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Vikki Sly

Blue Prism

Chief People Officer

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Avoiding automation culture shock among your employees


To an outsider technology and HR may seem like odd bedfellows, but the truth is that there are few departments (with the exception of IT) where tech is more important. The reality is that for new technologies to succeed in business they need the support of HR. We are the gatekeepers.

As such, we need to make sure that the interaction between human team members and technology delivers the right results.

Handled well, technology can augment human skill sets and help free team members from dangerous, dull or mundane tasks.

On the other hand, when handled badly, technology can alienate individuals and the team, cause confusion and prompt good employees to leave.

The answer, therefore, is to ensure that you have the right company culture in place to allow new technologies to prosper. Right now, this is a business critical issue.

The shifting shape of our teams

How, then, do businesses create a culture that is open and fertile for technology adoption and innovation? Taking this back a step, it’s worth looking at the changes that are taking place within the workforce.

By their very nature, we know that workforces are never static and are constantly changing. Individuals come and go, teams are built, adapted and dispersed.

As a sector that is focused on the human element of the workforce, it is important that we help guide employees through these changes.

Now with the emergence of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent automation (IA) and robotic processing automation (RPA) the workforce is changing again.

Where once workforces were a mixture of human team members working across various jobs and departments now, thanks to the latest technologies, digital workers are also a key part of it.  

Be ready to re-skill

As a sector that is focused on the human element of the workforce, it is important that we help guide employees through these changes.

Reassuringly then, in a recent survey that Blue Prism commissioned, HR leaders said they were confident in their grasp of automation technologies like connected-RPA, with nearly nine in ten confirming that they had at least a good understanding of them.

More impressively, they expressed positivity around the issue of re-skilling workers.

Over two thirds of chief human resource officers (CHROs) believe that employees have the right skills to work alongside a digital workforce, and 55% feel that employees appreciate the career opportunities created by automation technologies like RPA.

The optimism here should not be underestimated as it gives a solid foundation for ensuring that company culture is ready for this new suite of automation technologies.

Winning hearts and minds

Despite these positive signs, HR has an important role to play in developing a company culture that allows RPA to prosper.

The risk for businesses that don’t focus on culture is that team members become unwilling to trust digital workers, which therefore makes them less likely to be used.

Over time, this can erode any good feelings towards new technologies, with team members eventually feeling undervalued and frustrated that they aren’t receiving the right support.

If these issues are not addressed and technology deployments are left to IT, team members will soon look elsewhere to develop their careers.

Somewhat positively, however, two thirds of businesses agree that their company culture needs to change to accommodate automation, although few actually know where to start.

Nonetheless, there are a number of steps that HR professionals can take to help evolve company culture in the right way.

Communication and company culture

The crucial part of evolving company culture to be more receptive to technology is to ensure that all team members are taken on the journey together.

Focusing conversations on areas such as how automation and digital workers can improve their work/life balance and the specific advantages it can deliver on a day-to-day basis (beyond just saving business money) helps shift mindsets as to what is possible.

As talent augmentation becomes the new talent acquisition, knowledge sharing on how to use the latest technologies becomes a very powerful tool.

Having these conversations early on means that worries, concerns and questions from team members can be addressed up front.

Then, as deployment continues, feedback from employees can be factored in when it comes to deciding which tasks should be automated and how communications can be improved.

By keeping team members updated on the progress and direction of deployment, businesses can help employees to feel that they are actually part of the process too.

Clear feedback

One of the best ways to create path of communication with employees is by developing a comprehensive internal communications plan for RPA and automation software deployments.

So far businesses have generally been doing well with their wider deployment plans, but the need for a separate communications plan is often overlooked as the focus is directed to the technical challenges instead.

Setting out from the start how information will be communicated with team members and how they can provide feedback greatly reduces the risk of employees feeling left out, or key information being overlooked, lost or misinterpreted during the initial rollout phase.

The use of a communications plan also helps ensure that there are times when team members can provide feedback, ask questions and check in on progress.

This will not only help build trust with teams but can also aid the discovery of new uses of RPA.

Providing a clear feedback process further enhances the feeling with employees that they are part of the process and not just being dictated too.

Planning ahead

This is just the start. Once a communications plan is in place, it is no time for HR to rest on its laurels.

Communications plans, as with deployment plans, need to be constantly reviewed, updated and amended to fit the ever-changing needs of a business.

Adding in details on best practices, and tips from employees to the wider team help spread knowledge and assists with the discovery of new ideas too.

As talent augmentation becomes the new talent acquisition, knowledge sharing on how to use the latest technologies becomes a very powerful tool.

Changing company cultures to include digital workers will not happen overnight and almost certainly mistakes will be made.

By ensuring clean and open lines of communication between team members, however, business decision makers and those running connected-RPA rollout can ensure that human workers don’t feel left behind.

Interested in this topic? Read Is HR really ready for automation?

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Vikki Sly

Chief People Officer

Read more from Vikki Sly
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