When I was a kid, I used to watch cartoons as I got dressed for school. My favorite was The Jetsons: the flying cars, the robot maid, food served hot at the touch of a button. The only thing I could never figure out was why – despite all the seemingly futuristic advances – George still went to work every day and pushed a bunch of buttons. It stayed with me, even as I got older, and when I’d find an old episode of The Jetsons on cable, it would really vex me.
If a robot could do the household chores and give advice to Judy and little Elroy – couldn’t a robot make Spacely Sprockets? Would automation and robotics really change the burden of work…or were we all just destined to be George Jetson – nothing more than Homer Simpson with a cooler car?
Fortunately, the future is here, and it’s turned out quite a bit differently. The robots aren’t cleaning my house, but they are cleansing my sales pipeline, automating back-office finance operations like invoice matching and receivables, and improving accuracy in demand planning, product design, and revenue forecasting. Enterprise intelligence – machine learning, IoT, robotic process automation, and artificial intelligence – is transforming a host of industries from retail and consumer goods to energy industries like utilities to the manufacturing of everything from chemicals to pharmaceuticals to sprockets, I mean rockets (or even just cars).
Technology and the future of work
Technology is having a profound impact on the future of work and will continue to do so. For example, consider the following four trends in artificial intelligence that directly impact the workforce: Facial recognition could impact 1.8 million jobs; natural language processing will impact more than 3 million call center workers; self-checkout impacts more than 3.4 million cashiers; autonomous driving will impact more than 3.5 million commercial drivers. Meanwhile, 58 million new jobs – in categories that don’t exist, or barely exist – will be created by 2022.
The future will require employees to team with the machine. Skills related to learning, adaptability, and collaboration will be essential. There will be an impact on job roles, productivity and margins, recruiting strategy, enablement and training at scale to move worker populations, and employee engagement.
We face several people-related questions: How do you design the agile workforce of the future that balances employees with contingent labor? How do you attract, grow, and retain the diverse talent that we need to compete in the global digital economy? And how do you orchestrate ideal employee experiences and provide meaningful work for five different generations? Further, the “perfect storm” of demographic shifts is occurring simultaneously with innovation advancements – every organization is facing talent demand and competitive disruption.
Applying customer experience and employee experience
At the heart of this shift is empathy. Instead of treating people as assets, capital, or resources, we treat them as human beings and design solutions around their individual needs. Today, savvy companies are applying the same set of tools for customer experience (CX) to employee experience (EX). Given the time it takes to hire top talent and the costs of staff turnover, we simply can’t afford to lose great talent.
There is also a direct link from employee experience -> employee engagement and behaviors -> customer experience -> customer satisfaction -> and ultimately to long-term loyalty by raving fans. We see examples of this with many successful companies today.
Starbucks and Zappos, for example, consciously put their employees first, knowing they will then take personal responsibility for creating incredible customer experiences. Companies in industries that rely heavily on customer call centers – like utilities and telecommunications providers – understand that creating seamless, frictionless experiences for consumers relies heavily on recruiting, training, and developing the right talent to serve as brand ambassadors at the front lines.
For these companies, using technology to drive greater automation not only reduces customer friction but takes “the work out of the work” in a manner that enables customer service representatives to better service the customer. Most importantly, intelligent business processes can translate experience data into insight and operational execution. A company that can measure consumer engagement or brand loyalty through quantifying various metrics can scale or modify a host of business processes in order to produce a desired outcome: from digital marketing to product quality to customer service.
I recently had the opportunity to work with a Southern California electric utility company that built an entire transformation around customer service and billing processes that increased customer loyalty, reduced wait and response times, and improved employee engagement.
Connecting the intelligent enterprise to people engagement and purpose
Your people are your voice to your consumer and your business partners. Their engagement, their wellness, their sense of security and leadership trust are difference-makers. In a world where demand planning and retail allocations may soon be done entirely by machine learning algorithms, planners will shift their work towards creating and curating customer experiences – in-store, at home and online.
Measuring the consumer experience and using that information to create processes and programs that foster workplace security and establish a sense of mission and purpose will play an integral role in which brands thrive and which struggle to survive. When you fail to unite brand and culture with mission, you fail your employees and customers. I am fortunate to work with great leaders and intelligent people every day – both at our customers and inside my company.
Through that experience, those that are the most effective are often those whose intelligence stems from the ability to synthesize lots of information down to a simple set of actions that equally address both needs and desires (or, as I often say, head and heart).
That same challenge now faces our great companies; our iconic brands. Listen to what your consumers, your corporate customers, your team members, your business partners are saying. Understand what they are really telling you about why they are – or aren’t – fully engaged.
Act on that information with business practices that produce the experiences that drive your strategy. Becoming an intelligent enterprise will enable you to drive your desired outcomes and focus on achieving your company’s mission and purpose.
Learn more about the Intelligent Enterprise.
This blog originally appeared on SAP Forbes BrandVoice.