Can Automation Improve Employee Engagement?

by Katy Beloof

According to Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report, 85 percent of employees are not engaged — or are actively disengaged — at work. The economic consequence of this translates to approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.

Gallup defines this overwhelming majority of disengaged employees as those who consistently give you their time, but not their best efforts. These are employees who show up on time, put in their eight or nine hours, and head home, without contributing their best work or ideas. 

Finding and retaining top talent has been a concern for companies for quite some time. But keeping that talent engaged at work proves equally challenging — and failing to do so is costly. There may be an answer to this lost productivity in using automation to free up employee time to focus on more meaningful, business-critical work. 

Provide Opportunities for More Meaningful Work

One way to improve employee engagement is to provide significant opportunities for meaningful work. Gallup notes that the workforce of today is motivated by opportunities to develop and possess a sense of purpose with regard to their work. Unfortunately, employees today spend a significant amount of time on manual, repetitive work that doesn’t add much value to the organization or contribute to a sense of purpose at work. 

Employers can address this challenge by empowering employees with tools to automate repetitive, manual tasks themselves, and free up time for higher value work. The Automation in the Workplace 2017 report found that 69 percent of information workers surveyed say automation would reduce time wasted during their workday, and 59 percent say they could save six or more hours a week if the repetitive aspects of their job were automated.


How Automation Can Lead to Innovation

Information workers don’t just feel like they’re wasting their time on menial tasks — they’re also eager to use the time they could get back from automation for more meaningful work. 72 percent of survey respondents say they would use the time saved through automation to perform higher-value work. Similarly, 78 percent say that automating manual, repetitive tasks would allow them to focus on the more interesting and rewarding aspects of their jobs. 

Help Managers Connect the Dots

While most information workers say that they would spend the time freed up by automation to do more interesting and valuable work, it can be challenging for organizations to tap into that motivation. Why? Employees may not always have insight into the strategic goals of a company or understand how the work they’re doing fits into the bigger picture.

Organizations need to help managers connect the dots between the strategic goals of a company or department with the more interesting and valuable work that employees would like to spend more time on. A clear understanding of the business goals and how those translate to a team can also spark innovative ideas in employees once they have more time to focus on higher-value work.

Cultivate a Practice of Portfolio Visibility

Meanwhile, business leaders struggle to gain visibility into the work their employees are doing, particularly when teams are using agile to innovate. They wonder whether work is going in the right direction. They don’t want to tell teams what they should do or how they should do it. 


3 Layers of Visibility Your Business Needs to Compete

In fact, they’d be fine with teams taking the initiative to implement automation and reduce wasted time. Essentially, they just want to know what their teams are doing, how that work aligns with business goals, and if the outcomes are driving toward where the business is headed.

Automation and Alignment Foster Engagement

A diverse group of workers crowd around a workstation.

Organizations seeking to gain a competitive edge can combine the power of automation and alignment to drive innovation and foster employee engagement. Automation is available today that can significantly reduce the time employees waste on manual, repetitive tasks, and free up their time for more valuable, fulfilling work.


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At the same time, better organizational alignment to strategic business goals can help define what that more valuable, interesting work might look like for employees, while portfolio visibility can ensure that the innovation spurred on by improved employee engagement isn’t lost in the larger context of the business.

A lack of purposeful work and the feeling that time is being wasted on meaningless tasks aren’t the only culprits behind a lack of employee engagement. However, empowering teams to recognize potentially valuable work in an organization — and freeing up employee time to pursue that work — could go a long way in re-engaging a dissatisfied workforce.

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