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HR: Working alongside your digital workforce

Did you know, implementing process automation is a lot closer to onboarding new staff than deploying an IT systems upgrade?

 

Tasks for on-boarding a robot/digital worker:

·        Setting up user IDs and credentials

·        Assigning the correct access and authority levels

·        ‘Training’ on the process and business rules

·        Assigning a manager for each automated process

·        Telling robots whom to notify of any issues

·        Monitoring performance and escalating concerns

 

“By 2025 97% of businesses will be using robotic process automation (RPA)”

 

With the majority of businesses on-boarding new digital workers in just a few short years, how staff should work alongside ‘robots’ may become the number one question for HR and management. IT and operations teams have been the main focus for assisting with the adoption of automation, but, as mentioned in our book Business @ the Speed of Bots, HR has been neglected …but should this now be the focus?

 

Staff, no matter if they have a technical or non-technical role will feel nervous with the thought of having digital colleagues. However, HR needs to work closely with the Automation Centre of Excellence (CoE) team to ease anxieties felt company-wide and be a key player in showing staff how to embrace digital transformation for their own benefit, creating a culture shift.

If you’re not too familiar with RPA, it’s a powerful and versatile tool to automate monotonous and repetitive tasks, so that staff teams can become more productive by spending more time working on value-added tasks. But have you ever wondered why 50% of RPA and AI projects fail, and why less than 5% of businesses succeeded to scale this capability? 

– one theory suggested that building the technology isn’t the issue, the struggle lies in educating the business on new technology so that they can effectively lead this initiative, instead of resisting it

 

RPA presents many new challenges for HR:

·        Helping to source the right experts to develop teams in house

·        Addressing concerns of employees who view RPA as scary robots, rather than enablement tools

·        A new method of automating monotonous tasks vs the old way of outsourcing these overseas

·        Creating and revising job descriptions and providing new training

·        Restructuring progression paths as new positions and new business services are created as a result of automation.

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Developing in-house vs outsourcing automation?

Up until now, businesses have turned to vendors for guidance, however, RPA and AI software vendors specialise in how to build automation and design architecture, however, it is the consultancies that specialise in working with clients to get value from it. Maybe what is missing is a transfer of knowledge to empower staff teams to support the roll-out of the technology.

For example, an accountant wouldn’t ask their preferred spreadsheet provider how to get the most out of the technology. With the correct guidance and understanding from a spreadsheet expert, the accountant would be best placed to answer that question themself

 

Scary robots or powerful enablement tools?

If you’ve not seen that powerful film Hidden Figures, it’s about ‘the Computers’ (a team of female mathematicians that worked at NASA to manually do research, analysis and testing). When they had recently discovered that Nasa had bought the IBM 7090, the character Dorothy Vaughan said:

 

“Oh, it’ll run eventually, and when it does, we have to know how to program it.”

 

This quote really stood out for me as it seems quite apt for this new digital age. Developing and empowering staff to better understand how to use and work with these new technologies is key for a business to transform.  

A study mentioned in Business Wire showed that 70% of businesses believe RPA allows employees to have more human interaction. Keeping employees engaged, productive and happy at work is to succeed at digital transformation. The study also mentioned how 60% said RPA helps people focus on more meaningful, strategic tasks. Yet another survey carried out by TechnoJobs shows that 43% of those questioned expected that over the next 24 months, they expect automation to have the greatest impact on customer service and order-processing functions

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Managing teams augmented with the Automation.

Just like when working with colleagues, staff teams need to understand how to communicate with digital workers, and managers will need to know how to manage their digital workforce.

Staff will need to know:

o   How work should be assigned to robots or passed on to robots to complete a process

o   When robots have finished the tasks or whether the robots completed the work correctly or not

o   How to track performance of robots and who the robots should report issues and errors too

o   What new targets need to be set for teams, now that they are faster, more productive and are outperforming their previous targets

 

New roles that intelligent automation (IA) will create.

Automation will inevitably change the structure and responsibilities of all of our roles, be that if you’re working in an operations team or even if you work in the automation team itself. High volume, monotonous and repetitive tasks will be handed over to digital workers and most likely replaced with newer more intellectual, and subjective tasks. Be that more human-to-human tasks, like problem-solving, research and analysis, or customer service tasks.

New automation-related jobs or responsibilities will inevitably emerge such as roles that monitor digital co-worker performance, assess new opportunities for process improvement, or even migrating existing Analysts, Project Managers, or technical staff into the businesses core RPA/Automation team

 

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“Digital transformation is human at heart “

These are the words of a sticker that I have on my laptop, and it’s a truth that I’m reminded of every time I sit at my desk. Automation isn’t an IT or Change team thing, it’s an anyone thing – It’s business-led, supported by IT, guided by the Centre of Excellence, but the solutions are designed (and owned) by the staff teams

One of the most sobering statistics that I’ve seen in most recent years regarding technology trends was in a McKinsey Global Institute report, which estimated that by 2030, automation will drive 75 to 375 million people to reskill and even change occupation. To look at this another way, the RPA job market will be flooded with ‘new blood’ looking to get into the RPA/automation field. This massive influx of inexperienced RPA staff could push the RPA failure rate above its current 50% mark.

It might be worthwhile to keep your existing staff who have the experience and knowledge of your clients and processes, along with existing relationships with your staff and train them in RPA delivery. With a little help from expert boutique consultancies to mentor and guide your in-house team to execute RPA projects successfully, your company can quickly become self-reliant and quite possibly more successful than fully outsourcing your Centre of Excellence indefinitely.

 

Where to go from here? Apply ‘AEIO YOU’ to your business:

·       Awareness should start at the top, and so should alignment. Digital transformation works best in organisations where seniors stakeholders are all bought in and aligned on how best to use the technology

·       Businesses that educate and empower their staff in identifying the right use cases for the array of intelligent automation technologies are able to find opportunities quickly and scale faster

·       A business that has a logical, data-backed method will identify high ROI opportunities and by involving staff in the ideation stage will make it easier for staff to work alongside robots once they are launched

·       Businesses should build automation solutions on a lean and optimised process, using the best practices of their chosen providers, where that’s RPA, intelligent automation or a new form of AI

·       Measuring results is vital, RPA projects should yield financial and non-financial results that benefit staff (and of course the business and the customers). Perhaps there was enhanced staff satisfaction from fewer late nights, a morale boost from a high Net Promoter Score due to faster service and fewer errors, or less management pressure as a result of achieving ambitious objectives.

·       A company that has an organised automation team and clear control and oversight of the digital workforce will ensure benefits are maintained

·       And a company that continually uncovered newer technologies to enhance their existing automated solutions, and upskills their staff, will inevitably achieve full digital transformation

 

Like and subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.

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