EAs should embrace not fight automation and AI

The automation of routine and repetitive job tasks is inevitable as robots continue to join workplaces across the country. But rather than fear that robots are taking over, EAs can benefit from automation – provided they take the appropriate action now.

When we think of artificial intelligence and automation, we probably think of Alexa or Google Home, AI scheduling software and automated supermarket checkouts.

But the reality is that AI, robotics and automation are in use in most organisations today to perform a wide variety of functions and duties.

The one thing these tools all have in common is that they are used to perform routine, repetitive and often time-consuming tasks. The more valuable, varied and creative work remains the domain of people.

Clearly, we’re far from the demise of the human worker. In fact, in a recent online poll of ours of almost 2,000 (1,987) people, 18% said automation has already impacted their job ‘significantly’, but a far higher number – 32% – said their job has been impacted ‘partially’, with some tasks automated and non-routine duties increasing. These figures will only increase in the years ahead as technology becomes less expensive and more accepted.

That’s why EAs shouldn’t rest on their laurels. Be proactive and take the appropriate action now so that your career will benefit from the inevitable automation of your routine and repetitive tasks and the resulting evolution of your job.

How? To remain relevant in the age of automation, we suggest EAs firstly research current technology and consider what your job would look like if all the routine and repetitive duties you perform were automated. For example, look at software that can manage travel bookings and schedule meetings or read reports and extract key points as a summary for your executive. Order office supplies through an AI device. Try document sending and signing tools that allow you to upload contracts securely to send to clients for their electronic signature (no more printer jams to deal with!).

Next, determine how you could fill the time freed up by the automation of these tasks in a way that adds greater strategic value to your employer.

Look for gaps you can fill and become an expert in those areas. It may be project management, data collection and analysis or customer engagement. Or perhaps you could, over time, position yourself as a business partner to your executive. Whatever area you select for your upskilling, ensure it is in an area that cannot be automated or taken over by AI in the near future.

Once you’ve done this, set up a meeting with your boss to discuss these new tools and how they could be of use in your role. Present your plan for how you can focus your time on higher-value tasks if your routine and repetitive job responsibilities were automated.

In this way, you’re not sitting back and waiting for automation to knock on your door. You’re being proactive and embracing change by exploring relevant automation tools and their practical application in your role.

Similarly, consider that the automation of routine tasks still requires someone who can use the system. If you embrace new technology and become a super user, your skills will be in even greater demand.

Of course, once you identify the higher-value tasks you can perform if repetitive, time-consuming duties are automated, you’ll probably need to start upskilling. In our next blog, we’ll provide tips on how you can upskill without breaking the bank so that you’ll be ready to perform more advanced duties once your lower-value, repetitive tasks are automated.

About this author

Alex Jones is Regional Director of Hays in New South Wales, with full day-to-day operational responsibility for several Hays business units.

Over his 17 year career with Hays, Alex has held a variety of roles. Alex started recruiting in London for Hays Education, where he placed secondary school teachers. He moved into managing teams very early in his career before relocating home to Sydney in 2007 to manage and expand Hays Education in Australia.

Since then, Alex has managed a variety of teams in both the public and private sectors. His success was quickly rewarded with promotions to Senior Manager and then Regional Director six years ago.

Alex is currently responsible for the Construction & Property, Office Support, Policy & Strategy, Healthcare, Education and Executive business units of Hays in Sydney and Newcastle.

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