Why Manual Tasks Stifle Business and Personal Growth


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Completing manual tasks like inputting data into databases or spreadsheets or taking inventory of and re-ordering office supplies may require little time on a one-off basis. However, when such tasks constantly pull you and your employees away from your strategic priorities, the total time required to handle these ancillary tasks adds up. That’s why implementing technologies that free people to focus on their core responsibilities is foundational to any business growth strategy.

Enabling you and your employees to concentrate on higher-order, more creative and relational activities like strategy development or building and maintaining customer relationships is key to business success. It also raises productivity levels and motivates people to expand the scope of their work because they can move beyond performing rote work.

Walmart is a people-led, tech-powered company. We believe technology should serve people, not the other way around. That’s why we’ve been investing in ways to free our own associates up to focus on strategic priorities and create opportunities.

Related: 9 Productivity Tips That the 1% Know to Follow

One example of how we are bringing this to life is through our internal Generative AI-powered tool, My Assistant. We built My Assistant to help our associates spend more time on the things that matter. Our U.S. associates are already using the tool to get to first drafts faster, summarize large documents in seconds and spark creativity with thought starters on various topics. Most importantly, it frees up time so they can focus on distinctly human tasks, like generating new ideas, crafting strategies and building relationships.

We’ve also been integrating automation technology into the ur supply chain network in the U.S. to create positive, people-focused outcomes, such as creating new jobs and career pathways that our associates tell us are more enjoyable and satisfying.

For example, Chance Bayless, an associate in our high-tech regional distribution center in Palestine, Texas, participated in an in-house training program to become an automation equipment operator in his facility, leaving behind a role he described as about 85% manual. In his new, tech-enabled role, robotic arms do most of the heavy lifting so he can focus most of his time on problem-solving. He said manual labor only comprises about 15% of his job, and he finds his work more interesting and satisfying.

By giving our associates, like Chance, the opportunity to transform their daily workflows and responsibilities, we’re also enabling our regional distribution centers to ship nearly double the number of cases compared to a traditional facility, strengthening the shopping experience in the stores the facility supports and our business overall.

We implemented technology solutions after carefully evaluating tasks and workflows that were candidates for automation. No matter the size of your company, I recommend conducting that research across your business areas. Look at a few different metrics and ask questions like:

  • How much time must an employee or team spend on a manual process or task every day, week, or month?
  • How many employees does a task require to complete?
  • What are the quantifiable costs of your current approach, the potential benefits of automating the process or task, and the level of effort and investment required to undertake the automation?

Determining the answers will facilitate a more objective prioritization based on cost-benefit analysis. Additionally, it’s helpful to pick a couple of quick wins — tasks that are easier to automate and have positive benefits for many — before moving on to the higher-value, higher-effort processes.

Related: How Busy Entrepreneurs Deal With Mundane Tasks

Communicate and collaborate

Once you’ve identified manual tasks that are candidates for automation, you can evaluate your options for technology solutions. Keep in mind that some employees may find the prospect of learning how to use new tech a little daunting. So, before you roll out a new technology, make sure you communicate your reasons for doing so to your employees and help them understand how it will change their day-to-day tasks and what new opportunities it can create.

I think the most important thing a business leader can do is outline the vision of how they will use the new tool and how it will improve their employees’ work. Highlighting the tangible benefits, such as time saved or increased sales, will make the transition more appealing to everyone.

Encourage employees and management alike to constantly look for ways to enhance efficiency, productivity and satisfaction. Consider participating in training sessions and using the new tools yourself. You’ll show your team how you’re addressing the challenges of using new technology head-on. Hold regular feedback sessions that offer forums for employees to share their ideas, suggest improvements and highlight areas where they may need additional support.

Whether it’s a lack of understanding of the new tools or processes or the need for more advanced training for specific roles, promptly addressing their feedback will significantly improve the overall effectiveness of the implementation and help employees feel competent and confident in adopting new technology.

Related: How Automation Eliminates Boring Finance Tasks for Entrepreneurs

Measure progress

It’s essential to measure both direct and indirect benefits. Direct benefits include reduced time to complete a task or process, the number of people involved, or the number of errors. Indirect benefits include positive effects on upstream or downstream processes, improvements in employee engagement and reduced turnover.

Ultimately, your goals are to free yourself and your team to focus on more strategic and creative tasks while improving operational efficiency and accuracy throughout the business. By carefully selecting and implementing the right tools, you can achieve productivity gains, reduce costs, and foster a more engaged and motivated workforce.

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