Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is empowering organizations to put the "Human" back into HR while ensuring all the important but tedious tasks are efficiently carrying on. Recent research by Goldsmiths, the University of London commissioned by Automation Anywhere reveals that organizations that invest in RPA and AI technology see much higher performance returns, especially if they also invest in people.
The burning question is- can automation make work more human? How are RPA and AI impacting the HR function? And how can organizations apply insights in the context of your organization?
In a round table held in partnership with Automation Anywhere on the impact of RPA on amplifying the human experience, leaders from various industries spoke on the ways how RPA and cognitive automation is impacting the HR function.
Kick-starting the discussion Shalini Pillay, Office Managing Partner from KPMG stated that as organizations embark on their digitization journey, one of the biggest challenges is on the workforce part-the need to bring in a greater level of agility as the workforce adopts and embraces digitization.
From bots with KRAs to changing HR models
Today, there is no part of the HR or organization that has not been touched by digital. This technology has also led to the emergence of new roles such as robotic capability manager along with the evolution of old roles. So much so that CIOs/ CFOs today have bots in their team organizational structure with names and KRAs! This means C-suite heads have to know what throughput to expect from these bots.
Another effect of automation on the HR function would be that it would cease to exist in the future as it does today. On the back of technology, the traditional HR business model is itself changing. So where will this function be in years to come? Workforce consultants will be tasked more with how they are using the predictive layer of automation.
Moreover, the automation opportunity provides learnings on how to implement bots, how to rationalize their numbers and shelf lives, and what should be the framework to implement them.
In these respects, the HR function is going to get quite boundary-less. And the tighter it is integrated with the business, the better it is. For all of this to happen, the automation layer is very critical.
Hence the benefits of automation in unlocking potential are numerous. However, before implementing bots and creating a case for automation, it is also necessary to challenge if your current systems can do the same work or not. Also important is to look at the risk and governance layer of automation.
Digital worker- A reality of today
Taking the discussion further, Sonali De Sarker, Senior Director HR at IMEA, Automation Anywhere shared that RPA is driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is imperative for the business to move with times, Bots or Digital Business Assistants (DBAs) can help automate mundane and repetitive tasks helping in augmenting the overall productivity of the workforce and bringing back the “Human” part in Human Resources. Unfortunately, when it comes to change management, the HR function is not the earliest to catch up. With the advent of the DBAs, things are changing today. Organizations have started providing DBAs to new hires and also ensure that the evaluation of the individual includes how they are leveraging their DBAs to be more productive.
However when one thinks of which bots to deploy and keep, one needs to go back to the processes for which they are to be deployed. These processes are the tasks that one can digitize.
Another important metric to look at is the ROI. Can your bot do the additional work so that your productivity goes up, your team is able to deliver more, with the same number of resources and therefore your cost per person comes down? Giving the example of Automation Anywhere’s HR team in India, she shared that 14 processes were automated with the deployment of 20+ bots which led to them saving 140 minutes per new hire while hiring 600 new hires. The Bots enabled them to scale up in different countries with the same resources in a very short period of time.
Challenges to automation- balancing the high tech with high touch
While the automation has clear benefits for organizations, one of the challenges cited by the participants included the cost factor, especially when it comes to a country like India. The development cost of the bot is one area which the participants highlighted. Companies also struggle when it comes to measuring long term productivity of the bot. For this, companies need to understand the business case for the bot clearly and think it through end to end rather than having a piecemeal approach. Hence for bots to succeed, one needs to take a big-picture view of their implementation.
Also, another challenge that needs to be addressed is deploying a bot which provides a consumer-grade technology experience for easy adoption by the employees.
Another concern that was raised was that culturally, people like the touch and feel experience from HR. That could be a fear in the way of implementing bots in HR. However, when bots take up the heavy intensive stuff of HR, it leaves more time for HR to talk to people and engagement, on the contrary, goes up. Hence it’s important to know what part of the process you want to digitize and find the right balance between human touch and tech touch. Hence digital workers should enable human workers to do the work only humans can do.
Also, organizations need to remember that the bedrock of this shift in mindset to automation is the culture. Hence change management, training, and making employees ready to adapt automation is important for successful balancing high tech with high touch.
Lastly, we should remember that a bot is a cognitive tool. It is up to humans as to how do they want to use that tool. Innovation will come from when humans will look at the data being gathered by that tool, not from the tool itself. Hence how do we leverage those aspects of information will ultimately be driven by a human being.
(This article is based on a round table hosted in association with Automation Anywhere on 26th July in Bengaluru.)