Making Robotic Process Automation Positive for Employees



By Donna Fluss

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a logical approach for companies to improve productivity and quality. The three primary categories of RPA solutions are:

1. Attended: RPA can “sit side-by-side” with an agent or employee at their desktop application and assist them with their tasks. This could include looking up a knowledge article based on the screens an employee visited or completing a form by populating data from internal or external data sources. 

2. Unattended: RPA can fully automate handling work that does not require the cognitive capabilities of a live employee, such as processing accounts-payable transactions. 

3. Hybrid: When an attended RPA solution initiates an unattended RPA transaction, such as when an agent processes a credit card charge-back, it is a hybrid application.

Companies that deliver these three types of RPAs are Automation Anywhere, Jacada, NICE, OnviSource, Pegasystems, UIPath, and Verint. Blue Prism is known for concentrating on unattended automation. Prospects should be aware that all these solutions are different, as are the close to one hundred others in the market. 

Communicate clearly and frequently about the plans for rolling out RPA and the opportunities it will create for employees.  Click To Tweet

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 
  • 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 threat to the workforce, as many employees fear robots will replace them. Companies that want to succeed with RPA, which is a necessity if they want to remain competitive, need to address and calm their staff. Keep in mind that RPA will be an “elephant in the room” and will negatively impact employee engagement unless management properly addresses it. 

Best Practices for Employee Buy-In

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, explain to employees that RPA offers many benefits. 

While it’s true that these applications will replace low-value activities performed by some workers, they will also become personal assistants for others, taking on the tedious and repetitive activities that employees dread. 

Here are a few best practices to help companies with the challenge of reassuring their employees.

1. Hire and Promote from Within: Companies need to create new job functions to support an RPA implementation. This typically includes business analysts to design the RPAs, IT coders to build and 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’m 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. 

2. Invest in Retraining: As the only given in many contact centers is that things 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 a perceived negative into a strong positive, particularly if employees receive raises to go along with their new job responsibilities. 

3. Clearly Communicate Intentions: Workplace rumor mills are dangerous, and bad news, or what workers consider bad news, travels 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 will create for employees. 

Final Thoughts

RPA, robots, bots, intelligent virtual agents, and similar solutions intended to improve productivity and quality are here to stay. It’s not a question of whether 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.

Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting LLC. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary, author, and speaker, Donna drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the services industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.