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My company is looking for ways to improve and has asked staff to come up with ideas. I have an idea to automate part of our business, but this will may some staff redundant. I will be presenting this in front of other employees and the CEO, and want to make this sound as positive as possible.

Often eliminating a task means that people will be redeployed elsewhere, but I don't know if that would happen in this case (and it isn't my choice), so I am reluctant to make that claim.

How can I effectively raise a potentially unpopular idea in a public setting?

I am thinking of simply saying, "This change will save X full-time positions". Is there a more effective way of getting the message across without having it sound more positive?

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    Hey Daveo, and welcome to The Workplace. I'm going to make an edit to your question to hope it is clearer and to get you better answers. Please feel free to edit it yourself if I didn't get it right, or if you can improve it. Thanks in advance! – jmac Feb 27 '14 at 0:47
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    Say "This change will allow you to free up more resources for other areas in the company" – Simon O'Doherty Feb 27 '14 at 9:05
  • In general, the person to ask about this sort of question is your own supervisor. It may be better to run this sort of idea through different channels. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 8 '15 at 16:16
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Not sure if I understand your question right, you title asks for a "positive spin" but the last sentence is "without having it sound more positive"? I just assume you don't want to be hated by those whose jobs you just eliminated, and instead get them kinda excited about the idea.

So here are some ways how I think you can present this as positive as possible:

  • Instead of saying "it saves X full time positions" you can try and make a guess of what that would mean financially. Saving $ XX,XXX.XX does sound pretty positive to me, and if I were an employee I might get hopeful thinking that I get a piece of that.
  • If the task is currently done by humans, but can be fully automated, there is a chance that these people are actually sick and tired of doing it (myself I hate doing tasks that a computer might as well do for me faster and more accurate). So you can start your talk by outlining the current situation in a very negative light, focusing on what a boring and dull task it is. Be careful not to make the employees who do this task currently sound stupid, though... Make it like they are meant do to something that's more suitable for them maybe, more adequate for their abilities, something that challenges them more. Or if they seem like a lazy bunch tell them how much easier their job will now be! :D
  • Also you can point out the positive improvements that such an transition to an automated system will bring along: Less errors, faster performance/task completion, saving time, ...

Congrats on coming up with this solution by the way, I hope it's a decent enough employer to value your contribution accordingly!

  • Not sure if I understand your question right, you title asks for a "positive spin" but the lest sentence is "without having it sound more positive"? Yes, that confused me as well. – starsplusplus Feb 27 '14 at 14:42
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We did this during a Lean audit at a big hospital. People were drowning in paperwork, not being able to do the job they should be doing.

By implementing XXXXX, 4 FTE becomes available for quality assistance and other high-added-value activities.

Of course, if these people only qualify for data entry, they will be fired. But the decision to fire them is made by upper management. You recommended to let them do more interesting jobs, not to fire them.

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Request a closed door meeting.

Assuming the company will need to let those people go and those people would be in the meeting, propose that the meeting only include certain staff. A "closed door meeting" which only requires certain staff.

Don't specifically say you want persons X Y and Z out, but you want staff A B and C in; otherwise the nature of the meeting and the people who might be cut will feel its specifically against them.

If that doesn't work;

It's not fun to imagine, but if the people who are affects will be in the meeting, assume they will figure it out when you make the proposal.

If the company will let those people go; Be honest. Say that certain jobs might become redundant. Those people won't like it, and may even argue - but worse than that would be letting them stew while you rattle off weasel-worded arguments. At that level, at least you're respectable.

If the company won't necessarily let them go;

If it's not about cutting costs and actually just about freeing up resources, then change the perspective; you aren't getting rid of anyone, but you are completely freeing them up. If they have other marketable skills or their existing skills can be used to improve something else, that's what you talk about.

Just because you make things efficient doesn't mean people are getting the axe. I'm a programmer and I made an entire program that automated one persons job - they weren't let go - but now they are doing far less tedious work and they thank me daily for it.

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It's cynical management-speak really, but here you go:

"The implementation of ... can achieve significant long-term cost savings."

"This technology can relieve employees of some of their more onerous tasks and thereby free up resources to focus on higher-value activities."

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