It is undeniable that, in the wake of the pandemic, workforce management has become a top business priority. Smart business leaders and owners woke up during the 2020 shutdowns and started to devise strategies to address the employee turnover that has been present for years and often makes business success impossible. I mean really solve it. One of the cornerstones of which is certainly “automation”, reducing the proportion of human labour in various processes. It is no coincidence that the boundary between HR and automation now seems to be almost disappearing.
It was not so long ago that there was a clear expectation within companies’ decision-making processes that there should be a sharp distinction between human and non-human areas. For the human area, there is HR, the role of which is to manage the people nicely, sort out their odds and ends, and ensure that there are always quality human resources within the company. Then, on the other side, there are the areas of process management and automation, where the task is to make production and work as efficient as possible for human resources. In most cases, there was no secret objective of making it easier for people to work, in the hope that this would make the issue of employee turnover much more manageable at the management level. The problem was no longer that companies, in general, did not value their employees, but that sometimes the process overcompensated, where the employee clearly dictated and if the employer did not submit to demands, the employee would move on. And indeed, they could move because, in most modern business environments, labour shortages were a fundamental problem, and obviously, in a high-demand environment, supply is king. Make no mistake, the “evil” employer role has not been replaced by an evil employee attitude, but the fact is that companies have had to focus more and more on getting the worker to actually do the job. The job for which they get paid. Even when the basic expectations were not met, employees often had to be approached with caution, because, at any moment, they would find four other options, and by the time the disgruntled or even justly demanding employer would have had a chance to wake up, they could already draw another line under the heading of “un-recouped human investment”.
Patience is finite
Of course, managers’ patience with this process, especially that of decision-makers at the top, is finite, and it was clear that they would have to find other ways of managing a workforce that was constantly demanding – sometimes rightly, sometimes completely wrongly. Moreover, traditional “empathetic speeches” could not help, since it is obviously important to make employees feel comfortable in the company, but to do so, expectations have to be met. You have to work, you have to deliver, and there can be no excuse for that. The employee works, and the employer pays for it. That is the basic order of business. So, although many people blame the pandemic for the rise of automation, if you look at more research, and more market information, the process started much earlier. A process that is now not about further motivating and facilitating the work of the existing workforce that is, in a nice word, kept there. The main objective is now to get labour market supply and demand back to normal at last. A balance has to be established where not only the employee but also the employer can choose and is not afraid to let the idlers go. But it also aims to create a more cultured, modern environment for a workforce that really wants to work. The pandemic has clearly empowered even the most empathetic front-line decision-makers to take control after a long period of time. Control of their own companies. Automation, implemented through a well-constructed strategy, can be a clear solution. And today, this can provide strategic support for business not only in the traditional large manufacturing or industrial sectors, but also in smaller economic sectors with simpler processes. In this respect, it is very important that HR and process management and its automation are brought together. This is currently the first priority of the decision-maker: involve specialists in the relevant fields. In the future, however, a new strategic position is expected to be created, which will be in charge of complex workforce management, in collaboration with automation experts supporting the company and internal HR specialists.