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Balancing automation and human expertise: a win-win scenario

Organisations across the globe are becoming increasingly accustomed to the automation options available to take over mundane and repetitive tasks. The rise of Generative AI, such as ChatGPT, has only accelerated such adoption, causing widespread concern over where this leaves the human workforce. Tax Systems’ Chief Solutions Officer, Russell Gammon, discusses how businesses must strike the correct balance between automation and employee expertise, arguing that this technology’s ability will never surpass that of an employee’s creative mind and adaptable skills.

Harnessing the power of automation

Automation technologies, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), are increasingly utilised by organisations in many industries including banking, accountancy, healthcare, telecoms, and finance. Due to its climbing popularity, this area of technology is now experiencing notable investment and growth and is expected to increase from just over $3bn in global revenue in 2023, to approximately $13bn by 2030.

This rise in popularity could be attributed to the variety of benefits it promises; the acceleration or elimination of monotonous tasks, cost reduction, improved customer service and an increased level of overall productivity and accuracy – to name just a few.

The ability of software ‘robots’ to manage large volumes of repetitive rule-based tasks is especially beneficial for finance and accounting teams, who are no stranger to long and arduous data entry tasks. Handing these basic, yet necessary, duties over offers significant speed and efficiency gains to these teams, freeing up employees to spend their time on more productive, interesting, and valuable activities.

Evidently, there are significant upsides of automation. Yet, whilst it eliminates grunt work and wasted time and money, concerns continue about how these technologies will affect the human workforce; a worry that is only exacerbated by the rise of AI.

The human vs. technology dilemma

As with any technology, there are several worries circulating around the potential effects that it will have on training and development, talent attraction, employee engagement and job loss. But is there any merit behind these fears?

It is unsurprising there is unease that technology such as AI will cause job displacement or replacement, especially where the media continues to speculate on its potential impact on the human workforce. Recently, it was even reported that as many as 300 million jobs could be diminished by this technology alone.

Those businesses that get ahead of the game and implement objectives to enhance and supplement the human role with this technology will put themselves in a strong position to attract top talent and clientele, and could provide an enviable competitive edge against other organisations in the market. But how can companies best employ automation alongside workplace processes?

The first, most logical step is to identify which tasks can be fully automated – which will require constant monitoring and evaluation, and which will continue to require the full attention of employee expertise. Once confirmed, automation can take its place as a helpful ‘co-worker’ to everyone in the business, from those entering the profession all the way up to the C-suite.

Fast tracked training, development and experience

Whilst automating monotonous tasks, such as data entry or admin, may be a great opportunity, there are valid considerations to address about how new starters or graduates will learn the basics of their profession. Although not productive to sit for hours through repetitive tasks, learning by doing has historically been the favoured way to train employees.

Organisations should take this opportunity to train new starters on how to get the most out of this technology and to provide bigger and better development opportunities to learn new skills that complement the technology. For example, new starters can now be trained in data analysis, machine learning and programming, which can enhance their ability to work alongside automated systems.

Businesses should also use automation to enable new starters to have more time for complex, higher level tasks that require human initiative and creativity. By restructuring roles, new employees can now focus on tasks that add strategic value, ultimately benefiting their progression and growth.

Attracting talent with technology

Born into a world with internet and information available to them immediately on portable devices, the Gen-Z top talent currently populating the job market are on the lookout for fast-paced, engaging and adaptable workplaces. For them, making use of technological advancements in a purposeful way is a normal and intuitive process; therefore, this talent will value learning about new technologies as part of their career development.

Indeed, skills acquisition is a top priority for Gen-Zers who are also acutely aware that keeping their technology and soft skills honed and constantly updated will be important for keeping pace with the industry’s future needs. For example, those within the tax profession understand they will need to be skilled in an array of specialisations that include business development, project management, data analytics, strategic planning and more. Clearly, for those businesses wanting to successfully attract top talent, using automation is a must.

The expertise and automation balancing act

With careful planning, automation can transform a business and the roles of employees for the better. However, human expertise remains a powerful asset and businesses should not lose sight of this; instead, they should aim to strike the perfect balance between human talent and automation. This will add more value to the business and provide a much more professionally rewarding and beneficial career that will ensure long-term development and progression for employees. A win-win scenario for everyone.

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