Higher Education Innovation In Action

4 Benefits of Automation in the Workplace

Kate Heider, Technical Writer Apr 26, 2018

Workplace automation is in the media a lot these days, from burger-flipping robots to self-driving cars. The news is not always good. In fact, sometimes it’s downright dystopian, as it’s often framed in terms of job displacement and mass unemployment.

At Credentials, we automate back-office processes for university registrars. Our core mission is not to replace jobs, but to help registrars do their jobs better with software that handles repetitive, time-consuming tasks. In short, we’re optimists: We prefer to focus on positive outcomes. With that in mind, here are four encouraging reports on automation along with benefits we’ve seen firsthand or heard about from our customers.

Job creation

This special report in The Economist, Automation and Anxiety, looks at how automation ultimately creates more jobs than it destroys. “‘That is because of the way automation works in practice,’ explains David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ‘Automating a particular task, so that it can be done more quickly or cheaply, increases the demand for human workers to do the other tasks around it that have not been automated.’” One example of this is the growing need for information system specialists in the registrar’s office – staff who can develop bolt-on solutions for existing software and bridge communication between your team and the IT department.

Job support

Not only does automation create the potential for new jobs, it supports existing jobs by freeing up time for more important, creative, or fulfilling work. The optimist’s guide to the robot apocalypse cites a recent McKinsey study that found only 5% of U.S. occupations can be fully automated. “McKinsey’s conclusion was not that machines will take all of these jobs, but rather, ‘more occupations will change than will be automated away,’” says author Sarah Kessler. “Our CEO, for example, won’t spend time analyzing reports if artificial intelligence can draw conclusions more efficiently, so he can spend more time coaching his team.”

A more ‘human’ workplace

This piece in Business Insider, Automation could make the modern workforce more ‘human’, reinforces the idea that automation is best suited for repetitive tasks. “For example, if you're an HR manager, you probably spend a large portion of your workday doing things that could be automated,” according to the article. “HR also includes activities that no computer program can do — like building personal relationships and managing employee concerns… These are the exciting, important parts of HR that you never have enough time for because of the repetitive activities that take up too much of your day.”

This might sound all too familiar to registrars. As Mindy Starcher and Natalie Spooner have mentioned in their blog posts, a large part of a registrar’s job involves mentoring staff, assisting students, and developing collegial relationships throughout the institution. Automated systems free up time and resources for these high-touch activities.

Lifelong learning

Finally, the BBC reports that even though automation can cause uncertainty and upheaval, it can also foster lifelong learning. “The distinction between work and learning might need to become more amorphous,” says Bhagwan Chowdhry, professor of finance at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We currently have a dichotomy where those who work need not learn, and those who learn do not work. We need to think about getting away from the traditional five day working week to one where I spend 60% of my time doing my job and 40% learning on a regular basis... For the majority of us, this could be a crucial switch in our thinking.”