During my career, I was shocked to see companies employing staff for extremely manual and redundant tasks with little to no value added for the company and for the staff. This is usually ingrained in the company’s DNA and it can very hard to change. If this is understandable on a short term basis because sometimes it does not make sense to automate until you have enough traffic, it is certainly counterproductive in the medium to long term for the following reasons:
Even you are in a low wage country or if you hire remote workers from the same low wage countries, using staff for redundant tasks is not a smart move because it will take longer to accomplish these redundant tasks. Let’s take an example, I was having a discussion with a client about their accounting department, and I discovered that most of the employees in this department were spending all their time to manually enter information coming from their internal software into Quickbooks, while you could at the very least load up the data from excel or even better link up both software using an API.
Furthermore, the considerable time you are losing will slow you down when it comes to taking decisions. Is it really worth it? Let’s take another example, you are going to the hospital and you already made an appointment with a specialist. First, you have to go to the front desk, where you need to fill a form, then queue to check your insurance at a different desk, then get a number and go to the registration desk where you present your form and finally an employee will try to read your handwriting and type in the information in the computer. And by the time you are seeing the doctor, you have wasted 1h30 min queuing, waiting, and filling multiple forms with usually the same information. Imagine the time that could have been saved by filling up the information online and the number of additional patients that could have been attended to. What if your main competitor had already automated their entire process, and they provide a very smooth registration in 5min, what will be the customer’s reaction?
But wait here is the kicker, since these operations are manual, it will inevitability lead to a certain percentage of human errors which can have cascading effects and lead to other errors. These errors will need to be found and corrected which represents a time/cost and also a risk of not being able to find the error in time. Let’s go back to the hospital, a doctor is writing down instructions related to a patient for all the nurses on the floor, most of them are relatively new to the job, and unfortunately, the doctor’s handwriting is difficult to read and the nurse reads 700ml rather than 100ml, would you like to be the patient in these conditions? That could be avoided by having all the patient’s information in an application available for tablets or mobile.
And have you thought about the image that you project for your customers or suppliers? As a client, I focus on getting a good service fast. If I go to a hotel and the check in is very manual and lengthy, I will already be disappointed. Another example, my mobile provider asked me to go to their flagship store on the other side of the city to just create an autodebit while I was expecting to be able to do that in 2 minutes online.
Do you understand how your staff might be feeling if they keep doing the same thing over and over again? What motivation can you expect from them? Lack of motivation will certainly lead to less productivity and maybe also more sick days. Not only it’s a completely useless way of occupying your staff but they will most likely leave the company at the first occasion which will represent a huge cost in hiring/training and filling up the gap until the new employee is found/trained. On top of it, they are not really learning anything which will handicap their future and they will likely become unemployable given how technology is fast changing our lifes. You should instead involve them, keep training them and ask them to be proactive, to offer solutions to automate their work which will enable them to work on more high value tasks. The staff will have learned new skills which will increase their motivation and productivity. If I go back to the hotel front desk example, if the check-in process is automated, you can spend more time understanding and knowing your customer to offer more targeted services which will please the customer and increase drastically the revenue.