Automation vs employees: Who will lose their jobs?
The introduction of automation means the role of people within organizations are changing. While companies have been changing since the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s and change itself is nothing new, the rate at which we are seeing technological advances is significantly faster than in previous years. The fear some face about their jobs being at risk of automation is understandable, however it is my aim here to explain why we should not be so quick to panic.
In the first part of our RPA series, we discussed automation more broadly. Here we will focus more specifically on its role in relation to employees.
If there was no critical mass, there would be no need to implement automation. Key factors that influence critical mass are costs, Full Time Equivalents (FTEs), frustration with and avoidance of work, and meeting compliance, accuracy and quality standards. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) helps organizations get closer to reaching critical mass by utilizing their employees who know these processes the best. RPA facilitates closer cooperation between business and software. It’sthe business that will determine how these two communicate. This kind of cooperation does not simply end once a robot is put into production; providing an opportunity to create new positions within an enterprise.
After implementation, there are often multiple opportunities for humans and robots to work side by side. For example, tasks that are usually good automation candidates involve the checking and comparing of information across spreadsheets for either matching or varying data. If you imagine mid-sized to large corporations that have upwards of 1000 accounts, it comes as no surprise that these compliance checks are very time consuming for a human. RPA aids compliance in a cheaper, faster way. Should a robot automate these tasks, it does not mean the employee is instantly out of a job. Experience and statistics show that the average robot takes over between 70% and 90% of the original work load. These numbers can be realized at once, or increasingly over the time. The time freed up by the robot can therefore be spent more productively by providing employees the opportunity to play to their strengths as organizations undergo change.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about automation is that it happens over night. Realistically, and surprisingly to some, preparing a robot takes several weeks. This gives the organizations time to plan for what human work will look like once one or several automations are implemented. We seen and advised that companies should use freed up time in several of the following ways:
- Cover for natural attrition in the company – the parts of a business where RPA is implemented typically suffers from higher attrition as a result of boring and repetitive work.
- Improve the client relationship – the time people have is invested into the dealing with exceptional cases and problem solving.
- Improve compliance and quality of the process – in cases where the team was understaffed.
- Upskill the resources and move them into the new positions (and save additional effort for hiring for those roles).
In addition to the strategies mentioned above, it is worth pointing out that any industry that changes comes hand in hand with changing policies. Policies alwaysaffect certain individuals. Many have addressed how education policy will need to develop in order to reflect technological advancements, such as automation. Education reform can be subject to substantial red tape and may not always see change at the same rate we are seeing with technology. Learning to code from a young age, however, is being increasingly valued. Additionally, current students are growing up in the digital age and are in many ways naturally being equipped to deal with these changes. Many are likely all too familiar with the scenario of how common it is nowadays for younger generations to explain to older ones how different software and various other technologies work. Despite the advances education could afford to make, students are not doomed and neither are current employees.
The next piece of our RPA series provides an overview of what challenges and decisions face managers in order to prepare their organizations to remain relevant and competitive in the wake of these technological advancements.