Australia outlook: Automation will protect jobs, not take them

  • Eric Swift
  • Solutions
  • AI and Automation
  • 2022
December 07, 2022

Automation jobs: two co-workers look at a computer monitor in an office

Australia faces significant economic headwinds thanks to inflation, supply chain disruptions, and the increasing likelihood of a global recession, according to the Australian government. The tough times ahead give leaders an opportunity to make work better.

Automation used to be a dirty word, associated with predictions about widespread job losses. But in the face of critical skills shortages and advances in artificial intelligence, Australian firms are realizing the benefits of outsourcing work to machines. Identifying opportunities now can protect revenue and help avoid workforce reductions if a recession hits.

Investing in automation promises productivity gains that will keep firms competitive and insulate against reactionary cost-cutting measures.

Automation uplifts employees

Today, employees have a greater appreciation for technology taking on repetitive tasks that are a distraction from more important work. We waste more than a day a week on administrative tasks, according to Deloitte. Many of us can relate to getting bogged down by responding to requests, waiting for approvals, or searching for information required to do our jobs.

Automation will replace a lot of that work—and that’s a good thing. Eliminating tasks that are done more efficiently by technology is the hallmark of human progress.

Automation will create more jobs than it replaces. - World Economic Forum

We’ve seen whole classes of jobs disappear, from typists to telephone operators. More recently, email administrators, a subgroup of IT professionals, were rendered obsolete by cloud-based platforms. Many have retrained in emerging areas of IT, such as user experience design and cybersecurity. This evolution is echoed by World Economic Forum research, which predicts automation will create more jobs than it replaces.

In almost every enterprise and government agency in Australia, we’re already seeing automation handle tasks such as reviewing and responding to requests. Virtual agents and software can collate, categorize, and complete basic tasks that would take people hours of repetitive work. Employees in areas such as IT, customer service, procurement, and HR have more time to spend on higher-value work as a result.

Reaping automation’s benefits

These innovations don’t just transform office roles. In Australia’s strained hospitality industry, automated ordering systems are helping restaurants manage significant staff shortages and keep their doors open.

By 2025, the World Economic Forum predicts “employers will divide work between human[s] and machines equally.” This may sound like a dystopian future, but it’s a reality. Take Officeworks, for example: By introducing ServiceNow Virtual Agent, the office supplier saved more than AUD$1 million in one year.

Even better, the company’s chatbot colleague, named Penny, helps in-store employees answer questions fast so they can spend more time with customers. Support teams can concentrate on more complex tasks instead of answering the same requests. It’s a win-win-win.

The time to automate is now

As the global economy weakens, leaders must weigh risks and rewards. Short-term thinking will see some businesses cut costs via workforce reductions. But saving your way to success is a flawed strategy.

Organizations that invest in automation and human capital today will be better positioned to survive the headwinds. “A 1% increase in investment into future of work technologies will boost productivity by two percentage points,” according to a World Economic Forum white paper.

Further, 66% of employers expect to experience a return on upskilling and reskilling current employees within a year. As Australia’s hospitality industry has proved, automation can save jobs.

Organizations that invest in automation and human capital today will be better positioned to survive the headwinds.

Realizing this opportunity requires an understanding of what’s at stake. Both public and private sectors need to think seriously about retraining schemes, change management programs, and workforce redesign. Employees will do well to consider where they add the most value and focus their efforts on developing in-demand skills, such as analytical thinking, creativity, and digital literacy.

Out of the starting blocks

The most successful firms will start small, transforming tasks that have a measurable benefit and can be scaled. Encouragingly, many organizations in Australia have begun this journey. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy, and Resources (DISR) recently implemented the ServiceNow Protected Platform to automate and streamline administrative tasks.

Those prepared to tackle these challenges head-on and embrace automation can turn tight times into a rewarding future. By planning today, organizations can weather the storm and emerge stronger—protecting jobs in the process.

Find out more about how automation and AI are helping Australian organizations gain a competitive edge and build resilience.

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