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SHRMLabs Better Workplaces Challenge Cup Finalist: Automation Workz

This app motivates upskilling and reskilling for front-line workers

A blue and green logo.

​The 2022 SHRMLabs Better Workplaces Challenge Cup competition highlights the most innovative HR technology startups today.

Four finalists were selected from over 150 initial submissions. They will go on to make their last pitch to a panel of judges as well as an audience of investors, leading HR professionals, fellow innovators and the media. The pitch fest will be held June 14 at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2022 (SHRM22) in New Orleans, and the winner will be announced from the SHRM22 Main Stage by SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP.

Here's a look at one of the finalists, Automation Workz, based in Detroit. Ida Byrd-Hill

Ida Byrd-Hill, founder and CEO of Automation Workz, spoke with SHRM Online about the product and how it improves work and the practice of human resources.

SHRM Online: What does your product do?

Byrd-Hill: The Automation Workz Life Culture Audit is a mobile app assisting HR professionals and corporate leaders to motivate front-line workers to digital career and training success. The Life Culture Audit reduces turnover and absenteeism by coaching front-liners through coding games and creation of their life vision so they realize they have the skills and potential success for new digital careers. 

Acknowledging a front-line worker's vision and goals allows for their humanity and purpose, setting up commitment to career development, training and a positive performance cycle. Gartner found that when corporate goals are tied to workers' personal goals, those workers were 17 percent more productive than other employees—and almost twice as likely to stay at their organization.

SHRM Online: How does the technology improve the workplace?

Byrd-Hill: Front-line workers, mainly people of color, are not as valued as they should be around the world. They are compensated below a living wage and are rarely groomed for higher-paying careers. Automation Workz created the Life Culture Audit for recruitment, performance management and digital career training assessment to highlight their value.

  • Recruitment: Leaders can fine-tune the selection of purpose-driven front-liners to reduce turnover and absenteeism. Individuals, by completing soul-searching reflection, will develop their purpose, eliciting long-term commitment.
  • Performance management: Very few managers know the personal vision or goals of their front-liners and hence rarely build their performance expectations to align with their WIIFM (What's in It for Me) philosophy.
  • Digital career training assessment: While every front-liner does not need to learn how to code computer software, they do need to think, act and thrive in a world of robotics, AI, data analytics, autonomous vehicles and other emerging tech.

SHRM Online: What specific HR problem does the technology solve?

Byrd-Hill: Front-liners are seeking higher-paying careers. Many corporations are afraid they will not achieve a positive ROI if they invest in digital reskilling for front-liners to acquire higher-paying jobs. Hence, these workers do not feel valued, trusted or empowered. Consequently, front-line workers are not committed to their job, their work schedule, fellow colleagues or customers. This lack of commitment has turned into high turnover, high absenteeism and supply chain issues, leading to declining business growth in 2022.


​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.