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Aug 14, 2019Company & Culture

Digital Workers: The New Imaginary Friends for Grown-Up Employees at World Class Companies

By: Cay Gliebe
The New Imaginary Friends for Grown-Up Employees

By Cay Gliebe, SVP of Marketing and Product Management, OneSource Virtual

Part 2, in a 3-Part Series on the Impact of Robotic Process Automation

This is the second in a series of articles about people, the workplace of tomorrow, and the impact that robots, robotic automation and the digital worker can have on our lives.

Let’s face it; continuous workplace overload is a buzz-kill for employees over the long haul, particularly if the task at hand is NOT fun. Motivated, well-led workers will pull extra hours to achieve some important or desirable goal – say, to land a new contract, meet a key project or event deadline, etc. – that’s usually not a problem. These finite tasks have known timetables and an end in sight, bring satisfying group alignment, and often lead to a sense of pride and contribution.

The PROBLEM of burnt-out workers (read: at risk to leave workers) comes from the disenfranchisement employees feel when they continuously execute and foresee seemingly unlimited work volumes on boring, repetitive tasks. Tasks that they feel are monotonous versus interesting, demotivating versus challenging, and unrewarding versus valued, chip away at employee satisfaction, personal performance and organizational success. Workers’ desires and priorities are many and complex, but the list includes working smarter: not longer, and certainly not longer on repetitive, unsatisfying tasks!

The PROBLEM of organizational unknowns, both positive and negative, can flummox even the best-run companies: industry mandates change, tax laws fluctuate, competitive actions ebb and flow and a long list of what-ifs make it hard to match workplace demands to employee availability.

So what’s a smart and tech-savvy company to do? Part of the solution is robotic process automation – and specifically digital workers.

Digital Workers as the Imaginary (But Real!) Work Day Friend

In Part 1 of this series, “The Impact of Robotic Process Automation on the Human Workforce,” I addressed some of the common misconceptions people have about digital workers and outlined their best use cases from a work day and people-management vantage point. I proposed that “putting the fun” back in work days is a good thing both for employees and business success.

But how do we get jobs to “fun” or at least satisfying?

By offering Robotic Process as a Service (RPaaS), OneSource Virtual is introducing and facilitating a new way for both employees and management to re-imagine the composition and activities assigned to its workforce. While we might feel guilty in admitting it, wouldn’t we all love it if “someone” magically appeared (visible or invisible) to ease our burdens? Would do without question what WE don’t want to do? And neither complains about it, nor leaves us feeling guilty for not doing it ourselves?

This is where digital workers – as qualified work day assistants -- can become that best imaginary friend of their human worker counterpart!

Consider this: the twin goals of employee satisfaction and business growth result from bridging employees’ perceptions that their work day activities are contributing to an overarching shared purpose; one that compels workers to bring their best selves to the work they do. To achieve this balance, world-class organizations have always applied well-established tenets of organizational effectiveness and keen leadership. And today, the technologies that companies can deploy to support these initiatives are nothing short of organizationally game-changing.

Digital workers may not be something people can touch and feel, but like childhood imaginary friends, digital workers can and do play a very real role in alleviating workforce stressors.

Envisioning “the New Order” of Best in Class Companies through RPA

RPA is without question a workforce game-changer with far reaching benefits. Today’s best-in-class companies are recognizing that there is a significant, fast and quantifiable payback to adopting RPA. According to Deloitte, measurable results are achieved in under a year with improved compliance (92%), improved quality/accuracy (90%), improved productivity (86%) and reduced costs (59%).

Still, I think it’s important to recognize that as beneficial as digital workers can be, they have their limitations. While these lists below could easily be broadened to far more, here are 5 quick benefits and 5 limitations for you to consider when envisioning “the new order” for best of class companies adopting RPA/RPaaS:

5 Digital Worker (RPaaS) Benefits:

  1. Provides fast easy way to eliminate repetitive tasks performed by people
  2. Facilitates a no-mistake audit trail for compliance needs
  3. Smooths out cycles of unpredictable volume work
  4. Broadens the opportunity spectrum for human innovation
  5. Takes the pressure off over-burdened human worker resources

5 Digital Worker (RPaaS) Limitations:

  1. Digital workers are not a panacea for workforce issues caused by poor people management
  2. Robots can’t create human worker growth opportunities; they create the opportunity to re-purpose workers’ time
  3. Like people workers, digital workers can only be as successful as the direction they are given; meaning that bad direction (guidelines or programming) leads to mistakes
  4. Digital workers (even when infused with artificial intelligence) have limited decision-making capabilities – they are not a replacement for leadership
  5. RPaaS technology is a means to an end; and needs to be part of a larger strategy of integrated technology, strategic management and workforce optimization

While there are many characteristics of what define a world class company, three traits in particular are continually cited, even in the most rudimentary books/articles: a focus on continuous improvements, adapting to change and appreciating/motivating employees. It’s this last one that can be the most challenging for companies to achieve. Part of the answer lies in availing employees to purposeful work that simultaneously contributes to employees’ self-esteem and motivation, which in turn seeds the promise of an organization’s success and longevity. It’s not imaginary that digital workers can help to create such conditions in your workplace.