As companies begin to spin back up, leaders are looking to refill the roles they may have had to cut to survive. But many new roles won’t look like the old ones —organizations can structure their workforces to most effectively distribute labor between employees and automation through newly defined roles called “superjobs.”
According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report, superjobs include components of traditional jobs to maximize the strengths of both humans and automated services. When thoughtfully deployed within an organization, superjobs can offload routine work to automaton to free up employees to focus on more strategic, revenue-oriented tasks.
"Calling for both hard and soft skills and cutting across typical departmental silos, superjobs require the flexibility to combine tasks and merge responsibilities as needed," the Deloitte report says.
While Deloitte's research on superjobs mainly focused on large enterprises, the concept is applicable to small and midsize businesses as well. No matter the size of your organization, superjobs can streamline operations in functions like supply chain management, accounting and marketing — really, wherever software exists to supplement human efforts. Indeed, Deloitte's research found that 41 percent of respondents are using automation extensively or across multiple functions. (The survey "polled nearly 10,000 respondents in 119 countries.")
To get started on this path, businesses must undertake an intelligent job design process, flatten their hierarchies to make room for flexible, self-managed teams and boost their arsenal of applied technology skills.
Intelligent Job Design
Traditional roles are narrower in scope — the tasks an employee performs directly maps to what the employer outlined in the job description.
But automation and algorithms take over the routine and fixed aspects of work, business leaders can free their employees to use their critical thinking and feeling talents on tasks such as like data interpretation, problem solving, empathy, creativity and teamwork.
While you don’t have to throw out all your existing job descriptions, it’s worth looking at your workforce with a broader lens. Consider creating what Deloitte calls a “job canvas” — a more fluid and expansive way of examining the work you need done.
You can launch your canvas, which can be organized by team or individual, by thinking through the following questions:
- What core business problem does this team or individual need to solve?
- What should their outputs or deliverables be?
- What kind of supervision will the team or individual need to accomplish these objectives?
- What technologies can this team or individual use to augment their capabilities? Which tasks related to this business problem are best suited to people, and which should we automate?
- What learning processes can we put in place to target essential skill development for this team or individual?
- How will we measure this team or individual’s success?
Because you are now looking at your workforce at a higher level, you will likely find that your superjobs (or superteams) cross departmental fault lines of HR, IT, finance, sales, etc. Integrating data-driven insights with human intuition will be a central component of all superjobs. Depending on your business, your superjobs might include:
- a “customer experience architect,” who uses sentiment analysis to create stronger real-time engagement;
- a “case synthesizer,” who examines legal precedents mined by an algorithm and handpicks the most impactful ones; or
- a “supply chain effectiveness analyst,” who uses performance data to make recommendations that balance both cost and sustainability.
Since every employee moving into a superjob must be able to seamlessly engage with technology, leaders should expect to upskill everyone.
Superjobs can help small and medium-sized enterprises conserve costs — in redesigning jobs, you may not need as many human employees doing simplistic tasks as you did before. For instance, maybe your business hired two employees to manage the books. With the help of software like QuickBooks and Netsuite, a single employee can oversee finance at a higher level, while the other can be deployed to a growing area of your business.
People performing superjobs must have the freedom to adjust and pivot as company, industry and environmental factors shift. For this reason, you may decide that “less is more” in terms of leadership hierarchies and bureaucratic practices. Especially if your business isn't too large, a flatter organizational structure based on overarching business strategy allows employees to do their superjobs more productively and work more seamlessly across functions.
Contrary to some viewpoints, however, self-managed teams can be successful without aggressive oversight. To set up your clusters of superjobs as self-managed teams, make sure the group has appropriate access to resources, the means to objectively evaluate performance and the ability to modify their own rules of engagement and to resolve issues internally.
If you are new to the superjob concept, perhaps start with a pilot of one or two self-managed clusters. As a leader, you might be more involved with this test group’s operations so you can ensure the approach, the mix of jobs and the individual people and software applications that make up the team are actually serving your business and clients.
Reskilling in Applied Technology
Applied technology skills integrate people, processes, data and devices to determine how digital technologies can best accomplish business goals. When an employee has strong applied technology skills, she understands how available software in her industry and field can help her automate tasks strategically and do her job efficiently.
Most employees, however, did not receive this training in school unless they focused on IT or computer science.
Since every employee moving into a superjob must be able to seamlessly engage with technology, leaders should expect to upskill everyone. This can be a tall order, so begin by assessing the prevalence of a single skill in your employee population.
For instance, you can use a survey tool to see which employees are familiar with data analytics tools. Then approach these individuals for ideas for and assistance in training the rest of the workforce—either formally or informally and using internal or external resources. Just make sure you reward your applied technology gurus for their participation!
The increasing global embrace of automation presents an intriguing opportunity to look at jobs in a new way that’s more compatible with digital transformation. Whether you're an enterprise or a small to medium-size business, devising roles with greater versatility will save headcount and avoid future layoffs in times of crisis and change.
Read more articles on building your team.
Photo: Getty Images