Automation will have a significant impact on how teams and organizations operate in the coming years. While statistics vary as to how different work and job functions could be automated, the reality is that automation — supported by technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning — will eventually transform work in every industry and organization.
Millennials, in particular, are leading the rapid implementation of workplace automation. It’s no surprise, since this tech-savvy generation values the same attributes that automation promises to deliver: increased productivity, transparency, work-life balance, and ability to focus on strategic work, among other benefits. Compared to past generations, millennials are quick to find, apply, and understand new technologies — especially if it improves productivity and collaboration.
Despite the varying levels of concern about the potential for automation to disrupt or even eliminate jobs in the future, millennials are embracing its potential. Here’s why:
1. Increase workplace productivity
According to Entrepreneur Magazine, 93% of millennials believe productivity is the key to happiness and believe that enhancements in technical resources will uplevel their overall productivity.
A millennial business development lead from Red Brick Analytics, Jeremy Sorokas explains how they were able to increase processes efficiency through automation in a previous role. “[Bookkeeping] was extremely manual and much of the time was spent keying in transactions from our bank’s website into our accounting system. When we automated the process, the workload went from four people taking one week to one person spending about an hour doing the exact same task.”
This shift freed staff time to focus on more analytical work, such as reviewing trends, Sorokas says. Resulting in the discovery that a supplier was overbilling the company in upwards of $14,000 — a problem that would have not have been discovered if their teams were still relying on manual data entry.
“The other benefits were improved accuracy (since manual keying is never 100%) and our team's satisfaction, as we were able to focus on making a difference in the company, instead of worrying if a ‘6’ should have been a ‘9’,” says Sorakas.
2. More time for creative, strategic work
Not only do millennials believe that automation will help them become more productive, but they are also 1.3 times more likely to say that AI will free up their time by taking care of day-to-day tasks, according to Facebook, allowing them to focus on more strategic work.
Ann Marie Cucciniello, a web designer at security company Radware — and a millennial, explains how automation has given her the ability to improve the user experience for Radware’s customers. “[Automation] gives me the freedom to expand my creativity. Instead of repeating a micro-task hundreds of times, I can focus on design improvements or new technology integrations.”
Millennial and senior research scientist at Talent Plus, Inc. Ben Sievert adds: “Automation has definitely allowed me to tackle increasingly more interesting projects, and not focus only on the mundane parts of my role. Ultimately, it frees me up to think more strategically, which ultimately benefits the organization.”
Millennials have changed and fully accepted the idea of work-life balance, explains Kriti Sharma, a VP of AI at Sage. In turn, the biggest benefit of AI and automation is freeing millennials to spend time doing meaningful work and facilitating change for others.
“[Our generation] is willing to work hard, but we want that work to be creative and meaningful,” says Sharma. “That’s why we have to drop the doom and gloom narrative around AI, and embrace automation for its ability to make our jobs more meaningful by phasing out the menial, repetitive tasks that can take up as much as 50% of a worker’s day.”
3. Professional development
Dissatisfaction with lack of advancement and few development opportunities are two of the top reasons for millennial near-term exits, according to Deloitte. Millennials see workplace automation as an opportunity for professional development and to learn new skills.
Millennials are open to learning and growing in a job which is a great asset for organizations, who will need to build strategies around upgrading workforce skills as jobs change due to automation. A report from McKinsey states that as automation progresses, all workers will need to adapt and learn new skills that aren’t easily automated, including social and emotional skills, creativity, and high-level cognitive capabilities.
“It is critical that people develop an ‘always learning’ mindset,” explains John Garvens, a millennial and senior consultant and technical trainer for Simplus. “If you are not constantly learning and improving, you will be replaced by automation. Even in technology, this is a concern as AI and machine learning will slowly start replacing the jobs done by business analysts and others. But there will always be a job for someone who thinks creatively, communicates effectively, and leads with integrity.”
4. Increased organizational influence
In addition to the ability to be more innovative and to develop new skills, 44% of millennials surveyed by Deloitte believe that automation will provide them with more influence within their organizations by becoming experts in how to make the most out of this new technology.
“The millennial generation and Gen Z get to shape what automation looks like while helping older generations who resist automated services understand that technology isn't out to steal their jobs,” notes Shelby Rogers, a millennial content marketing specialist at Solodev and Digital US.
The biggest opportunity for millennials like Stan Tan, a digital marketing manager at Selbys, to make an impact may also be the biggest obstacle. “The challenging part is getting buy-in from the older generations that are more resistant to change, especially change that introduces new technology into our current process that we have been using for decades.”
The payoff, however, is worth it. “From a business point of view, the more process we can automate, the less time we have to spend on it and this leads to lower costs for us,” says Tan. “This ultimately leads to higher margins.”
Millennials and the power of automation
Rather than agonizing about automation taking over their jobs, millennials see automation as a chance to advance their careers and company.
“I believe that tech-forward millennials actually expect or should expect automation in the workplace,” says Christa Freeland, a millennial entrepreneur and managing director at Powershift Group, a startup studio that funds and scales startups.
With millennials being the fastest-growing segment of workers — estimated to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025 — the time is now for organizations to begin applying automation to the workplace.
Learn more by visiting the Smartsheet Automation in the Workplace Report.