>KCBurgess writes that with some automation efforts, such as the
>implementation of employee access systems, that we are "task shifting."
>Higher paid employees are doing clerical tasks (directly entering their
>own address changes rather than filling out a form which an HR clerk then
>enters into the system). The result may be that the savings may be less
>than expected or non-existent.
>But, in the meantime, the company has saved money by reducing HR headcount
>or has freed up the HR people to offer more strategic HR services.
>Is this positive or negative?
Whether this is positive or negative depends on the answers to such questions
- Does direct entry use more or less time of the higher-paid employee than
filling out the form?
i.e., If it uses no more time, then this may be positive because a non-
value-adding task has been eliminated.
- Are the more strategic HR services now provided with the freed-up time more
or less satisfying to the employee/more or less valuable to achieving the
There is no simple, one-size fits all, answer. These debates have gone on a
long time, probably since the beginning of time: When David Gestetner
invented the spirit duplicator in 1882, the London press forecast massive
unemployment as all of the copy clerks (who laboriously copied business
documents by longhand) would be made redundant.
I remember when Xerox introduced photcopiers in the late '50s, people
forecast mass unemployment of secretaries because they would no longer have
to spend the time typing and correcting carbon copies.
I was involved in the computerisation of insurance companies in the '60s when
people worried that thousands of clerical jobs would be eliminated. They
were, but were replaced by thousands of programmer, computer operator and
data preparation jobs - higher paid and more interesting.
One can imagine the cavemen decrying the invention of the bow and arrow
because it would put the tribe's best spear- and club-hunters on the
There is no doubt that there are short-term dislocations created as skills no
longer match job needs and learning must take place to bring new skills into
line. Often the people with the old skills are not the same ones who can
provide the new skills. However the long-term trend seems clearly one of
better use of human talent on more valuable tasks.
Does anyone using this mail group prefer to be a copy clerk? Type with