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Tech workers are concerned — and it could be affecting your company’s productivity. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent KPMG study showed that 67% of US technology workers are worried that their job will be replaced by emerging technology. But as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) continue to grow in popularity, it’s important to keep in mind that these solutions present more opportunities than threats. While it may sound counterintuitive, workers are more likely to ensure job security by helping drive digital transformation than preventing it.

Misconceptions about AI eliminating jobs are preventing companies’ ground-up productivity gains. Taking the initiative to automate parts of the job shouldn’t be viewed as a career ender — it helps employees stand out and become a more integral part of company operations. But research on this issue shows a disconnect between workers and business leaders, with executives seeking efficiencies while employees are afraid to innovate.

These clashing perspectives hurt productivity and hamper true advancements. It’s up to business leaders to communicate the advantages of automation to their tech workers and create the culture changes needed to remain competitive in today’s economy.

The Hidden Productivity Gains in Today’s Tech Workplace

A KPMG study showed that since COVID-19 changed our lives and workstyles in March, 68% of US technology workers said they’ve found work/life balance challenging. While this is partly a symptom of larger lockdowns and restrictions, automating many of the work processes creeping into home life could improve workers’ quality of life.

The large-scale move to digital workspaces has highlighted the need for continued human knowledge and support, and this is no different at technology companies. Encouraging employees to innovate in their positions allows you to tap into their skills for mutual benefit, rewarding them for ingenuity while also signaling that automation isn’t a threat to their livelihoods.

Your employees likely already have ideas about how to work more efficiently. A 2018 survey revealed that 78% of full-time employees say they could do their jobs in under seven hours a day uninterrupted, while 45% placed the timeframe at five hours or less. Away from the watchful eyes and frequent distractions inherent in physical workplaces, many tech workers may have already found ways to work faster.

In recent years, several viral internet forum questions revealed tech employees weighing their options in this scenario. After secretly orchestrating immense gains in efficiency — for instance, shrinking a month of work into a few minutes — these workers are hesitant to reveal their efficiencies to higher-ups for fear of losing their jobs.

To effectively leverage employees for wide-scale digital transformation, companies need to let workers know their efforts won’t be used against them. Achieving successful, company-wide process automation starts by communicating that individual innovation isn’t only welcome, it’s encouraged.

Related Article: Is it Unethical to Secretly Automate Your Job?

Transformation Through Automation

Though workers are wary of automation replacing their jobs, tech leadership has shown few signs this will be the case. KPMG also found that 67% of global tech company leaders believe AI will create more jobs than it eliminates over the next three years. Clearly, technology leaders see more opportunity in the coexistence of automation and employee talent than in a competition.

Giving workers the autonomy and support to automate redundant and mundane tasks allows them to get more out of their positions and use extra time to deliver value in new ways. Less of the workday spent on small, repetitive jobs means more time for strategic thought, allowing you to fully capitalize on the unique skill sets of your tech talent.

A glance at other industries can offer employees hope: Today, bank tellers still field banking questions and we still rely on accountants’ tax expertise. Just as ATMs haven’t replaced bank tellers and tax software hasn’t forced accountants into retirement, automation won’t eliminate the need for tech workers. A democratized digital transformation approach benefits employers too, ensuring new processes are efficient and built to work for the people using them every day.

In 2020’s turbulent business landscape, companies need all hands on deck. But when employees are bogged down by time-consuming, mundane processes, they don’t have the time to ideate. It falls on business leaders to communicate job security and encourage new efficiencies to foster an environment of innovation.

Ultimately, AI is a tool for humans — not a replacement for them. Because without human creativity and innovation, enterprises can’t take their digital transformation plans to the next level. But to truly transform, you need full employee buy-in. Worker-driven process automation needs to be presented as a path toward growth that pays off for all involved.

Related Article: The Role of Robotic Process Automation in Digital Transformation