The robots of today’s workforce are no longer limited to large machines that can lift and move heavy objects faster and more easily than humans ー they’ve now entered our software as well. Today’s “bots” have moved from the production floor and into our computers. With this increase in automation, however, has come a growing sense of fear and misunderstanding surrounding the technology. Let’s take a look at what we mean when we say, “Robotic Process Automation” (RPA) and what it will truly mean for our evolving workforce.
What is RPA?
Think of Robotic Process Automation as an army of bots you can teach to do things within your existing software and workplace applications. These bots can be trained to complete tasks humans are currently responsible for and can be cloned on demand to scale alongside a given business model as it grows. The bots utilize AI to become more and more advanced based on rules they are taught and can eventually completely take over tasks their human counterparts used to spend hours doing. The bots layer on top of existing applications so there is no need for an organization to change the platforms they use or employ a team of coding professionals to implement the technology.
How Will RPA Impact Workers?
First, we need to look at what RPA is really good at. Typically, bots are trained to do fairly routine, repetitive and just plain labor-intensive jobs. Tasks such as complex data entry or the fielding of large volumes of customer communications are classic examples of workflows that could be handled through RPA technology. Any job that focuses on closing out forms, doing high volumes of mathematical calculations or scraping the web for data, can benefit from RPA. Basically, RPA software can be used to fill out those lengthy spreadsheets more effectively, and with fewer errors, than if their human counterparts were to complete them.
It won’t take over jobs.
Employees should not panic, however. Most companies that have deployed RPA into their workflows have not then laid-off workers. Usually, that workforce is able to then shift their focus to more creative and customer-facing work so that organizations can create better products and better serve their customers.
It will open up innovation opportunities and increase morale.
Employees who are freed from the shackles of data entry and information transfer, will naturally have more time to focus on the more creative aspects of their jobs. Let’s keep in mind that RPA is not a magic wand. The system itself will need to be monitored by internal IT professionals and employees nearby who know the job well enough to teach the bots how to do what they did.
RPA will alleviate mental stress and physical strain that comes from the mounting pressures of work most employees feel. It also reduces the instances of fatigue, burnout and sheer boredom that many office workers feel. Workers are more likely to thank their mechanical helpers than to curse them for “stealing” their jobs. Many employees stuck in mundane jobs filled with data entry, form filling, data transfer, etc. are clamoring for opportunities to learn and grow into more creative and impactful positions. RPA will be the technology that helps them get there.
It will make every employee more efficient.
When employee morale is high, they are more productive and can get more done in less time. Study after study shows that when employees are engaged while doing their job, they are more likely to work harder, longer and faster than disengaged employees. Engaged employees are also more loyal to the organization which decreases turnover rates.
When implementing RPA think of it as getting a robot assistant for each employee. They will have a “co-worker” who does all the repetitive and non-engaging work for them, so they can focus on the more fulfilling aspects of their work. Employee engagement will go up, and your organization's bottom line will rise with it.
RPA is nothing to fear for the modern employee. If anything, it should be championed and welcomed into the workforce. By taking over the tasks workers don’t want to do, they open up opportunities for employees to innovate, create and make their organizations better.