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In an Automated World, What Employees Will be the Most Valuable?

Well, we all know that automation is coming. Not just the type we have seen in the last twenty years (such as data entry personnel replaced by computers, telephone answering/messaging replaced by automated systems, admins replaced by better computer software, internet customer service replacing CSR's, etc.), but MASS automation. Jobs will disappear due to more efficient and cost effective automated systems. Examples are: self driving cars/tractor trailers replacing drivers; cashier-less grocery stores replacing cashiers; robots replacing baristas, maintenance workers, food service workers, and lawn care services; insurance agents, underwriters and actuaries being replaced by AI... and so the list goes on and on.


So, in this blog.... I don't want to talk about the effects off such mass automation on society or even debate how fast or even whether or not such mass automation is real... instead I want to talk about what kind of employee will flourish in such a world. What kind of employee should we be recruiting, hiring and training? What roles will they fill?


Really, this came to me some time back when I was going through a Starbucks drive-thru. I came upon the absolute most pleasant person I have ever met. Her name was Nancy and she showered me with immense excitement for her job, happiness in general, empathy to me as a customer, and astounding customer service with the appropriate efficiency and wordplay (like please, thank you, etc.) with a touch of personal discussion.


After that experience I started to notice other interactions with people who represent their companies. Generally speaking, I found that the worst experiences seemed to be with workers who wouldn't give me eye contact, wouldn't say thank you, wouldn't interact and didn't seem to want to be there. To me, it seems like companies who are doing the very best work hard to train their employees very well before letting them interact with customers. Examples are In and Out out West and Chick Fil a in the South. Disney World is another good example. Those folks you interact with at the park and restaurants humanize a very large and global conglomerate. They personalize and humanize your experience.


As automation comes upon us and we think about who do we want to retain, my feeling are that some of the most valuable employees will be those who can "humanize" the experience with our companies. Sure, we'll have the most efficient digital systems allowing our customers to interact with their policies, payment and claims quickly and efficiently with their choice of device, but without that human touch, your company will just be a commodity as every other company that survives the disruption of the automation rush will have the same capability as you.


Now, supply and demand always rules. Today, it's not too hard to find those special people... hire them, train them and deploy them... but, I suspect that as we find more and more companies figuring out the best employees are the ones that humanize the corporate experience to their customers... these folks will be hard to find and they will be extremely well paid.


So, as you drive towards a more virtual insurance model using multi-channel and omni-channel capabilities to your customers and as you downsize your workforce and automate key areas... think about starting a program that helps you go out to colleges and find people who you want to bring into the insurance business as an ambassador to your company. Someone with the right personality that you can train to be bright, cheery, empathetic, able to navigate your automated systems on the customers behalf, and someone who draw customers in and humanize their experience. These are the most valuable employees of the future. In that sterile, automated world we are creating for ourselves, the human touch will be THE MOST VALUABLE asset which will help differentiate you from the other guy.


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