Using Automation In Business To Improve Productivity

When most people think about automation in business, they conjure up ideas of robots taking someone’s job, but that’s not always the case. In fact, automating mundane and annoying tasks can be a great way to free up time for far more valuable and fun work, increasing productivity and job satisfaction. 

On this episode of the Survive & Thrive podcast, Marilyn Krichko -- the automation leader at Spectrum Brands and co-author of “The Rowers’ Code” -- joins Jennifer to talk about the power of automation in business and its uses, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.





Act 1: The start of the pandemic

Introduction to Marilyn and her background (1:20)

Marilyn’s business experience is diverse, ranging from strategy development to IT solutions delivery, and robotic process automation. However, she’s currently the automation leader at Spectrum Brands, which she talks about.

The start of the COVID pandemic (2:47)

Marilyn shares her incredible story from the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which features her spouse’s job as an infectious disease physician. Marilyn talks about the fear she had that day at work and how she leaned on “The 3 Lies” to take the first step forward.

Act 2: Adapting and flourishing

Early struggles (7:38)

When Marilyn left her work for the last time, she ran out with just her laptop and gym bag. But as she notes, the company and employees simply weren’t prepared for the realities of working from home long-term.

Pivoting and supporting (9:23)

Marilyn talks about how she, and the company itself, had to go through an adjustment period with everyone working from home. But it wasn’t an adjustment just for Marilyn, she had to figure out how to support her team remotely as well. That meant getting people to do basic things like taking breaks and maintaining a work-life balance.

Automation in business (13:32)

Not only did Marilyn have to encourage her team members to have a work-life balance, but she also had the challenge of convincing people automation could actually help.

Using automation to help (15:33)

As Marilyn noted, many people believe automation means the end of their jobs. She explains how she’s using automation to free them up for far more valuable responsibilities instead, automating the more mundane tasks.

Work from home (18:24)

Though Spectrum Brands stumbled a bit at the beginning, the success they’ve had with employees working from home has spawned new initiatives moving forward. Jennifer and Marilyn talk about how they’ve seen the flexibility of work-from-home models pay off for both companies and employees.

Being a better manager (21:20)

As a result of the different business environments she’s been exposed to in the past, Marilyn has applied that experience to her current job at Spectrum Brands. She discusses how she’s found the right balance of management and flexibility

Act 3: The power of automation in business during COVID

Flexibility (23:27)

Marilyn believes people will meet the challenges put in front of them if told what they really are and given the time to adjust to them. She shares some of the management exercises she uses to organize it all with her team.

How automation has helped during COVID (26:48)

Marilyn discusses what she’s witnessed and learned about automation in business and its relationship to companies during the pandemic. She also shares some automation tools you can use right now.

Getting the freedom to do it right (32:58)

Even though Spectrum Brands had an outside firm helping with their automation, Marilyn says they weren’t very familiar with it. So she took on the job by herself with the trust of senior management to do it properly.

Act 4: Using automation in business to survive and thrive

How to embrace automation (33:56)

Marilyn discusses how companies can begin embracing automation to not only help them survive in a crisis but thrive as well. As Marilyn notes, it starts with looking at your processes and user stories to identify your pain points and areas where you can automate mundane tasks. She also breaks down some examples of automation tools and their uses.

Biggest surprises (38:03)

Though Marilyn is an extremely accomplished and prepared person with what she calls the “happy gene,” she says she was surprised she got gloomy during the pandemic. It gave her a new perspective on those that live alone and/or have depression.