Apparently, more than 25% of workers are anxious about their jobs due to automation. The majority are concerned that robots will replace them; robots or some sort of Artificial Intelligence. I’m keen that organisations have mature conversations with employees about advancing changes and the future.
Let’s start with employee anxiety. Look over your shoulder, the robots are coming! Actually, the robots (or bots as software robots are known) have already arrived. And there is nothing to fear. Bots are already tackling chores that humans have hated for decades; chores such as sanctions checking, invoice processing, payroll, client onboarding and so on. Typically, these are tasks that require employees to manage data across multiple. They’re boring and repetitive tasks and they don’t inspire your employees. Your employees thrive on what they’re great at – creating plans and strategies, problem solving, building relationships; any task that requires creativity or ingenuity. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is not about getting rid of human workers, it is about liberating humans from mind-numbing repetitive tasks that do not make best use of their intellect. It’s about freeing them up to be more strategic, more agile and more inventive; working towards a happier workforce and a wider transformation. Just as word processors freed employees from filing mountains of paperwork, bots alleviate the processing of data repeatedly across multiple applications. In fact, just think of an RPA bot as a co-worker. It is programmed to take on certain transactions. The types of things that it can do are very similar to the types of things that a human can do on a computer. It can read, it can click, type, enter information, bring information from one program or application or website to another. The difference is that bots do those very boring tasks more efficiently and don’t get bored. In essence, RPA is a technology that improves and augments your employees’ capability and capacity.
A common misconception is that software robots are Artificial Intelligence (AI) in action. AI is essentially an umbrella term for various software that can demonstrate intelligence. There are varying degrees of what can be considered “intelligent”. All of us, including your employees, are comfortable with widely available “intelligent” tools such as GPS navigation systems. Self-driving cars are something we look forward to. What we have now is RPA plus Intelligent Automation (IA), which is a combination of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. This means that bots can handle unstructured data as well as structured data, extraction of text from images (OCR) and learn from data without being explicitly programmed (machine learning). So what intelligent automation does is to extend what RPA can offer to your employees and to your business.
What the future holds is a digital workforce – human workers and bots – co-delivering services and value. Now is the time for organisations to discuss with employees what that future looks like; where the benefits lie for employees and the business. Organisations need a pro-technology culture to be future-ready. Build that culture. Start talking about automation. Today.