Making RPA Positive for Employees
Robotic process automation (RPA) is a logical approach for companies to take in order to improve productivity and quality. The three primary categories of RPA solutions are:
- Attended – the ability to “sit side-by-side” with an agent or employee at their desktop application and assist them with their tasks, such as looking up a knowledge article based on the screens an employee visited or by completing a form by populating data from internal or external data sources.
- Unattended – the ability to fully automate the handling of work that does not require the cognitive capabilities of a live employee, such as processing accounts-payable transactions.
- Hybrid – when an attended RPA solution initiates an unattended RPA transaction, such as when an agent processes a credit card charge-back.
Automation Anywhere, Jacada, NICE, OnviSource, Pegasystems, UIPath and Verint all deliver the three types of RPAs mentioned above. Blue Prism is known for concentrating on unattended automation. Prospects should be aware that all of these solutions are different, as are the close to 100 others in the market. Typical differentiators in the RPA market include providing the ability or having experience in: supporting attended, unattended, and hybrid automations; providing real-time employee guidance and next-best-action recommendations for attended RPA; automating end-to-end mainframe processes; and delivering artificial intelligence (AI)-based capabilities such as automated discovery and prioritization of future automation opportunities.
The RPA Challenge
RPA makes sense to executives and managers, but it represents a major challenge to the workforce, as many employees fear being replaced by robots. Companies that want to succeed with RPA, which is a necessity if they want to remain competitive, need to address and calm their staff. See Figure 1, and keep in mind that RPA will be an “elephant in the room” and will negatively impact employee engagement unless it is properly addressed by management.
Figure 1: Don’t Let the Elephant Win
Best Practices for Getting Employee Buy-In for RPA
The way to handle employee concerns regarding RPA and the real fear that a robot will replace them is to get their buy-in. While this may sound like a daunting task or quixotic goal, there should be many benefits from RPA that can be explained to employees. While it’s true that these applications are designed to replace low-value activities performed by some workers, they are also intended to become personal assistants for others, taking on the tedious and repetitive activities that employees dread. Below are a few best practices to help companies with the challenge of reassuring their employees.
- Hire and promote from within – Companies need to create a number of new job functions to support an RPA implementation. This typically includes business analysts to design the RPAs, IT coders to build and possibly test them (or a separate group of resources for testing), administrators to manage them, and technical and operational managers as well as project managers to oversee the initiatives. DMG recommends that you give people within your company an opportunity to fill these new positions. I am frequently pleasantly surprised by the talent and skills of contact center agents, many of whom took the job to get their foot in the door after college or returning to work.
- Invest in retraining – As the only given in many contact centers is that things are going to change, good agents are likely to be highly flexible and open to retraining. Work with your vendor of choice and identify or build training classes. This can transform what is perceived to be a negative into a strong positive, particularly if people are given raises to go along with their new job responsibilities.
- Make your intentions known with clear communication – Workplace rumor mills are dangerous, and bad news, or what is considered bad news, travels very quickly. To avoid this happening and negatively impacting the morale of a department or company, communicate clearly and frequently about the plans for rolling out RPA and the opportunities it is creating for employees.
RPA, robots, bots, intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) and similar solutions that are intended to improve productivity and quality are here to stay. It’s not a question of whether or not your company will use them, only one of timing. Invest a little extra effort to get your staff on board, and it will go a long way to speeding up the success and benefits of these initiatives.
DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.