- To contend with hiring shortages, one-third of C-suite executives are turning to automation, according to West Monroe's Quarterly Executive Poll. The company surveyed 150 C-suite executives at companies with annual revenue of at least $250 million.
- Companies are assessing where automation technology can knock off redundant tasks, an area where they've already found early success, according to Mike Hughes, managing partner at West Monroe. Examples include data preparation or vendor payments.
- Nearly seven in 10 executives are planning to increase wages to respond to hiring challenges, while more than half are freeing up geographic barriers in hiring.
Automation is one of many tactics being used to mitigate staffing issues
The pandemic accelerated the already existing notion of automation in the workplace, which has become critical in keeping up with many supply chains running as demand continues to rise.
"If you have an operation that is heavily reliant on labor and something like COVID occurs, you have a weak link in the supply chain," Alicemarie Geoffrion, vice president of packaging operations in North America at DHL Supply Chain, said in March.
Warehouse and retail hiring sprees have soared along with opportunities for workers to gain new skills. For example, Walmart said it was opening six new "Walmart Academies," which are training facilities to upskill supply chain workers.
Job postings for tech occupations in September reached 295,000, according to CompTIA analysis of official data. Unemployment for IT roles was just 2.2%, signs of high-demand for available skilled IT labor.
But automation can't, on its own, empower existing staff to take on new or augmented roles.
"Automation still brings the need to make sure that, if you're freeing up someone's time, that they have the skill sets necessary to do what you're expecting," Hughes said.
Nike in 2020 developed more than 200 robots in a collaboration with Geek+ and was able to meet the rapid growth in e-commerce while also mitigating labor shortages and high labor wages, according to Geek+.
Automation is a solution but comes with it's own set of problems. In cold storage warehouses where extreme temperatures are present, automation can help workers be less exposed to high levels of cold but can also freeze equipment and break.
Adoption barriers in automation need to be overcome in order to deliver efficiency benefits in the enterprise. Value stream mapping can help determine where the bottlenecks are across company processes, and where automating tasks can deliver the highest impact.
Rather than relying just on automation, Hughes recommends executives grappling with the tightening labor market steer away from pursuing a mix of strategies to attract and retain talent. "It's a balance across these avenues that are available to you," he said.
Alejandra Salgado, an associate editor at Supply Chain Dive, contributed to this story.
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