Do you often feel like you don’t get much done due to answering questions, processing papers and filling out forms? Are you rarely able to put your ideas and projects into action because your day is spent completing manual tasks? You know you can help the office run better, but you just don’t have the time to get everything done.
As many companies have undergone digital transformation, new tools and equipment are available to help you automate many tasks in your job description. Not to mention, tasks that probably are often left undone, as administrative tasks and maintenance tend to be low priority. Automation is one of the growing trends for 2019, especially for businesses moving toward a data-driven business model. By using technology, businesses can perform many tasks previously done by humans, such as finding documents, onboarding employees, managing expense reports and booking travel.
As automation begins to increase in popularity, companies are becoming more comfortable with the concepts. The majority of professionals embrace automation, although there is a gap between leaders and employees. According to KRC Research, 99 percent of business leaders embrace automation and see the advantages. However, only 80 percent of employees share the sentiment. The gap is likely due to some employees concerned about job loss due to automation.
Will automation replace office managers?
It’s unlikely—very unlikely. As automation becomes more common and more tasks are automated, office managers will remain a core foundation of a successful SMB. However, the role of office manager will likely shift and evolve. For example, today office managers often spend their days managing paperwork — completing, signing and filing. With office automation, the office manager would instead use a scanner and document management system to store and search documents. Instead of managing the file cabinet, the office manager will be the document management system owner and in-house expert.
The Harvard Business Review article, What We Often Get Wrong about Office Automation, discusses how many people are concerned about automation eliminating jobs when, in fact, the technology creates often better jobs for employees. The articles says automation “has the potential to create new, more valuable, and more fulfilling roles for humans.” Additionally, HBR often found that automation results in higher compensation for employees. Companies can use the cost savings due to the increase in productivity to pay higher wages.
Regardless of how sophisticated technology becomes in the future, the human touch will always remain an important part of any business. As an office manager, you build relationships with many people—employees, vendors, potential clients and guests. By understanding the needs, personalities and preferences of everyone who partners to create a successful business, the office manager can build loyalty and grow the business. While a robot can be programmed to remember a team member or client’s birthday, automation simply cannot replace the human touch for a handwritten card. Without these personal relationships it’s challenging, if not impossible, to run a successful business.
Additionally, human creativity and problem solving will also be a core aspect of the office manager role. Building on the relationships they form, office managers often come up with creative solutions that work for their specific SMB, such as setting up a calendar reminder for employees chronically late with expense reports, or finding the best training class for a struggling employee that fits their personality and training preferences.
Improving productivity through automation
As an office manager, you likely have many projects that you would like to get done that never make it on your to-do list. A study by Samanage found that employees have an average of 520 hours per year on tasks that could be automated, which equals an entire work day every week. With an extra four days a month, you can likely complete many projects and tasks that will add additional value to your company. The study found time savings by automating tasks, such as password resets, new employee onboarding, contract review/approval and office supply requests.
However, it’s not just about getting more accomplished or being more productive, but also getting your work done right. Everyone has a bad day where they aren’t as sharp or may not be feeling well. However, automation technology always produces consistent and accurate results. As a result, automation can also improve your results, not just your speed. According to KRC Research, business leaders reported that automation reduces manual errors (52 percent) and results in a better quality of work product (45 percent).
The new office manager role
Automation will likely change the role of the office manager and administrative assistant. According to the McKinsey Global Institute report “A Future that Works: Automation, Employment and Productivity,” 39 percent of administrative jobs can be automated. The time spent on tasks that can now be automated will give office managers more time to focus on tasks that only humans can perform, especially creative tasks and relationship building. You can also likely add new responsibilities, such as basic IT and human resources tasks, depending on your interest.
Instead of resisting automation, office managers should take the opposite approach—championing and leading the transition. By taking an active role and becoming the point person, you increase your value to the company and add new technical skills. As automation increases and evolves, the office manager role will involve interacting with automation throughout the day. Office managers should not fear automation, but instead, show the company how much productivity savings automation brings, making you even more valuable as a leader of digital transformation efforts.
Automation is no longer a future trend; technology is critical to success in today’s business world. Businesses that do not add automation will struggle to stay competitive. At some point in the near future, the gap between companies using automation and those sticking with manual processes will become wide. The extra money and time companies using automation save will quickly be evident in terms of quality as well as customer service.
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