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I walked into McDonald’s with my kids. A just-because treat to celebrate Friday and the last day of Summer Adventure Club. Haven’t been in a while; we’re not foodie snobs, we just don’t really do fast food. So perhaps this isn’t new, just new to us. But we were greeted – intercepted, rather – by a young man cheerily steering us away from the counter and toward a kiosk. “May I help you place your order over here?” (I hope he’s getting spiffed for every successful interception.) I glanced at the kiosk: Order & Pay Here. “Oh, sure. Girls, want to put in your own order?” He stood by, helping my little girls make their nugget selections on the screen, tapping for them again when they didn’t tap Fanta Orange hard enough, making sure we had the right quantity of chocolate ice cream cones selected. He reviewed the order with us, confirmed my total, pointed out where to insert my chip card, and beamed a smile at us in congratulations. “Wasn’t that fun?,” every cell of his body encouraged. He was so proud of us. We were so pleased with ourselves.

It was easy. No-brainer. My kids did it. I didn’t have to wait at the counter for someone to veer over from the fries. We saved ourselves the mutual, polite patience of repeating the order and correcting errors. Self-service is so fun, reinforced McDonald’s. THE FUTURE. It worked, that’s all I know.

I observed a few more entering the store. The older folk politely but firmly declined the roaring good time to be had at the self-service kiosk. “No thank you, we’ll order at the counter.” Almost 100 percent of the 70+ crowd. Everyone else shrugged their shoulders in a “what the hell” and assumed a position of acquiescence at the kiosk. The friendly associate NEVER STOPPED SMILING.  (I hope he’s getting spiffed for every second he smiles.) An in-the-flesh, at-your-service representation of Press 0. If you get stuck, screw up, lose patience, need to bail, Press 0 for Operator. Because sometimes you just need a human. Like every time I double-scan a box of protein bars at self-service checkout in Target. Every. Time. The Red Shirts see me coming and stay close just waiting for me to do it. It’s our thing.

This is how user adoption should work. You can count on some to adopt easily, eagerly, with a sense of relief you finally gave them an option to do something the way it’s supposed to be done. Go to these champs first. Your skeptics will come along with interception and encouragement; scoop them up next. And the Old Guard will resist. Politely but firmly. They’re going to need a special approach. Or never adopt, perhaps. What will you do then? Take away a human option to order their coffee black/no room and plunk $1.50 in crumpled dollars and coins on the counter like they’ve done for 50 years and take those customers as a loss? Probably not.

When we consider job outlook in the future of work, robots will not displace workers. They will displace jobs. Workers will work alongside robots. They will do new jobs that didn’t exist before, now created as a result of automation: like McDonald’s Smiling Kiosk Attendant. Job description: Drive adoption of the tech beside you.


If your job is likely to be automated, stop complaining about robots stealing your jobs. They absolutely will if your particular job is better done automated. Make hay out of that fact. Write the scripts, manage the automation project plan, train your peers, and lead the charge. Someone will need to do that job. Ask your employer to reskill you; they may not be ready, so have a plan to reskill yourself. You use tech every day in life; you can do more than you think using it at work. Relish in the fact that you can pass off the mundane and use skills only you, Human, have: forging relationships, validating decisions, formulating strategy, planning, showing care.


Where will automation drive the most efficiency in your organization, reduce human error, improve customer and employee satisfaction? Identify those processes and automate them without delay. What are the populations of employees that leaves you holding in excess? The war for talent is unforgiving; these are loyal, trained, developed, walking and talking sources of tribal knowledge and experience. Best of all, they’re yours. Happy employees make happy customers. Figure out immediately how to reskill and redeploy them for your business or your competition will be happy to do it for theirs. And you’ll pay twice for talent: once to hire them, again to attrite them.


Innovate. Learning at work needs to emulate learning in life. In the flow of work, at your fingertips, intuitive, navigable, mobile and responsive, smart, relevant, and personalized. Make it easy for people to sharpen or acquire new skills based on what they and their employer need. Deliver it to the right audience, in the right channel, on the right device. Meet the workforce where they are. This is how you’ll differentiate yourselves and become invaluable to enterprises struggling to digitize their people function.

I didn’t know I wanted to place my own order at a kiosk when I walked into McDonald’s with my kids, but it turns out I did. Your workforce will respond the same way. Get to it.



Jess Von Bank is a 16-year industry veteran and impassioned evangelist of the modern employee experience. As both a former recruiting practitioner and an expert in bringing HCM vendor solutions to market, Jess looks to broaden executive mindset to better design and deliver a workforce experience that exceeds the expectations of talent and the needs of the business.

Jess is the Head of Marketing for Leapgen and runs FuelWork, a global community for digital transformation of workforce experience. Jess is an active community emcee and ambassador for women’s and girls’ organizations in Minneapolis, where she raises her 3 daughters.

Leapgen is a global digital transformation company shaping the future of work. Highly respected as a visionary partner to organizations looking to design and deliver a digital workforce experience that will produce valued outcomes to the business, Leapgen helps enterprise leaders rethink how to better design and deliver workforce services and architect HR technology solutions that meet the expectations of workers and the needs of the business. Contact us to get started.