The Psychological Impact of Robotic Process Automation

Humans Need To Play A Bigger Role

Psychological research proves that people are happiest at work when they’re most productive, and further, when they’re happy, employees are more willing to try harder to win, serve, and retain customers. In order for leaders to maximize the positive psychological impact of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), implementation, communication, and collaboration between the business and its employees is an absolute requirement. While the fear of losing their jobs could become a reality for some workersautomation will also spur on the growth of many new jobs including some entirely new job categories.

The largest transformation will be for those human workers that will be working side-by-side with "robots". This is exactly why organizations must prioritize: Re-training employees. This includes encouraging continued innovation and research, and at the same time, developing workers’ skill-sets to adapt to automation.

Operating computer-powered machines enables intellectual stimulation to spill over to more creative aspects of a business and that results in employees feeling good about their work. In turn, our customers are being better served. Happier employees always leads to better serviced customers. If employees are focused on routine and menial tasks, they’re going to give you maybe 50% effort. Empowering employee leads them to want to do more — that’s the biggest indicator of great leadership — they want to improve their relationship with the customer because psychologically, the machine has already taken their boring tasks away. Human workers will always be able to give consumers something machines cannot — empathy and compassion — we need both now more than ever.

The Importance of Communicating to Employees

It’s extremely critical to communicate to your employees exactly why the move to RPA is being made. It gives them a sense of belonging, instead of feeling isolated, to know how exactly it will interact with our strategy and also their career. If employees understand how RPA fits into your business strategy, the benefits that RPA brings, and what organizations plan to do with the jobs being transformed, organizations can manifest significant support. Failing to effectively engage with your employees at both a developmental level and at a communications level will result in a disjointed RPA initiative that is unable to meet the wider demands of digital transformation. Only by coordinating the RPA program effectively can organizations transform their workforce by enabling a better workforce experience.

Humans react emotionally to major changes, especially if it impacts their well-being. Failing to answer the question of: “What will happen to me?” will spark emotional resistance. Preparing for this psychological impact requires structured change management programs to be put in place. If this is done well, RPA will absolutely lead to more engaged employees. The motivation of employees, the constructive ambition needed to operate new system and be part of a new ecosystem, requires communication from both business and IT leaders. Frankly, if this is not how you are communicating to your employees now, I think you're in trouble.

The benefits of RPA include reducing manual errors, increasing efficiency, being able to augment human hours by operating 24/7, better employee engagement, and reduction of fraud, to name a few. Just like how the nail gun was a great automation tool for builders, it still requires humans to know where to place the nails. And just like a nail gun is one of the many tools in the builder’s toolbox, RPA is similarly one of the many tools that organizations should enlist and implement in order to meet their digital transformation efforts.

Organizations that have achieved scale in automation are those with a clear vision, strategy, and approach that includes both business and IT leaders. With the highly repetitive and rules-based tasks being automated, RPA enables firms to create digital workforces that execute repeatable process steps faster, accurately, and more cost-effectively than traditional human workers. With RPA taking over menial tasks, workers can focus on what matters to the business most. This is due to workers focusing on more face-to-face, customer-intensive tasks instead of inefficiently focusing on other menial tasks.

The convergence with Artificial Intelligence (AI) means that RPA is starting to evolve even further. Being powered by AI means it will be able to conduct intelligent searches even faster. In the grand scheme of things, RPA is still in its infancy, I think there’s a lot more convergence, especially with AI, that will happen in the future. Companies should be looking towards increasing budgets, which will increase costs and decrease profit in the short-term. That's called an investment. Over the course of just six months, most companies are seeing a positive return on their original investment, and that will continue to compound as time goes on. Ignoring this will mean you will lose. It will just be a matter of time.

As RPA matures, data quality will also improve. In other words, RPA enables organizations, with the help of other tools, to create a deeper profile of not only the customer, but also the employee. Most employees were expecting to be more engaged in their current role than they actually are, but studies show that businesses undertaking RPA to optimize their processes and increase efficiency, are already experiencing higher levels of engagement from their workers compared to those who are hanging on to the status quo.

It's an exciting time to be alive for a multitude of reasons and if you're particularly interested in business than this will be the most disruptive technology you have ever seen. Robotic Process Automation will create jobs that you never knew would exist and will eliminate the ones that include menial tasks that most don't enjoy now. The need for high emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, and being kind to others has never been more important. I know this might sound odd and may be contrarian, but I wholeheartedly believe that as RPA becomes adopted by more businesses, the more people will enjoy their careers and the more time they will spend interacting with humans rather than computer screens like today. Our jobs are going to become more humanistic than ever and that will all be due to the Automation Revolution.

-Jonathan Kogan

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