How to keep your employees on-side when adopting RPA

When done correctly, RPA and employee happiness go hand in hand. Use these tips to ensure a positive reaction from your staff:


With RPA being the fastest-growing enterprise software category and with Deloitte confidently predicting that 72% of businesses will be leveraging digital workers within two years, we can safely say that the business world is wide awake to the potential of process automation. 

As a business owner, the benefits are clear: lower costs, higher throughput and improved efficiency, not to mention a more engaged workforce. But for the employee, the adoption of automation tools can look like an admonishment or – even worse – an indirect ticket to the job centre. 

All of that is nonsense, of course. The lingering and harmful idea that robots are coming for our jobs is thankfully beginning to fade, but the introduction of shiny new digital workers to a process that has always been completed manually in the past can undoubtedly be irksome to employees, and unhappy employees are not good for business. 

Based on our experience, there are several things you can do to increase employee buy-in when it comes to automation. Get these right from the beginning and you maximise your chances of a successful implementation – and the potential for further growth in the future:

1. Communicate

Make it clear to your employees from the beginning that the goal of your RPA initiative is not to replace human workers with digital ones – it is to reduce repetitive tasks and to free people up to do more creative, higher-value work. Emphasise the hugely positive aspects of automation and do not indulge fear-mongering. As the project gets underway continue to reinforce the vision, explain how job roles will expand, and ensure maximum transparency so that workers can check on progress and be invested in the outcome. 

2. Involve employees

In the classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, author Dale Carnegie explains that a powerful way to improve your relationships with other people is to ‘make them feel important’. As business leaders, one of our key challenges is making sure that our employees feel valued. RPA challenges our employees’ feeling of importance because they most likely don’t have the skills to understand or make use of it. We solve this problem and assuage insecurities by setting up training and investing in tools that allow them to develop an understanding of automation and improve their own skills in the process. Also, involving employees from the beginning, and sharing your successes as well as your failures, will make people feel more invested. A bonus is that your more engaged employees will begin to propose areas and opportunities for improvement, which can feed nicely into your development roadmap – something we will cover later. 

3. Humanise your bots

Think about automation from the perspective of your employees: it’s strange, it’s alien, and it may or may not be friendly. By humanising your digital workers – giving them a name or an avatar, for instance – you create a host of characters that are tangible and relatable. You could have ‘Sarah the HR bot’, or ‘Ivan the invoicer’, for example. Don’t laugh – adding personalisation has been shown to be one of the most powerful ways to increase positive perception and ease our inherent fear of the unknown. 

4. Have a clear roadmap

RPA projects sometimes fail because there is no clear roadmap for the future. Picture this scenario: an enthusiastic rollout, the automation of several processes, and then… nothing. There have been many businesses that have adopted RPA for small tasks but failed to execute enterprise-wide deployment. The main reason, in my opinion, is a lack of communication with those on the ground floor. Your human workers are both your biggest asset and the greatest wellspring of ideas to further your business. By involving them at every stage in the process – by crafting their ideas into an RPA roadmap that you continue to work on – you create a holistic and self-sustaining relationship between man and machine. 

Welcome, robots

According to recent surveys, 75% of employees believe that RPA will improve their performance, reduce errors, increase revenue and improve the customer experience. With between 50% and 75% of workers saying they spend half of their day doing repetitive and frustrating tasks, the robot invasion may not be a bad thing after all.

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