How automation will enhance the importance of human capital

Samantha Gadd, Humankind

16 November 2017

Some recent research released by Suncorp New Zealand showed that New Zealand businesses believe people-related factors exert the biggest influence when it comes to enabling a business to succeed.

I joined the panel when Suncorp presented the research in Wellington, and one of the things we talked about was automation, and how it will affect the role of human capital in business success.

Automation is everywhere

Automation – and talk of automation – is everywhere at the moment. There are numerous studies examining how many existing jobs will disappear as we seek efficiencies through new technology.

A piece in the Huffington Post last year references the impact already being felt through things like map apps and supermarket self-checkouts.

It’s easy to think that perhaps new technologies – like automation, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence – may take some of the risk out of the human capital question for businesses that are aiming to grow or succeed.

But is it better to 'buy' skill, or to 'make' it?

The fewer people you have, the more they matter

But as more of our processes and tasks become automated, the more important human capital becomes.

A business may potentially have fewer people, which intensifies the role of the people you do have in representing your brand, being capable, and delivering for your customers.

Every business is a services business at heart. No matter what you sell or make, that ability to interact with customers, provide excellent service and sell your proposition to the market will remain critical. We believe focusing on delivering great employee experiences, directly leads to better customer experiences and therefore better business outcomes.

Plenty of businesses have failed by believing that technology will solve their problems. But even as automation increases, the core of every business remains the people who work there.  I don’t see automation causing ‘People’ factors to drop from the top of the Suncorp New Zealand Business Success Index any time soon.

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