Historically speaking, when someone mentioned automation in the context of employee attrition they were likely talking about “desirable attrition.” They automated work so that they no longer needed to pay humans to do it, it was deemed to be a positive ROI, and the CFO high-fived everyone in the boardroom after seeing updated projections.
In the midst of the Great Resignation, a time when fully 41% of employees are considering a job change in the next year, can companies instead harness automation to RETAIN employees? Yes, they can.
The events of the last two years have caused massive reprioritization. I, for one, no longer work 70-hour weeks at the expense of my health and family life, and I don’t intend to do so ever again. My perspective alone does not make a statistically significant sample, but research does show that I’m part of a broader cohort of mid-career professionals who have realized time isn’t a commodity they can buy back. As a result, they are consciously prioritizing well-being and personal growth. Workers want a job that meets their needs beyond a paycheck — they want meaningful connections and purposeful work. Automation can help achieve both.
Few business processes touch only one team, so automating anything inherently requires collaboration across traditional workplace silos. When people come together and work toward a common goal (collaborate), see the situation from other stakeholders’ points of view (empathize), and collectively negotiate the best path forward (compromise), they also tend to build meaningful working relationships. The entire exercise also sparks creative momentum when the group starts thinking about what else they could solve (self-directed, meaningful work).
In other words, automation projects fundamentally support the type of workplace engagement that boosts employee retention. As a bonus, you have more people outside of leadership focusing on how to improve your business rather than just keep it running.
Employee attrition may not remain at 2021 levels forever, but even in more normal times, some degree of turnover is inevitable and losing key staff can have an especially significant impact. Cost estimates for employee turnover range from 33% to 250% of annual salary. You can think of automation as an insurance policy against some of that pain.
If you automate repetitive tasks and workflows that live in your employees’ heads, it’s a much shorter ramp time to bring someone new up-to-speed. Instead of focusing on memorizing the nuanced, transactional minutiae specific to a particular role, new hires can more quickly get plugged into their workplace network and start contributing to the overall strategy and organizational goals.
CFOs and other leaders: It’s time to brush off your calculators and re-factor your models, because automation ROI looks a bit different in 2022 and into the foreseeable future.