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Process Automation and Employee Morale

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Local Indianapolis consulting and telephony services company, Interactive Intelligence, announced “communications-based process automation.” The offering sounds great for management, but what about for employees?

A story by Patrick Barnard at TMCnet.com includes some interesting language:

Much the same way a contact center agent can route a call or other contact to any designated end-point throughout an organization, based on pre-defined rules, any worker (or automated system) in any department can use [Interaction Process Automation] to automatically route documents to any other end point on the network. What’s more, the same automated re-routing and failover mechanisms found in the contact center platform still apply: For example, if a worker is unavailable to handle a task, at any given time (as indicated through their presence), the system will automatically re-route that task onto the next available employee who is qualified to handle it.

Indianapolis Speakers: Telephony Services

© Flickr user alanclarkdesign

If you are a senior vice president of operations or a COO, you might be salivating at this copy. But what about if you are a front-line employee in a company like those described in the article? Barnard’s choice of words dismisses “workers” as equivalent to “automated systems.” He describes the features of the software application in the language of infrastructure, using words like “automated re-routing”, “failover mechanisms”, “unavailable.” Although the author is accurately describing the system, he is also writing about the lives of people and characterizing their livelihood.

Imagine how employees feel when their unique contribution is described as just a movement in a machine.

Indianapolis Speakers: Telephony Services

© Flickr user mongogushi

In addition, Barnard writes:

As such, the software gives managers the ability to create and implement customized, “communications-based” workflows based on specific business rules, as well as employee skill sets. Perhaps most importantly, the solution helps drive increased productivity, as workflows become more efficient and streamlined. Interactive Intelligence claims that with this new offering, organizations will be able to harness additional power out of their [Unified Communications] systems to drive new levels of efficiency and productivity.

The first snippet minimizes the importance of stakeholders while the remaining collection of sentences places the corporation on a pedestal.  As managers design workflow “based on business rules” and “employee skill sets,” the idea of productivity morphs into something which arises not from worker innovation, but from being “driven” out of the system. In other words, a design that effectively tells people how they should work, as though they are operating machinery or herding livestock. In the end, increased efficiency is apparently achieved through a more streamlined sequence of work, rather than any increase in actual training, understanding, or intellectual sophistication. Finally, the article claims that the organization benefits from the new system since they can  “harness additional power” out of pre-existing systems; leaving factors such as individual creativity, satisfaction and personal growth as non-essential.

Interactive Intelligence’s new product offering will undoubtedly help businesses improve benefits to customers as well as decrease costs. Yet, if implemented without regard to employee engagement, it will surely leave stakeholders at a loss. With each opportunity to improve workflow, decision makers should always engage with stakeholders to generate ideas. After all, describing a corporate initiative to employees by using words like “drive”, “automated processes”, “mechanism” and “failover” only reinforces feelings of being a “cog in the machine.” Failure to embrace their humanity damages morale and stifles innovation in the largest, untapped internal resource for ideas: front-line employees.

As technology advances, some jobs will cease to exist. There used to be countless elevator operators and gas station attendants. But as The Methodology Blog has covered before, increased productivity doesn’t always cost jobs..

Your employees are valuable because of instinct and brilliance, not routine mechanical tasks. Learn more about how to embrace change by embracing your stakeholders. Reach out to the Indianapolis speakers and consultants at AccelaWork today!

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