Just a few years back, it was all doom and gloom for humans. AI doomsayers cast a picture of a jobless future, in which humans could be replaced by machines in every facet of their working lives. Today, the picture looks different – at least, a whole lot more nuanced. Instead of being glad to see humans back in the workforce, many businesses are desperately scrambling to hold onto their human workforce post-pandemic, with jobseekers in a stronger position to find work and negotiate benefits than at any time in recent history. In the middle of a labor shortage, businesses are waking up to just how much humans matter.
It’s into this complex scene that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) enters the picture. But what is RPA exactly? RPA refers to the use of automated scripts – often colloquially known as software “bots” – that are able to carry out many of the mundane, repetitive tasks that previously required humans to perform. This isn’t about replacing humans, though. Instead, RPA tools are there to bolster the human workforce, supporting them in order to help them get work done.
However, a big question remains: At a time when businesses are trying to create a positive culture that (human) employees will want to work in, how do they embrace RPA without raising concerns from their workers worried about possible replacement? In short, how do you fight back against bot resentment? Here are three ways:
#1. Be upfront about why you’re introducing RPA tools
Workers often view the encroachment of new technologies as a threat on their jobs. This is nothing new. As far back as the 1930s, the economist John Maynard Keyes was talking about the disruptive effects of “technological unemployment,” meaning new tech that displaces jobs.
While bosses may get excited at the prospect of bots saving them money, employees are more removed from the profit-earning function of jobs and more likely to view the introduction of RPA as a risk. For this reason, employers and managers must be up-front about RPA when they introduce it, and willing to address the concerns of employees. That can mean sharing the goals businesses have for RPA – which may be less about immediate cost-saving than enhancing productivity, eliminating errors, or myriad other metrics.
#2. Point out that RPA can open up new opportunities in the workplace
Let’s say that you have a brilliant employee who, nonetheless, has to spend half their time carrying out mundane tasks like transferring data from one application to another. If you find an automated solution that can do this for you, do you fire the employee? Slash their hours in half? Probably not. Instead, you utilize the brilliance that they apply to the more creative or strategic tasks they do with the other 50 percent of their time and give them the opportunity to do more of this.
That, in essence, is the big promise of RPA: That it frees up humans to focus on other, more value-adding tasks. What those tasks are will differ depending on the industry and job title. However, pointing out that RPA will take away dull jobs while increasing the amount of time employees can spend on more interesting work is sure to win many over. And, hopefully, benefit your business along with it.
#3. Highlight the positive impact RPA can have in other ways
Do you have a major backlog when it comes to the speed at which customer queries are answered? Do you have a problem when it comes to compliance legislation that results in fines and undue stress? Is it difficult to cope with the demands of day-to-day activities if more than a couple of employees are off at the same time? Whatever the challenge is that you face as a business – and, again, this will differ depending on the business – RPA may well be able to help.
For example, RPA bots can help address customer queries automatically, or else route questions they’re unable to answer through to the right person. They can also – through the use of “attended automation” tools – sit on users’ desktops and assist them with their work, perhaps alerting them to potential compliance issues or providing other contextual information as required.
Ultimately, the purpose of RPA should be to augment, not replace humans. Making this clear can have a profound impact when it comes to the usage and acceptance of these tools in the workplace.
RPA is here to help, not hinder
RPA has the potential to transform the workplace for the better, whether you’re a business owner, a customer, or an employee. But part of this is about proper education on the technology and what it’s able to do. Make sure you seek out experts on RPA tools who can help you answer questions such as this one and many more. It could be the start of an amazing new era for your business.