Cognitive Automation and Embracing the Future of Work

By
Kristen Chase
Cognitive Automation and Embracing the Future of Work

Bust through the myth of fear surrounding cognitive automation and create a positive narrative for employees

Historically, the division of labor within an enterprise involved driving productivity gains by allocating repetitive tasks to the people who did those tasks best, resulting in economic growth.

Automation supports this effort to hone in on work that benefits from machine—rather than human—oversight and execution. While we’ve mainly seen this trend in settings like manufacturing, artificial intelligence and related intelligent technologies are expanding the realm of automation to the knowledge economy.

Artificial intelligence and big data are processing complex tasks that are better handled by computers. This raises questions about the knowledge worker, task assignments, the division of labor, and when organizations should augment their human capital with machines and cognitive technology.

The Myth of Fear and Cognitive Automation

Like any innovation, many people start off with a fear of automation, particularly when it comes to the automation of knowledge work. Employees are often concerned about how a cognitive automation tool might affect their role in their organization and their job security.

The best thing leaders can do to prevent the fear and resistance to intelligent technologies is to be upfront and clear before, during, and after the implementation of any AI-driven initiative—the goal is not to limit employee possibilities and opportunities but to augment and expand the ability for enriching, meaningful work that only humans can accomplish while removing the drudgery of repetitive tasks.

But is the idea that cognitive automation (intelligent automation) will drive humans out of the workplace a reality? Or is the understandable struggle to accept innovation, emerging technology, and change driving this myth of fear regarding reducing jobs?

It’s easy to succumb to the fear myth—a headline that screams, “30 percent of an employee’s job can be automated” is salacious and fear-mongering. The reality is far less sensational: by reducing 30 percent of a knowledge worker’s rote tasks, an employee can tackle other more intellectual and creative work better suited for their expertise, while allowing machines to fulfill the tasks that can be automated and need minimal human intervention.  

Cognitive automation works with employees to create a virtuous loop of learning. The two can exist separately, but together they drive better and better decision-making as raw data from the enterprise feeds into a sophisticated AI technology, providing better and better information to the human, who can take better and better actions.

The best thing leaders can do to prevent the fear and resistance to intelligent technologies is to be upfront and clear before, during, and after the implementation of any AI-driven initiative—the goal is not to limit employee possibilities and opportunities but to augment and expand the ability for enriching, meaningful work that only humans can accomplish while removing the drudgery of repetitive tasks.

3 Levels of Creating a Positive Narrative Around Cognitive Automation Within the Organization

When organizations are clear about their “why” when engaging in intelligent technology transformation—like having a 360-degree view of their customer to provide better patient care or delivering life-saving pharmaceuticals during a pandemic with speed and accuracy—employee engagement can increase.

There are three ways to frame a positive narrative around cognitive automation inside your enterprise. We frame these as “the now, the next, and the beyond.” Contextualizing the reason for the transformation helps everyone rally around the project and understand the expected positive outcomes.

  1. The Now: In a post-COVID-19 world, organizations are focused on creating efficiency in the short term and looking at their business from the place of what they can do with the capacity that they’re creating. With the short-term financial pressure that COVID created, organizations are focused on financial return.
  1. The Next: As we look ahead, we need to understand how technology breaks boundaries and creates trust in the data from the leadership and customer perspectives. In particular, enterprise leadership needs to develop an understanding of the value of cognitive automation.
  1. The Beyond: Organizations need to look at the value produced by cognitive automation capabilities and understand the organization’s role in society in a future where employees are guiding machines.

The Power of the Executive Team in Building a Positive Narrative Around Cognitive Automation

Building a positive narrative around cognitive automation within the organization starts with the executive team. The C-suite is responsible for articulating what the future looks like and how the organization gets there.  

The executive team is already aware of the power of a crisp, straightforward narrative, packaged in a way that addresses its radical nature as it relates to the organization. It’s not just a nice project. Instead, cognitive automation is a dramatic shift that will change the future, allowing employees to apply their human intelligence to unleash the extra energy needed to both perform and transform.

Key Takeaways

Cognitive automation elevates the purpose of people and the meaning of work, engaging employees in the serving of a larger mission. These three key takeaways can help leaders frame a positive conversation about cognitive automation and its relationship to knowledge work.

  1. Teams need to be united in a bold purpose. What is the purpose of implementing cognitive automation within the organization?
  2. Teams need to move past what they’ve previously done and how they’ve previously done it. This model looks different, and they need to feel confident in those changes.
  3. Leaders play a critical role in creating a sense of psychological safety so teams can unleash their energy and potential to transform how they work in a new culture driven by purpose and values.



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By
Kristen Chase
,
Staff Writer
Published:
November 12, 2021
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