3 Things Knowledge Leaders Better Be Doing Now to Reach the Future of Work Automation

by Marcus Varner
, 4 min read

If it feels like your team is busier than ever with work, but getting less actually accomplished, you’re not alone.

Our newest State of Enterprise Work Report indicates that this is a disturbingly universal condition, and it directly impacts employees’ ability to effectively perform the most important functions of their jobs.


See our SlideShare, "31 Productivity Tips That Might Just Get You Out of The Office on Time," for tips on how to conquer declining productivity.


The continued surge in excessive emails, wasteful meetings, and other poor uses of typical go-to tools and practices is killing productivity, and employees now spend just 44% of their time performing their primary job duties—the equivalent of working just Monday, Tuesday, and half a day on Wednesday.

The rest is spent tackling hundreds of emails, handling routine admin tasks, and sitting in meetings, with nonessential interruptions, wasteful meetings, and other random activities consuming the equivalent of an entire day of each workweek.

In addition to being a tremendous waste of time, all of this busywork also means workers are too wrapped up in these non-critical functions to focus on the real pillars of business success: innovation, creativity, and problem-solving. And that means your business is suffering the consequences.

Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Workers we surveyed overwhelmingly believe that automation is the key to eliminating busywork, unleashing productivity, and regaining more time to be innovative and creative and explore new business opportunities.

But to make that happen, leadership must abandon the notion that the traditional tools of the trade—email, spreadsheets, and gallons of midnight oil—can power their business through the twenty-first century.

Those leaders that cling doggedly to these increasingly outdated practices may find themselves searching for new jobs in the next five years.

On the other hand, those knowledge leaders who move swiftly and strategically to invest in automation tools that restore productivity—while balancing the technology with the human touch and engagement that ultimately drives customer satisfaction and business results—will reign supreme.

To achieve that balance of automation and humanity while ramping up productivity, here are three strategies knowledge leaders should be implementing right now.

1. Don’t Wait For The Future

Work automation is already happening right now at innovative and progressive companies around the world.

On average, workers we surveyed said that one-third of their jobs is already automated, but there is potential for more—respondents said it could be closer to 40% if only their companies would take advantage of available technology.

In other organizations, though, there is much work to be done. Nearly half said that less than 20% of their day-to-day job is automated, and with the potential for it to be nearly double that, those organizations have a lot of catching up to do.

2. Define What Automation Looks Like in Your Workplace

While there is huge potential for automation to improve productivity, it will never fully displace humans in most knowledge-based industries. The overwhelming majority (95%) recognize that, no matter how sophisticated artificial intelligence tools become, there will always be a need for the human touch.

What AI can provide, however, is some relief from the burden of busywork. Nearly 70% say work automation will give them back time to do their primary job duties.

Four out of five said it will allow them to think of work in new and innovative ways, which directly translates into business innovation and a competitive advantage.

Striking this sweet spot between automating busywork to allow the humans to focus on creativity and innovation will not only assuage employees’ anxieties about their job security, but also focus your company’s AI investment strategy to make sure the automated future you envision will actually accomplish the business goals you desire.

3. Invest in Training

Instinctively, one might think that employees will need training in how to use new automation tools to realize their full potential.

But, alongside that, they’ll also need training in the types of subjective or soft skills that only humans can bring to the table—like strategy, creativity, problem-solving, ingenuity, grit, and determination—which may have gotten rusty as employees became bogged down in busywork.

Across the board, knowledge workers agree that humans will be just as important a part of the picture once automation comes into full bloom, but that it may take some adjustment.

A whopping 82% say they’re excited to learn new things in the move toward automation and even more recognize that there are a lot of opportunities in the automated workforce for those with the right skill sets.

While there is some concern that more seasoned employees—those who have been in the workforce 10 plus years—may not have the technical skills required, those can easily be taught and workers are eager to learn.

Ultimately, companies that want to ride the leading wave of workforce automation over the next five years must begin now to train their employees, young and old, in the technologies and skills that will give their teams the upper hand when automation becomes the differentiator between market winners and losers.

The Future is Now

Work automation tools are already working their way into future-ready organizations. These tools have made tremendous strides in putting an end to busywork, slashing the hours spent tackling email, eliminating days’ worth of unproductive meetings, and eliminating other productivity bottlenecks.

With these new platforms, employees now have more time and opportunity to focus on actually getting the job done through ingenuity, creativity, and strategy rather than wasting so much time on tasks that contribute virtually nothing to business success or the bottom line.

The workforce has sent a message loud and clear: they’re ready for automation tools that free them to apply their time and talents for the real jobs you’ve hired them for. Are you ready to set them free and secure your company’s dominance in the future of work?


To learn more about how automation is shaping the future of work, see our 2017-2018 State of Enterprise Work Report.

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