand automation in the future.
There we have it!
Nine ways to help support your staff when implementing process automation.
Which approaches have worked well for your business?