Even before the pandemic, organizations of all sizes and across industries were embarking on digital transformation journeys. The pandemic shifted these journeys into high gear, especially as remote and hybrid work became (and continues to be) the norm. To be successful in today’s highly competitive and ever-evolving business environment, organizations are turning to automation to navigate new disruptions and accelerate digitization.
Within the next 5 years, many analysts predict that hybrid human-digital workforces will be commonplace: People will work side by side with software robots, letting the robots do the mundane, monotonous work and letting the humans focus on strategic, creative work. Automation will be woven more deeply into the fabric of work, enabling companies to not only be more productive and cut costs but also create a better work/life balance for employees. HR teams will have to drive this change and ensure their workplaces are ready to work alongside robots.
Spearheading Change Management
HR teams must develop a robust change management plan to smooth automation adoption and maximize its positive impact. And it starts with ensuring the entire company, especially its leadership, is on board with the automation implementation and can champion it among employees. HR must also:
- Be highly communicative. HR professionals should be prepared to answer any questions employees may have about this new digitized workflow. To assist with this change, companies can adopt programs to help employees cope with the stress of change, and they must be transparent and open with the benefits and changes that result from automation.
- Predict how roles will change. Plan for any role reconfigurations across the company. Robots will take on many lower-skill tasks that involve data entry, rules-based processes, and document filing. But new positions requiring higher skills will more than fill the gap, highlighting the essence of this new human-digital workplace. According to the World Economic Forum, up to 85 million lower-value jobs will be lost through 2025, being replaced by 97 million higher-level jobs.
- Explain how software robots make work better. Help employees become familiar with software robots and the purpose the robots serve. Software robots aid workers in their day-to-day activities by taking over the tedious tasks they routinely perform, but having a “human in the loop,” whereby workers help decide a course of action, is still critical for the success of automation. According to a survey conducted by UiPath, 91% of global office workers believe that automation can improve their job performance, namely by saving time (52%), increasing productivity (46%), and creating opportunities to focus on more important work (45%).
Training Is Key
For automation to be successful in the workplace, employees must learn how to use it. HR teams and business unit managers should develop plans to upskill and reskill workers on sharing work side by side with software robots. HR should identify and define the skills of the future, then develop broad-based, continual upskilling and reskilling programs to prepare their employees for new, higher-skilled opportunities.
HR managers are not the only ones pushing new initiatives for upskilling and reskilling; employees themselves are asking for these training opportunities to broaden their skills and be prepared for their future. According to a 2022 survey from UiPath, 57% of 5,000 global respondents strongly or somewhat agree that the majority of their workday is eaten up by doing monotonous tasks that can be automated. The survey also revealed nearly 3 in 4 office workers (73%) agree that incorporating automation, including training, in their organization will help the organization attract new talent and retain talent.
Chief HR officers (CHROs) should take advantage of this to increase employees’ skills and prepare them for the future.
To train employees effectively, HR should choose and deliver training content in a digestible manner so employees can apply it to their roles. When designing role-based training, HR should start by getting a better understanding of those who will be taking the trainings. It is advised to offer employees a mix of online and in-person trainings (where possible) to teach automation skills at scale. HR should keep in mind, too, that learning should be continuous.
To stay competitive—and to mitigate attrition due to the Great Resignation—organizations need to embrace a human-digital workforce. Therefore, companies that want to stay competitive need to develop an “automation first” mindset. Thinking automation first, however, also means developing proactive change management strategies.
Param Kahlon is Chief Product Officer at UiPath.