How to keep your IT employees feeling positive about automation

June 27, 20194 minute read

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It’s natural for IT employees to worry about automation and the future of work. After all, computers are better than us mere mortals at a lot of things. However, they aren’t better at everything, and it’s important for your employees to understand that. Your job as an IT manager is to show them that the skills they possess aren’t actually under attack at all.

Here are a few tips to assuage fears and help your team hone the skills automation can’t compete with.

Show them they really are special

This first point comes with a touch of harsh reality: Automation is going to take some work away from your IT employees. Encouraged yet? Well, your team will be once you help them realize that automation is only going to take away tasks they shouldn’t be doing in the first place—mundane and repetitive duties like log gathering, threat monitoring, and device configuration.

If your employees don’t have to put their efforts toward those daily time-sinks, they can instead focus on specialized tasks that an emotionless piece of silicon simply can’t do, including:

  • Determining cybersecurity strategy
  • Ideating on innovative uses of technology
  • Performing tasks that don’t have clearly defined processes or solutions

In other words, encourage your team with the knowledge that automation leads to addition by subtraction. Less mindless gruntwork means more time for enjoyable, stimulating duties.

Make automation an ever-present sidekick

If anything, automation should be viewed by your IT employees as a sort of partner that’s always working. Fostering this perspective can help your team to appreciate a few key points. First, they should understand that a automated technologies aren’t capable of doing things they aren’t told to do. This tech requires a trusted human employee to take charge and actually show it what to do. This fact underlines another worthwhile point: workplace automation creates new skill sets that can be honed.

Make automation the Robin to your Batman and encourage your team to pursue skills in the following areas:

  • Automation Architecting: Understanding and identifying the best places to apply automation.
  • Automation Implementation: Using automation tools to create and manage automated processes.
  • Data Analysis: If you view automation as a vehicle for getting work done, data is the emissions of such processes. These automated workloads will generate immense piles of useful data, from basic reports to mineable information. Don’t let these insights go to waste!

If anything, automation should be seen as a supplier of lucrative employment opportunities. By sharpening the skills listed above, your team can find job security and better position themselves to harness the full potential of automation in IT.

Start small

Neutralizing the fear of automation is simple in theory: Encourage your team at every turn to adapt, learn new skills, and ultimately embrace the benefits of an automated environment. But how can you actually put these ideas into practice?

The key is to start small. Consider the common office function of printing, for example. You probably don’t have a team member champing at the bit to specialize in printer repair, which makes this an ideal area of focus for your automation efforts. Look into managed print services (MPS) to automate things like printer updates and optimization.

You could encourage a team member to embrace this facet of automation and become the office expert in all things MPS. If you equip them to architect, implement, and analyze the entire process, you can add to your team’s collective capacities. And that team member may be able to devote more time to ongoing education once automation removes the necessity of dealing with your print fleet!

Speaking of which, how can you as an IT manager guide the use of this newfound surplus of time? Think outside the box. For example, set up monthly innovation sprints. Challenge each team member to come up with a few ideas to improve the efficiency, security, or usability of your environment—bonus points for identifying additional automation opportunities. Team members can then vote on the idea that received the most interest and carry it out using the time they would have otherwise spent on the newly automated tasks.

The point is to keep things fun but focused. No one should be frightened about automation and the future of work. On the contrary, it may be the catalyst that brings innovation to your team and value to your company!

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