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How often does your role change? Mastering role augmentation

by StayRelevant
7th November 2018

Many professionals dream of getting rid of time-consuming, repetitive tasks that take a significant part of their working week.
We hear people often referring to those tasks as dull and boring, the blocks preventing professional growth and not allowing them to try new things.

Organisations, on the other hand, understand the need to accelerate and do things differently. They know what they do today falls short, or needs to improve to meet customer needs, not to mention the constant need for operational cost control. The answer includes changing how teams work and what they do.

It is clear the way we work needs to change. Agile seems to be the answer to all questions. However, most roles are too static, and both organisations and professionals do not have a plan to update functions and roles continually.

Try asking people this question: What would you do tomorrow if you could automate today most of the tasks you do at your job?

Louis Efron notices in this article how employees support innovation when it makes their jobs easier, but if it changes their jobs too much, they suddenly resist it.

Why? Because there is usually no plan in place for what to do next and how to do it, which means they feel the risk of losing their jobs either through automation or for not being able to perform those new tasks whatever they may be.

The challenge for companies is similar. For many years, I helped organisations to build a business case for changing the way they work, generally by implementing or upgrading some technology, system or application. Apart from benefits to customers, or risk elimination, there was always a need to build a Return on Investment (ROI)

Financially, organisations accept as quantifiable elements of the ROI any operational expenses (like stationery, shipping cost) that will not exist in the new situation, the amortisation of fixed assets, or avoiding the need to refresh the current infrastructure if nothing changes.

Freeing up the time of your employees is not accepted, no matter how much faster the new process is. The reason is simple; companies cannot quantify the financial benefit of giving some of their employees more time.

Often, commercial presentations and marketing material include messages like “let your people focus on what is important, or on what they do best”. Companies do not buy this one.

How can something be what your people do best when they rarely do it today, busy as they are dealing with repetitive tasks? Having time in your hands does not mean it will be used to do something useful especially if the team does not have the skills and competence to do it.

Believe it or not, for many organisations it is better to keep their employees busy with the wrong things than to face the challenge of lacking skills, dealing with uncertainty or having to get rid of people. Let´s do nothing and we will sort this one out later.

Driving employees and company growth with role augmentation

Technology is here to replace some jobs and to augment others. Augmentation is the use of technology and artificial intelligence to handle more activity in less time, including processing transactions, analysing information and finding patterns that help workers make decisions and react to facts they did not have visibility on before.

Dirty and dangerous jobs are subject to automation. Most knowledge worker jobs have the potential for augmentation since human involvement in decision making is and will be important.

What can we do about it?

First, we need to analyse each role and function to see which of the tasks they do today should be automated, what extra activities should be done to create a positive customer experience and drive growth, and what skills our people will need to do that.

Reinventing Jobs by Jesuthasan and Boudreau is a great starting point to learn more.

Second, we need to communicate both ways: employees, telling organisations about their interests, motivation and concerns; and organisations presenting a bright future to employees.

Finally, we need to have a plan and execute it. We cannot automate every task at the same time, and it will take time to build the new competencies within the team.

Stay Relevant can help you execute such plan and to elevate the willingness and readiness of your team to upgrade their jobs and grow.

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