While business leaders may know that utilizing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the next logical step in their automation journey, it is not always an easy sell to company employees. Feelings of inadequacy, anger, and fear are sure to accompany any big workplace change. But with understanding and preparation, employees will begin to see themselves as part of the process and overall vision, instead of collateral damage.
To ensure that your company ends up with a unified task force of both robots and humans, follow these steps to help your workforce adapt and transition to this new technology.
Before you even begin to consider the implications of RPA on your employees, the role of robotic automation within your overall business process needs to be clearly identified. RPA is most advantageous when utilized for high-volume, manual tasks, and should be solving a specific problem. Each addition of a bot should not be isolated but should work towards the vision for the overall process. Once you’ve defined the clear purpose of RPA, and pinpointed which tasks robotic automation will conquer, you can evaluate the evolving role of human employees within your business process.
RPA by itself, or in combination with BPM, will not replace all human jobs within the workplace. Human jobs still exist but need to be transformed, as skills are refocused and expanded. In fact, the addition of RPA is likely to enhance the productivity of your employees. We have been automating tasks and processes as far back as history takes us, and humans and technology have co-existed through all those changes, even though roles on both sides have continued to evolve. Without the hamper of mundane tasks, employees will have more time (and likely more enthusiasm) for projects that require creativity, sensitivity, and critical thinking. In addition, new systems, programs, and processes will need humans for implementation, management, and maintenance. Take time to define new human roles within your business process, and be prepared to emphasize the value of these new jobs.
When initiating the idea of robotic automation to your workforce, RPA should be introduced simply as a work provider. The goal is to shift the mindset of your workforce so that the business environment is perceived as a collection of work providers, with some being bots or even Artificial Intelligence (AI), while others are humans. All providers have a role to play and a job to do in order to accomplish the common goal. Defining a clear purpose or job for RPA, and explaining how robotic workers contributes to the business process in conjunction with human employees, allows you to create a vision that employees will be able to understand and get behind.
In order to incite enthusiasm and propel your workforce toward success in their new roles, support programs need to be in place. Employees need to feel comfortable asking questions and should be encouraged to offer insight into how they might best work together with robotic workers to achieve common goals. Investing in your employees also reiterates their value to both the business and the business process. Consider cross-training or up-skilling your “displaced” employees so that their value is utilized by the company. Employees who demonstrate great morale and productivity aren’t always easy to come by, and replacing these essential employees can be time-consuming and costly. Focus on retaining these employees by challenging them with new, more-rewarding tasks and empowering them to come up with a personal development plan within your company’s evolving environment. By creating a culture of collective success, both employees and company leaders will be able to harvest the true benefits of RPA.