Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad “Bot”?

While CHANGE has become a constant in most organizations, the pace of change is increasing, and much of that increased pace is due to technology. One key technology trend is the so-called, “robot takeover.”

This robot-takeover has many concerned and wondering if they will still have a job.

If you are one of those people, I recommend you read Humanity Works, by fellow PeopleResults Partner, Alexandra Levit. Alexandra is a futurist who has explored the future of work and paints a picture that is exciting and full of opportunity for us humans!

It’s true, the 2030s work world is not full of doom-and-gloom. Many jobs will become more meaningful and rewarding.

What will make those jobs more meaningful and rewarding is integrating more automation, (aka, “bots”) into some routine, mundane aspects of our work.

All my clients are involved in transforming HOW work is getting done. Much of that transformation is happening by integrating “bots” into the workflow of their teams. That means that many leaders are having to help their teams get comfortable with working alongside these machines.

This can be a big change. Here are a few suggestions for leaders to consider when introducing these new “bot” team members with their human team members.

  • Communicate early and often – Like with any change, employees want to hear about upcoming changes from their leaders. They will have questions about how the change will impact them, and no one is better suited to answer those questions than their leader. When you know that transformation efforts are coming, talk with your team about WHAT is coming and WHY. When people have a broader context for the reasons behind the change, it facilitates understanding and buy-in. In addition to explaining the WHAT and WHY, be sure to address:
    • Timeline – What activities are coming and when; even if you don’t have all the details, outline estimations for when you will have more information.
    • Their role in the transformation work – In order to understand the best opportunities to automate/integrate the use of “bots” in their work, you must have those who currently do the work provide input into the recommendations.
  • Be honest about how the transformation will impact the team– Not all automation results in jobs being eliminated. However, in some cases it does. In those situations, most organizations identify other roles within the company suitable for those employees. If that is not the case, retainer bonuses and outplacement assistance is common. Most transformation efforts result in the routine, mundane work being automated, freeing up capacity for the humans to do more strategic or meaningful work.
    • Highlight the upside for their skill development and opportunities for enhanced contribution. This may intimidate some employees because it takes them out of their comfort zone. The routine tasks may be what they enjoy and where their strengths lie. If they resist building new capabilities, they will not be a good fit for the job. Leaders need to get comfortable communicating that message. While it’s not always an easy message, framing it as the new job requirements make it easier. If you were hiring for this job, these are the skills/knowledge that are required for qualified candidates.
  • Provide training and development to build needed skills – Empathy, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and innovation are valued traits that humans will bring to the transformed roles. Some jobs needed in the future don’t exist today so leaders need to re-tool their teams to take on what’s coming.
    • Machines will depend on humans to feed them rules, guide their work, maintain their functionality, and interpret outcomes of work completed by artificial intelligent algorithms.
    • Services requiring interpersonal sensitivity will continue to be sought after and humans will be the ones to fill those roles. The ability to connect with people is now more important than ever.

Advances in technology bring new possibilities. Leaders that have a growth mindset – continuous improvement, development, and getting better – will thrive! Bringing the rest of your team along and introducing these new teammates will depend on an optimistic view of the future.

Are you ready?


Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.