Automation allows us to focus more on the things that really matter. Providing personal and compassionate support to our families, customers and work colleagues.

Automation anxiety

There is some concern that robots will rule the future, take our jobs, marry our partners and control our lives. The film industry has fuelled our imaginations with movies such as I-Robot, Ex Machina and the timeless Blade Runner. 

KPMG and McKinsey report that over the next 10 years, robotic processing may handle the work of 110 million to 140 million knowledge workers. These robots are not the anthropomorphic androids that you may find in a Spielberg film. Rather, they are invisible, software robots that mimic the actions of human operators.

Of course, we cannot predict the future with certainty. What we can expect, is that robotic automation will have a profound impact on the global workforce. Although this may be true,  it does not mean that robots will completely replace the people in your organisation. With an ethical approach to automation, everyone benefits. This leads to a win-win outcome for employer and employee.

RPA and CPA

Not all robots are created equal. RPA (Robotic Process Automation) focuses on the automation of repetitive, clerical tasks. It mimics the interaction between a person and a computer system. It does this by controlling a keyboard and mouse (or other input devices) in the same way as a human operator.

CPA (Cognitive Process Automation) leans more towards higher-skilled knowledge work. It uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and big data to perform complex tasks without human intervention.

RPA versus CPA

RPA and CPA are both destined to disrupt the way we work. With the right combination, you can reduce costs and build a happier and more productive workforce. And all without breaking Asimov’s three laws of robotics.

Don’t neglect face time

We should not underestimate the importance of human contact. Regardless of the organisations we represent or the roles we perform – we are all in the people business. As such, there’s no substitute for sitting together and having a face to face conversation with our customers, colleagues or business partners. It builds strong relationships, improves trust and promotes the idea of a common goal.

With this in mind, we can use robotic automation to free up some of our admin time. We can then spend longer with our work colleagues and hopefully our families too. For example, there are studies to show that doctors spend only 55% of their time with patients. If automation can handle some of their administration duties, doctors will have more time to focus on their patients. They bill more, they learn more and we’re all a little healthier into the bargain.

Similar opportunities exist in most other professions and organisations. Choosing a candidate process for automation and conducting a small proof of concept is a great way to start. Once your people understand how it works, they will be able to identify other areas where automation can help.

Putting people first

The Toyota Production System (TPS) states that machines are always subordinate to people. In Japanese, ‘jidoka’ simply means automation. However, at Toyota it means ‘automation with a human touch’. This is a small and very important distinction. It doesn’t have to be an either/or decision between software robots and your employees. You can have the best of both worlds with a little planning and preparation. Key points to think about are:

  • How can people utilise additional time that an automation process creates?
  • Are there new roles that people can be assigned to? What training and support will they require?
  • Work with your staff to understand their pain points and how automation can help to address them.
  • Some of your staff may be interested in early retirement or working fewer hours each week. Could this approach work for you?
  • As natural attrition occurs, think about filling the gaps with existing staff and automated processes rather than taking on new employees.

Moreover, robotics will also create new roles and demand a different skill set to create and maintain your automated systems. It can make our lives easier and remove some of the boring but important tasks that we perform on a daily basis. As a result, this leaves us to focus more on the things that really matter. Providing personal and compassionate support to our families, customers and work colleagues.