Automation: The Change Manager’s Crucial Role

The wave of automation is reshaping the workplace, introducing both challenges and opportunities. From the banking halls where ATMs have altered the role of tellers, to retail floors where self-checkouts have changed the shopping experience, and onto the highways where autonomous trucks are redefining logistics – each sector presents a unique set of struggles and lessons in change management.

Case Study 1: Banking Sector and ATMs

  • Real Struggle: The advent of ATMs in the 1960s, becoming ubiquitous by the 1990s, initially raised fears of job losses among bank tellers as their routine tasks were automated​​. However, ATMs didn’t lead to the total elimination of teller jobs but transformed them.
  • Adaptation Strategies: Bank tellers’ roles evolved from routine tasks to more customer-focused services, requiring enhanced skills in customer service and sales​​. Additionally, the demand for higher education and more complex skills in bank telling jobs increased due to this technological change​​. The industry’s response was not job elimination but job evolution.
  • Change Manager’s Role: Facilitate reskilling programs, ensure transparent communication about job evolution, and foster a customer-centric culture.

Case Study 2: Retail Industry and Self-Checkout

  • Real Struggle: The introduction of self-checkout systems in retail environments, particularly in grocery stores, required significant changes in employee roles. These changes included the need for enhanced vigilance in loss prevention, customer service adjustments, and dealing with technological challenges​​​​.
  • Adaptation Strategies: Retail employees received training focused on loss prevention, technology troubleshooting, and customer service enhancement​​. Moreover, the design of self-checkout spaces was adjusted to improve control and safety for both customers and employees​​.
  • Change Manager’s Role: Develop comprehensive training programs, support employees through the technological transition, and redesign workspace for efficiency and safety​​​​.

Case Study 3: Transportation and Self-Driving Trucks

  • Real Struggle: The trucking industry is undergoing a significant transformation with the introduction of autonomous trucks. This shift is expected to replace up to 294,000 long-distance trucking jobs but also create a similar number of local driving and last-mile delivery jobs​​.
  • Adaptation Strategies: The industry faces the challenge of ensuring fair wages and working conditions for the new roles created by automation. Public policy and industry leadership are crucial in shaping a future where the benefits of innovation are shared broadly​​. The splitting of trucking into local driving and autonomous highway driving is also driving the digitization of freight matching, which could put downward pressure on driver earnings​​.
  • Change Manager’s Role: Engage in policy advocacy for fair labor practices, facilitate job transition and skill development, and manage stakeholder expectations.

In a Nutshell

In the face of automation, industries are learning to adapt, not by resisting change but by reshaping roles and investing in employee skill development. The transition presents a complex landscape where the role of change managers becomes crucial in guiding organizations and their workforce through these transformative times. The real story of automation is not just about technology replacing jobs but about how jobs, and the skills they require, are evolving.