The Key to Successful Robotic Process Automation (RPA) projects? People!

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The number one key requirement for successful RPA projects is the same as for any digital transformation initiative: engaged employees.

And how does one create employee engagement, you might say? In the case of RPA, the first thing to do is to address the multiple fears robots summon.

Fear of losing one’s job. Fear of becoming obsolete. Fear of change. Add to that good old resistance to change, which also stems from fear.

For these fears – and not technical difficulties – are the major stumbling blocks that await managers who choose to implement Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Such are the conclusions of a recent Forrester report carried out for UiPath, which clearly shows that when it comes to RPA the road to success is human, not technical.

Substantial benefits

The benefits of RPA are well-documented. To quote the Forrester study:

“RPA enables firms to create digital workforces that execute repeatable process steps faster, accurately, and more cost-effectively than traditional human workers. Ninety-two percent expected faster efficiency and 86% said they’re seeing exactly that.”

Surveyed firms report:

  • Increased efficiency (86%)
  • Deeper insights into customers (67%)
  • Improved customer service (57%)
  • Improved employee engagement (57%)

In other words, managers who understand what RPA really is about know that it’s not about laying off employees. It’s about growing their business and taking on new challenges.

And if they can make that premise clear, their workers can feel empowered by RPA and even become hyper productive.

RPA benefits also include:

  • Reduced manual errors
  • Increased efficiency
  • The possibility to operate 24×7
  • Better employee engagement
  • Fraud reduction
  • Unlocking employee creativity

The human factor

In other words, if your workers are fired up with the change, you can expect all the benefits and more, including sustained growth.

If they are fearful and suspicious that RPA is a ploy to replace them, however, it can threaten the outcome of the entire process.

Stated clearly, the way you introduce this transformation – in other words, your change management process – will make or break your RPA project.

Success of RPA initiatives mainly depends on 5 factors:

  • A clear vision and strategy
  • A comprehensive, holistic automation process that embraces the entire enterprise
  • An approach that considers business, IT and HR imperatives
  • An effort to improve both operational efficiency and employee experience, addressing not only technical and operational hurdles, but psychological ones as well
  • Comprehensive change management that carefully considers human factors, ensuring that people feel valued and safe, and that their fears are properly addressed

Build a plan

Successful RPA implementation therefore requires a sturdy communication plan.

The reason is simple, really, and the report makes it clear. Once they overcome their fear of the machine, so to speak, most employees have an ‘Aha moment’ when they realize an essential –and largely unexpected – RPA benefit.

“RPA frees humans to do what they do best: engage in richer interactions with others, perform work that requires more brain power, and make fewer mistakes.” – Forrester

This is only beginning to seep into mainstream awareness.

As a regional director of a UK-based oil and gas firm put it: “Operating computer-powered machines enables intellectual stimulation to spill over to more creative aspects of the business and that results in employees feeling good about their work.”

It doesn’t require a great leap of faith to suppose that when they realize that RPA can free them from the drudgery of repetitious work and allow them to be more creative and intellectually stimulated most employees will like their work better and feel happier about it.

A retail firm HR strategy manager summarized it well:

“Happier employees lead to better-serviced customers.

“Employees who are focused on routine, menial tasks are going to give you a 3/10 effort.

“Empowering employees leads them to want to do more — that’s the biggest indicator: they want to improve their relationship with the customer because psychologically, the machine has already taken their job. (Our bold.)

“Now human workers can give them something machines cannot — empathy and compassion — and we need both.”

Communicate, communicate, communicate!

The solution is quite straightforward, really: managers must put at least as much time and effort into the human factor as into the technical aspect of the RPA process.

In other words, the businesses who will succeed their RPA transition are those who will – truly – understand that their approach must be ‘human-centric’.

In other words, they need to focus their change efforts on their main asset: their employees.

Read the Forrester report.

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