“Bots will take all our jobs.”
Job loss is by far the biggest fear in companies to date. Understandably no one wants to feel like their job is at risk; I had even read in the news how analysts were the most at risk as their roles were highly logical and data driven. As an analyst myself this was a delight to hear. When your RPA team start going into different departments to find automation opportunities fear of job loss is the biggest challenge they will face. It’s a very sensitive topic which needs to be handled carefully, otherwise it can stifle any momentum you were hoping to build.
Change management is vital to ensure the right messages are communicated but businesses need to be thinking about how their staff (their most value assets) can be upskilled and look at redesigning career roles and paths to align with digital transformation.
Bots should be seen as enablers to a workforce not substitutes because human workforce’s experience and intellect is too valuable to lose. In many circumstances RPA has seen an increase in jobs as teams become more productive and cause companies to grow. New technologies always give rise to new types of jobs. Bots can remove the burden of tasks from the workforce, but this gives businesses the opportunity to upskill their staff – by attending specialist courses. I once heard the phrase that ‘RPA should take the robot out of the human’ so that the human can do more interesting and creative work.
There’s a lot of scaremongering about a Terminator-style uprising where Ai becomes as smart as, if not smarter than humans and takes over. There was even a recent debate (August 2019) where Jack Ma and Elon Musk debated the benefits or threats of Ai becoming smarter than humans.
Whatever the theories about what Ai could achieve, what we know now is that Ai is miles away from being smart enough to replace humans. Yes in March 2018, an Ai system was able to read handwriting faster and more accurately that humans could, and for other specific tasks (like playing chess or Go), Ai can out performance humans. Ai can even understand natural language, it can learn, and it can recognize images, but it still is a fair way from replicating human intuition and reasoning and having general intelligence.
Many leaders in technology believe we are already effectively Cyborgs, fully dependent on our technology. Your mobile phone is pretty much a prosthesis as many of us could not exist without it for more than a few waking hours. However, technology has always been an enabler, now allowing us to move through life at lightning speed compared to 30 years ago.
Intelligent automation and Ai bots are no different. They are virtual assistants and digital workers that improve staff productivity and enhance their careers. These intelligent bots are owned by their team (not by IT) to do the lower straightforward work, leaving the higher-level thinking to us humans. Bots are there to enhance our efficiency and effectiveness, not replace it.
However, as business leaders, an important stat you need to be aware of is that when companies introduce RPA about 65% of staff feel their roles are in danger. Like a cancer this can be harmful to your organization as fears spread to two thirds of your staff. If your company is serious about its digital transformation, it’s imperative that you engage with HR and address emotional resistance so what your most valuable assets feel valued.
Granted, RPA will remove the need for a many jobs and reduce the size of teams, as it allows individuals to become more productive. Where a job had required ten people to manage the volume of work, augmented with RPA, it would now only require 7.
So, the big ethical question is, what happens to the other 3?
This seemed to be the most sensitive and generally most avoided question in the media, though of late I’ve seen it become more talked about as technology advances and automation becomes more ubiquitous. Understandably every business has a natural attrition rate, due to performance, retirement or people moving on to other careers. However, businesses should have a plan for how to redeploy their top resource if possible.
- Can they be re-deployed to another team that would otherwise need to hire external staff?
- Will the company itself expand its workforce in the near future, and thus does it make more sense to keep these staff who already know the business, customers and processes?
- Can we upskill them so they can move into a more technical role to support the new digital workforce?
As a responsible RPA leader, now is the time to start engaging with HR to review the re-structuring of employee progression paths in line with these new automation capabilities. This not only will mitigate fears of change and job loss spreading through your organization, but will also keep knowledge in-house
Perhaps a new way to answer this question could be; where a job had required ten people to manage the volume of work, augmented with RPA, the same team of 10 can now do the job of 14 in your ever-expanding business. Re-deploy, upskill, grow
You can learn more about implementing RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and intelligent automation at Leania.co. The virtual consultant. Online support 24/7
You can read about Lean IA’s trademarked AEIO YOU method in their new book Business @ the Speed of Bots, Succeeding In The New Age Of Digital Transformation