Two years of record-breaking transaction volume have ended as the Federal Reserve combats inflation by raising interest rates. In June, home sales dipped dramatically as a result of these hikes. Meanwhile, lenders looked for ways to cut costs in the face of diminishing transaction volume and many resorted to significant layoffs. But history has taught us that markets always recover. A competitive job market and hiring swells make a comeback to help companies to keep up with demand.

Thanks to technology, businesses can end the cycle of aggressive layoffs during market downturns and hiring sprees during upswings. More specifically, companies can leverage automation to enhance employee output and reduce strain on staff. Lenders can manage the seasonality of the business while maintaining consistent operations and headcount by automating repetitive tasks. By eliminating tasks such as data entry and document chasing, employees are freed up  to concentrate on uniquely human activities that generate profit such as building strong client relationships.

Integrating automation into processes isn’t as simple as “turning on a switch.” For teams to successfully use automation in their day-to-day, leaders must proactively think through several factors that influence whether or not employees will adopt the automated tools. The plan must include:

  1. Changing the mindsets of employees and gaining buy in to assure adoption across the organization
  2. Building a framework for what it will take to guarantee success through the auditing of processes 
  3. Enabling the ongoing process of growth with continuous training for automation after implementation

Garner employee buy-in

Automation is often associated with an unsettling claim that robots might “take over” human jobs and render people unnecessary. McKinsey & Company’s research shows most businesses that implement more automation don’t necessarily reduce their headcount; rather, employees pivot to higher-level functions and perform new, value-add tasks.

Take the banking sector for example. Many of these businesses have adopted technology to automate aspects of the consumer experience. Despite the development and widespread use of ATMs and online banking, tellers and other banking professionals are still employed. Automation relieved personnel of low-value, repetitive tasks and allowed them to focus on functions that generated more business and profits. Furthermore, history has shown that technology adoption creates new jobs and demands for existing ones while raising labor productivity. 

Despite the benefits of automation, employees may still be skeptical. It’s up to leaders to also educate their teams on the advantages of automation and alleviate employee concerns that technology will replace them. To help employees see the benefits, it’s necessary that managers understand how employees use current systems. Although many businesses have defined procedures for various processes, employees typically have their own “micro” processes that they have created outside of the system as a means of getting around a broken or ineffective system.

Managers may establish the case for automation by demonstrating how it can help employees reduce the need for the labor-intensive workarounds they’ve developed on their own. The time saved from inputting data and employing makeshift hacks to get work done is only one of many examples that demonstrate how employees may benefit from automation. Managers can also stress how technology and automation can help  free up teams to concentrate on cultivating customer relationships and securing a larger book of business. Reiterating these benefits and fostering open dialogue for any questions or worries are fundamentals for leaders to effectively introduce automation.

Develop an automation framework

It’s essential to recognize that organizations can’t leverage automation in every scenario imaginable. The focus must be on processes where human intervention adds little value or influence to monotonous work. Moreover, organizations must document every aspect of the process, including the informal elements employees have developed. It takes time to understand the full scope of how employees perform processes. Yet by learning how they interact with the system on a daily basis, administrators can see where tasks are breaking down. Managers can then implement automation to create a consistent process. 

Every process must also have benchmarks defined against the anticipated outputs. For example, automation can lower errors made during data entry. A benchmark lenders may have is to decrease data entry errors in loan documents by 10% against a 13% average across their loans. Understanding the goals attached to each automated trigger makes it possible to gauge the success or failure of the new process. Consistent reporting lowers the possibility that adopting new technology will become a sunken cost while also enabling the business to continue improving beyond the initial implementation.

Continue to champion automation after implementation

While benchmarks are crucial for tracking and gauging the effectiveness of automation, businesses must also keep in mind that the work isn’t over after implementation. Just as the market will always ebb and flow, time reveals new opportunities for automation. The advancement  of technology over time will also enable deeper integrations between partners so that even more tasks can be automated throughout the loan production process. 

Consequently, companies will continue to find new processes to automate and employee training will continue. However, employees won’t learn the new system overnight. Therefore, leaders must be patient as mastery requires continuous training over time. When the system becomes familiar, valuable insights from staff will allow organizations to identify more processes that can be improved upon through automation.

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