RPA implementation has such profound effects on companies that, in order to be successful, it requires serious modification of company culture. The first step to this end is to educate employees with respect to what RPA can and cannot do, dispelling the „robots will steal our jobs” myth. Emphasizing the human-centered aspects of the automation journey, or cultivating an automation first mindset, empowers them to efficiently work side by side with software robots.
The informed conviction of your workforce that automation is a valuable addition to the business workflow, is a significant contributor to a successfully implementing RPA. You can read more on our blog about steps to take to change company culture, in order to ensure a profitable robotic process automation implementation.
At first sight, employees’ fears of being automated away are justified, given such a dramatic impact of RPA on employee engagement and experience. A study commissioned by UiPath in 2016, for instance, forecast that 16% of currently existing jobs will be automated away by 2025. This raises attention to the importance of carefully considering (and addressing) the people implications of robotic process automation.
However, it’s noteworthy that only 17% of the respondents to the Deloitte survey Global Human Capital Trends are prepared to handle the “workforce cocktail” of humans, robots and AI working side by side.
How to plan and implement RPA training in your organisation
You can take it for a fact that employees will fear disruption and job loss due to RPA implementation, irrespective of the scale of the implementation. This is why it is highly recommended that you start the automation journey by ensuring a certain readiness for the profound shift. This basically amounts to providing the personnel with enough information to make sense of automation with all its consequences.
More concretely, it means developing an iterative change management approach, underpinned by adequate robotic process automation training meant to make your business case and expectations, your vision but also the envisaged obstacles, crystal clear for everybody.
You must be prepared for recurrent questions from your team about the likelihood of job loss. This doesn’t mean that you should have a ready-made answer up your sleeve. Rather, being prepared with a change management plan from the outset, which aligns leaders and ensures the engagement of the HR department, should assist you in educating the workforce with respect to reskilling, straff transition, and/ or potential releases.
The main objective of RPA training should be to teach employees how to function efficiently in the new work environment, with software robot “colleagues”. RPA and the ‘lifelong learning’ approach are a match made in heaven. Lifelong learning can be operationalised by the constant investment of financial and knowledge resources in re-skilling your employees.
Your training strategy should include both technical training (like change and program management), and leadership development (focused on specifically human skills, like empathy or persuasive capacity).
Robotic process automation still needs support from humans to be successfully implemented. Only they can identify the most suitable processes for automation, and can monitor bots’ performance. Technology is not yet able to operate without human intervention, nor is it able to reproduce the higher-level thinking and actions of which humans are capable.
Another important aspect that smoothens the way towards successful RPA implementation, is addressing leadership alignment. This is so because of the intrinsically inter-departmental nature of robotic process automation, which also calls for a centralised governance model along the lines of a robotic centre of excellence, with clear accountabilities and strong executive sponsorship.
Your automation strategy and the company’s broader corporate strategy must be fully aligned on both business case financials, and workforce considerations, in order to maximise value and realise the promised RPA benefits (e.g., revenue enhancement, cost cutting).
Since process selection and deployment are phased and iterative, the transition to a hybrid workforce where humans work side by side with software robots can only happen stepwise. The paradigmatic phrase “automation journey” expresses this idea in a nutshell.
Therefore, after implementation, you must continue to check how well your workers adapt to the new work format by asking for feedback in a systematic manner. Obviously, this feedback should be taken into account when deciding the next steps of the journey. Also keep in mind that learning and development might need to change in order to foster the functionality of hybrid teams, and the cross-functional utilization of skills.
Relatedly, you should ensure that the RPA-related changes are coherent across the company. From the perspective of the workforce, this is best realised if the HR processes are redesigned to better fit the new work ecosystem. Consider the need to update recruitment practices, making those better fit to select those candidates who are more likely to be incentivised by work in hybrid teams.
When you acknowledge that the workforce is everchanging, the right reaction is to devise talent strategies and processes that keep up on the long-run with the profound transformations. It becomes clearer and clearer that the adoption of RPA turns workforce planning and optimisation into a core skill of competitive enterprises.
Consequently, the HR function will be among the first ones that needs re-tooling and re-training, as well as a thorough evaluation of demand and supply HR capabilities.
We end by drawing an analogy between the rise of automation nowadays and the (first) industrial revolution. Back then, 98% of people used to work the land, compared with 2% today. But hardly anyone would be tempted to draw the conclusion that 96% of the population has fallen into unemployment.
A much better understanding is that industrialisation has changed the way we work, and it has set new patterns for the division of labour. The evolution of automation is expected to do precisely that (no wonder that many refer to it as “the fourth industrial revolution”).
The human workforce will not be replaced, rather it will be increased as jobs are being redistributed. Since software robots are much better suited for routine, monotonous tasks, like the typical back-office corporate functions, employees will no longer need to focus on these tasks. Jobs such as marketing, or service customer relationships – much more valuable for the business – will become their main points of interest.
Robotic process automation (RPA) will empower employees to fill roles that allow them to be more creative and inventive, and thereby increase not only their productivity but also the level of job satisfaction. To this end, adequate, comprehensive robotic process automation training will be a must.