How RPA Is Changing the Way People Work
This article dives deep into thoughts on how Robotic Process Automation is changing the way people work.
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Industries and businesses cutting across sectors are increasingly turning to RPA, or Robotic Process Automation, an emerging technology that codes sophisticated software systems or “bots” to handle high-volume, low-value, repetitive tasks, freeing human labor for high-value work.
The advantages of adopting RPA are significant. By eliminating human error, the business makes a mark in quality assurance. Customer satisfaction increases several notches, and delivery systems become efficient. The cost of production climbs down substantially, and companies improve ROI.
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RPA employs artificial intelligence and deep machine learning protocols that enable “bots” to handle virtually any backend process from start to finish. The estimated global value of RPA technology records $5 billion in 2020 (Statista). RPA is in the process of taking over 41 percent of all financial back-office processes within five years, increasing to 53 percent by the end of the decade.
Certified RPA experts at Kansas City software development company, Tricension, opine that businesses, challenged by an increasingly competitive landscape, are automating business processes in a significant way, and RPA is poised to alter the way people work fundamentally.
Let’s take a closer look at how Robotic Process Automation engineers a paradigm shift in the lives of millions of workers around the world.
Employees in the RPA Workplace Are Oriented Differently From Yesteryears
Employees are struggling under the burden of routine, repetitive work but notice the consumers demanding better services and products. Employees expect companies to improve the working environment in the same spirit as improving customer satisfaction. The corporate response, in the form of automation, is expanding the comfort zone of employees. But, there’s a flip side to the RPA coin.
With the rise of automation, people fear the consequences of RPA solutions replacing human labor and marginalizing the human touch that was at the core of services and product delivery. Such a threat could seem an exaggeration. RPA removes the drudgery of routine work and sets the stage for workers to play a more decisive role in areas where human touch, care, and creativity are essential.
Companies investing in RPA are noticing significant changes in employee work style:
The RPA Effect: Employee Interpersonal Relationships Are Purposeful and Productive
As time-consuming menial tasks are taken over by automation, you free intellectual capital and time for employee-to-employee interaction. Instead of a workplace where individuals mostly work in isolation, the RPA workspace has employees more willing to engage and connect mutually. We create an environment that is ideal for information-gathering and experience-sharing.
The RPA Effect: Approach to Work Is Shifting From Randomly Routine to Strategically Sensitive
With loads of time and better tools at their disposal, employees are more caring and sensitive to the need for making a difference in the lives of customers. More employees are actively unlocking their reservoir of creativity. Instead of the conventional approach of “we’ll give customers a good experience to make them happy,” we see employees changing gears to the strategic approach of ”we’ll give customers an unforgettable experience, so they'll want more.”
The RPA Effect: Employees Are More Conscious of Quality and Timely Delivery
We’re losing billions of dollars and millions of working-hours through assembly line errors, defective products, and deficient services, and much time, energy, and money go into rectifying the drawbacks to mainstream production. RPA is known to cut manual error by almost 57 percent.
With RPA substantially reducing the margin for error, employees can be given the training to focus more on customer service and delivery. Employees become more receptive to working in zero-error environments where quality and timely delivery become bywords for operational excellence.
To refresh what we’ve discussed, you can expect RPA investment to affect employees in three ways:
- RPA critically restructures the business process, and you see employees having more time for mutual interaction, releasing energy that fuels creativity.
- Employees focus their energies on strategic initiatives that help achieve organizational goals.
- The reduction of manual error improves customer confidence, and tasks too complicated for humans becomes doable and straightforward.
The employee experience is poised to scale another level because RPA is bringing change in personnel information management, employee orientation and training schedules, and employee needs analysis.
RPA Deployment Is Expanding From Blue-Collar Workers to the White-Collar Workforce
Understandably, RPA adoption is encouraged in industrial assembly-line production where reduction of human error, cost-savings, workforce management, and labor sensitive issues rule industrial dynamics. What we are now witnessing is the gradual expansion of RPA into the white-collar fields such as legal, HR, finance, and technology.
MediCare: RPA is automating the filing and retrieval of patient medical history, organizing records, processing claims, analyzing billing for errors, and presenting the end of day reports to the top management.
Insurance: RPA intelligently archives customer information and pulls formatted data for issuing new policies, executing policy renewals, and processing claims.
Finance: Over and above the end to end processing of financial transactions, RPA is making a mark in the area of foreign exchange management and currency transfers. RPA is also streamlining the auditing system for promoting transparency to deter fraud.
Customer service: As customers seek greater engagement with large organizations, RPA is automating support operations enabling employees to rise to the occasion and deliver flawless service in a personalized way.
Retail: RPA is updating customers in real-time about the journey of the product through each level of processing, packaging, shipping, and delivery. Real-time sharing of inventory brings more accuracy and control in logistics management.
Supply chain management: RPA enabled “smart-bots” are programmed to study and automate standard repetitive processes to curtail human involvement, and eliminate human error. The supply chains scale faster, meet demands quickly, and achieve targets easily. With RPA taking care of the logistics, companies divert employee services where they’re needed most - firefighting customer issues and responding to emergencies.
Human Resources (HR): Deciding the horizontal or vertical movement of an employee in the career path involves hours probing the employee's roleplay, pay, compensation, payroll, and many other benefits. In the RPA regime, where information is instantly accessible, employees can be upgraded smoothly with due weightage given to their experience as HR processes become more agile and compliance-oriented.
Empowerment of legal teams: At the heart of legal practise there’s an army of paralegals doing in-depth research and handling a maze of paperwork, much of which is routine and repetitive data gathering and information management. RPA takes care of the routine, leaving employees free for ideation and more value-enriched work.
RPA can bring you details of past cases similar to the present one, and predict outcomes based on past judicial precedents, enabling lawyers and paralegals to refine their submissions in court.
3 RPA Forces Are Powering Transformation in the Workspace Employee Experience
RPA is driving impactful change in the way management is approaching workers and altering the workspace dynamics. We’re seeing the convergence of people, processes, and technology overcoming the fear of work disruption, job loss and performance anxiety.
The well-considered and targeted RPA expansion not only improves process efficiency but also boosts the employee experience. There are three factors, broadly speaking, that help RPA brings about desirable change.
The switch in cost-effective scaling of business (Human-driven to Machine-driven)
The desirable model of scaling is where your business revenue grows exponentially while operating costs remain low. You’re coping with the growing workload while operating efficiencies are high. RPA shifts scaling from a human-oriented process to a machine-driven process.
With RPA, scaling is not overly dependent on the way you handle material infrastructure, people, and capital. The business scaling becomes a digitally-driven process rather than a machine-driven process. Instead of making human efforts redundant, the human endeavor shifts focus to strategic and creative aspects of scaling.
The switch in decision making in businesses (Human inputs giving way to Machine learning)
The evolution of the business enterprise depends mainly on the quality of human decision making, which, at its worst, was too immersed in mind-numbing routine to focus on strategic marketing.
RPA redefines the future of work by switching decision making from humans to machine learning algorithms. Moving forward, we see more decisions going to machines, freeing humans for high-value work.
For example, a manufacturer would be pleased that his RPA rollout takes care of breakdowns by ordering new parts directly without human intervention. While the algorithm takes control of machines, product cycles, and inventory, workers mostly oversee critical issues connecting to vendors, distributors, suppliers, and customers.
The switch from human asset management to machine learning alternatives (Physical monitoring to Digital sensing)
At any given moment, there are millions of workers managing factories, machines, equipment, and other types of physical infrastructure. Workers relay information to enable decision making and change management. But, labor productivity gains over the past decade are very low.
RPA boosts human effectiveness by switching asset management from humans to digital sensors that gather and analyze big data and report findings in real-time to human decision-makers.
Machine learning algorithms harvest and interpret big data using digital sensors within industrial assembly lines and marketing chains. These algorithms, over time, develop the capacity to understand processes and make decisions without human intervention.
The key to happier and more engaging employees is a work environment that is interesting and stimulating, where repetitive and routine work is at a bare minimum. The three paradigm RPA shifts that we detail are well on their way to accomplishing this goal.
Workers Benefit Through the Positive Psychological Impact of RPA Rollout
In retrospect, the fear that computers would steal human jobs was entirely baseless because we went on to create a brave new world of digital work specialists. While the anxiety that RPA would impact some jobs adversely is not entirely unfounded, it is equally valid that RPA is redefining the way employees coexist with ‘bots.’ We’re likely to see new job categories coming into existence in the future.
It is well known that happier employees are more productive because of their willingness to work extra hard to attract and service customers and retain customer loyalty. Under the RPA regime, we can expect employees to experience a psychological boost with automation taking the bite out of routine tasks.
Under RPA Rollouts, Companies Are Prioritizing New Worker-Friendly Goals
Imparting new skills for orienting workers in the RPA environment
There’s increasing focus on growing the worker’s skillsets, helping workers to adapt better to automation and not feel like insignificant cogs-in-the-wheel. Just as RPA works behind the scenes to improve business processing, employees gain better control and intellectual freedom to explore the creative aspects of the business. Happier workers are more likely to suggest and implement effective measures to satisfy customers.
Please note a critical aspect of RPA. In taking control of the business process, the machine is not replacing the employee - the machine is empowering the employee. With the right technological boost, employees gain a higher stake in improving their relationship with the customer because they can contribute to what the machine can’t — personal chemistry and compassion.
Reinforcing the employee's emotional connect by answering the “What’s my fate?” question
It would be foolhardy to isolate employees from the actual RPA rollout, treating both as different areas of concern. Companies must communicate the purpose of RPA implementation and explain to employees how they continue to be strategically integral to the business process. Unless core anxieties are taken care of, companies risk employee alienation.
You’ll see much effort going into making employees feel they are working alongside RPA to fulfill the business strategy. The multiple benefits of RPA that boost employee productivity have to be made clear. The bottom line is that we won’t be losing jobs; jobs are getting transformed to serve the customer better. So the impact of RPA on employee engagement is likely to create a significantly supportive worker fully aligned to organizational goals.
Achieving Scale in RPA Is Possible Through Energetic, Enthusiastic, and Engaging Workers
The RPA-oriented employee is conscious of the fact that automation reduces manual error, that tasks can stretch beyond the standard working hours, and that business processes undergo stringent audits to prevent fraud.
After everything is said and done about RPA, your technologically revamped business ecosystem is more likely to staff energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging employees that won’t hesitate to take creative calls and initiate strategic signals.
Business Insiders, Conducting RPA Implementation vs Benefit Analysis, Mention Three Takeaways
RPA combats redundancy and boosts the human productivity pathway
We’re now aware that RPA takes control of a big chunk of repetitive, rule-based tasks in a manner that is quicker and more cost-effective than human labor. Far from making human labor force redundant; what we're seeing is a workforce that is becoming more efficient and productive than the pre-RPA era.
RPA positively impacts the roleplay and effectiveness of employees
The majority of businesses, with active RPA programs in play, note that there's a tangible improvement in customer service, and this single factor is scaling business to uncharted heights. With RPA taking over menial tasks, employees are happier to engage customers face-to-face and pursue customer-centric tasks.
As RPA improves the work environment, workers find more clarity in their roles and become more effective in supporting, implementing, and managing automation protocols.
RPA “smart-search” and “smart-profiling” capability is evolving with artificial intelligence (AI)
AI and machine learning algorithms ensure that RPA continues to be an evolving paradigm, simultaneously working with and continually adapting to varying business demands. Machine learning algorithms are paving the way for more intelligent searches with the ability to predict the most likely outcomes based on past research.
Employees are in a position to deliver customized care after pouring through in-depth customer profiles appearing in the RPA archives. The same technology enables organizations to access employee profiles that are useful in driving engagement and ensuring employee effectiveness.
The Critical Lesson for Decision-Makers: RPA Works Only When Operational Efficiency Enhances Employee Engagement
The effectiveness of RPA and the extent to which RPA creates a satisfying experience for workers in the modern workplace depends on decision-makers crossing certain technical, operational, and psychological hurdles.
1. Onboard employees in conceiving, planning, and executing RPA
At the confluence of business, IT, and HR, employees want to feel valued and secure and need some hand-holding to overcome fears regarding the negative consequences of automation.
The successful RPA implementation plan encourages channels of communication that keep the proceedings open and transparent. Once employees lose the fear of the unknown algorithm and understand the benefits of RPA, they have a stake in ensuring the success of RPA.
Ideally, the implementation protocols and employee feedback mechanisms should ride side by side at every stage of RPA implementation.
2. Implement enterprise-wide RPA solutions rather than RPA adopted in parts
If RPA is to significantly transform the way businesses function and improve the way people work, the RPA algorithm has to embed itself across the whole enterprise. RPA implementation should not limit itself to a division or subgroup.
Enterprise-wide RPA solutions ensure that all future deployments share accumulated knowledge and experience. You’ll see operational efficiency and employee engagement growing off each other simultaneously.
3. Adopt a caring and compassionate approach to employees maneuvering RPA initiated change
By their nature, workers respond emotively not rationally to change, particularly change that is disruptive. An overwhelming fear grabs the thought process, “Will this change seal my fate?” By overcoming the fear factor early in RPA implementation, you halt negative sentiments from derailing automation objectives.
The compassionate change management protocol directly addresses the emotional fallout of disruption instead of harping on rational factors. If the employee is secure in the knowledge that the machine is not replacing workers but is empowering human endeavor, RPA rollouts become less stressful.
Some Words of Wisdom on the Limitations of RPA
Garbage in Garbage out (GIGO) is a concept we’re all aware of which explains that an improper input gets you an improper result. The same holds for RPA.
Before attempting RPA implementation, you must remove the deficiencies in the underlying business process. If the business operation is structurally defective and inefficient, the overlapping RPA may reflect and possibly magnify that inefficiency. By improving the structural quality and integrity of the business process, you enhance the chances of RPA rolling out successfully.
The business process undergoes continuous change through policy additions, deletions, changing interfaces, and security upgrades. Bots need regular servicing, upkeep, and maintenance to retain their flexibility and adapt to changing systems. Bots left to themselves won’t do the job expected of them.
If you genuinely want RPA to work for you, avoid viewing RPA as a one-size-fits-all tool to address technology blues. View RPA as one among many tools that you’d engage in your business process engineering toolkit.
Small, medium and large enterprises are now hiring experts or using specialized tools to brainstorm and pick apart their business processes. Companies are taking steps to address productivity issues, rework cost considerations, and improve delivery efficiencies before taking the RPA plunge.
A company needs to trust the RPA software with big data and all the responsibility that goes with handling data. You should only opt for software that has reliable and trustworthy inbuilt analytics protocols that give you periodic reviews on program efficiency, bugs, and glitches.
Another vital aspect of RPA is not knowing the difference between processes that require automation and those that don’t. When you move to automation mode, consider only the business processes that follow distinct rules, processes that repeat themselves without breaking a pattern, and where the outcome is comfortably predictable.
Any other process is a bad fit for RPA implementation.
We find ourselves in the era of IoT, the Internet of Things where devices ceaselessly connect to the internet, and this is optimizing the efficiency of business processes. Parallelly, you see RPA taking the sting out of routine, repetitive tasks, and streamlining the back-office, paving the way for a cozier integration with IoT.
RPA, with artificial intelligence (AI) powering its machine learning algorithms, has the potential to complement IoT in every way. As a result, the “intelligent” company evolves its business processes using RPA, keeping its employees engaged and intellectually primed to address every possible challenge the future might throw its way.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.