The Surprising Truth: Intelligent Automation and RPA Improve Employee Satisfaction

November 05, 2019 | By Chris Huff

Digital transformation has a tendency to make employees uneasy. For many, the initial reaction to words like “robots” and “automation” is to wonder if their job will disappear.

But the surprising truth is employee satisfaction does the opposite of what they might expect after implementing robotic process automation (RPA) and intelligent automation. In fact, the increase in employee satisfaction can be quite substantial.

Forbes surveyed 302 senior executives involved in the implementation of Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation worldwide and discovered that 92 percent indicated an improvement in employee satisfaction as a result of these initiatives. In addition, 52 percent said employee satisfaction increased by 15 percent or more after implementing RPA.

Freeing people to focus on what matters

Why are employees happier post RPA implementation? Because it takes manual, repetitive and time-consuming tasks off their hands. Most organizations then redeploy these workers to higher-value activities that are more interesting and rewarding, such as improving the customer experience or helping a client find the right solution for their needs. And once they realize they can spend more time on strategic work that engages them and benefits the organization, employees begin to lose their apprehension.

One of the most immediate benefits is that it gives them more time in their day. Most employees already feel as if they’re cramming 11 hours of work into a mere eight hours. But with low-level transactional work taken off their plate, they spend less time at the office and more time with their families.

Fear becomes satisfaction

Gaining employee buy-in for intelligent automation may not seem like an easy task. As with any change management initiative, the key is to involve employees from the start and take their emotions and concerns into account. According to HfS, there’s a necessity for management to communicate the “why IA” vision to staff and the requirements surrounding it. HfS suggests a top-down and bottom-up approach, “truly a programmatic approach to IA.”

Pointing out tangible organizational benefits is a way managers can begin to shift the conversation. In the Forbes survey, respondents said automation increases efficiency (the second most improved post-implementation metric), raises customer satisfaction (the third most improved metric) lowers costs, increases market share and revenue and widens operating margins. Although impressive, these outcomes won’t be enough to lower the fear factor. Instead, organizations need to help employees understand what’s in it for them while addressing their fears heads-on.

Using video, employers can give employees a realistic view of RPA’s impact on their work and, consequently, is highly effective at changing perceptions. For example, Max Cheprasov, Chief Automation Officer at Dentsu Aegis, used a side-by-side video of an employee and a robot conducting the same task to illustrate the benefits of automation to the CEOs and CFOs of the network’s agencies.

“By the time the employee is half-finished doing the process once, the robot has done the same process 220 times,” he said. “We knew there would be major efficiencies by combining the two. That 30-second video told the whole story of taking a process from three hours to five minutes. It made a huge impression.”

This same tactic can also help get employees onboard. Teams involved in early pilots can share their experiences with IA and RPA in fun and positive testimonial videos, emphasizing the results and value of automation post-implementation. Then, managers can show these clips at employee town halls, conferences and in training sessions.

Reframing helps to shift perceptions, too. Intelligent automation works best when organizations find the right balance between work machines do and the work people need to handle. Within this framework, “collaborators” becomes a more apt description for robots.

“We shouldn’t call them [cognitive AI agents] robots,” says Cheprasov. “We should call them co-bots—because what they’re really doing is collaborating with humans. They cannot do anything without human input and participation.”

The key to helping employees become comfortable with this change is selling the benefits. As they gain an understanding of how RPA and intelligent automation works, they’ll begin to understand operational improvement opportunities and how RPA helps them on a personal level. And once they start to see what’s in it for them, they’ll be more likely to embrace it and to begin working like tomorrow today.

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