Susan Steele, global chief human resources (HR) officer for Cision, and Katherine Wetmur, international chief information officer (CIO) of Morgan Stanley, joined us at FORWARD III, the largest gathering of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) experts and practitioners. As panel participants, they discussed the change management strategies that have helped make automation successful at their companies.
At many companies, change management is reactive. New technologies pose new challenges and companies react, trying to balance the advantages of new tools against changes employees may view as uncomfortable.
Adopting automation technologies requires a different approach
Companies that want to stay competitive need to develop an ‘automation first’ mindset. Thinking automation first, however, also means developing proactive change management strategies.
Empowering the most apprehensive employees to lead RPA
The automation first vision is inspiring, but it can be abstract for day-to-day work and day-to-day stress. Unlike other technologies, RPA has the power to take over entire tasks. That can be intimidating.
At Cision, Steele overcame this fear with transparency when she “engaged the people whose roles are directly impacted through RPA and made them a part of the team that’s actually leading.”
Building a team of leaders with people who will be most affected by automation gave Cision a group of powerful evangelists.
“Suddenly, a lot of the change management challenges we thought we might have had vanished.”
Her team transformed anxiety into excitement. They could then distribute that feeling throughout the organization.
As employees start to feel empowered by software robots, they begin to identify automation use cases in their normal workflows. With a robotic center of excellence (CoE) to guide employees, robots can be useful to employees without being intimidating.
Wetmur said that the responsibility of a CoE shouldn’t be to “implement everything.” Instead, “they should be the ones who put the guardrails around automation.”
By overseeing change management, risk management, and policy challenges, your CoE can “make it easy for other people to implement what they need and enable wider parts of the organization to handle implementation.”
A critical factor of success, according to Wetmur, is showing employees “their path forward after they finish an automation” and “the next thing they are able to take on” because of it.
Empowering employees isn’t a one-time event. Effective change management requires that organizations close the loop, showing employees where to start, who to ask for help, and how to stay involved.
Ideally, some of those empowered employees also begin to champion automation within their own departments. Watch our on-demand webinar Uncovering Automation Champions with Automation Hub to help identify the champions in your organization.
Connecting automation to a history of technological change
At Morgan Stanley, technology has always been essential to business success. “What’s really happening at Morgan Stanley,” Wetmur said, “is that we’re continuously transforming and leveraging technology more.” She emphasized that software robots aren’t the be-all and end-all; they’re part of the “technology toolkit.”
Automation, as transformative as it might be, should clearly align with your business objectives. As such, a thorough examination of your processes has to precede the introduction of new technologies. Instead of one-offs such as automating individual tasks, reengineering entire processes often proves more beneficial.
The more you can streamline a process before introducing robots, the better the automated process will be. “Sometimes it slows you down,” Wetmur said, “but the outcome you get is much better.”
With tools like UiPath Task Mining, picking the best processes doesn’t have to rely on a hunch or a time-consuming study. Instead, Task Mining enables you to make decisions informed by data and ensure your automation program starts on a solid foundation.
Preparing change management strategies for the next generation of workers
With programs like UiPath Academic Alliance, as the next generation joins the workforce, they’ll expect to use software robots.
Related read: How Schools Are Enabling a Robot for Every Student
Your current employees deserve that same privilege, though it will require them to learn a thing or two. That additional training is often called upskilling.
Companies like Amazon are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in upskilling.
Wetmur said this upskilling must go beyond offering employees a fancy new tool.
You need to train employees on how to use the technology. You need to make them think about the business problem they’re trying to solve and the capabilities that are out there. They have to think bigger and think deeply about what they can use technology to solve for them.
– Katherine Wetmur, International CIO, Morgan Stanley
To take full advantage of automation, companies must upskill even those in charge of upskilling.
According to Steele, every company should be asking: “Are the HR functions ready to help lead this change and help ensure it goes smoothly?” Mostly, no. Not yet.
A Willis Tower Watson survey shows 86% of HR teams haven’t identified ways to upskill employees whose roles are affected by automation. As Steele said, “there’s still a lot more work to be done to prepare the people side.”
With RPA, HR professionals have the time to do this work.
Software robots can take over the repetitive tasks that can distract HR professionals from the creative, human-centered work they’d rather be doing. Processing sick leave and vacation time requests, submitting expense and reimbursement reports, and onboarding and offboarding employees are all ideal use cases for software robots.
Freed from those tasks, HR professionals can spend more time interacting with employees as well as developing—and participating in—upskilling programs that enable thriving, automation first companies.
Internal partnerships are the bedrock of change management
Automation first organizations need change management strategies that match the scale of their automation strategies. That means forming partnerships up and down your organization.
Steele emphasized that developing your automation vision depends foremost on developing “new partnerships.” When you’re managing change, the one thing that should remain stable is your commitment to working with your colleagues.
Speaking about her organization’s CIO in particular, Steele said: “We’re now best friends and joined at the hip. I don’t see that changing any time soon.”
These are the kinds of tight partnerships that make change possible. As you adopt RPA and evolve into an automation first company, your relationships will be an important determinant of your success.
Did you miss hearing from industry leaders like Cision, Morgan Stanley, and Blue Cross Blue Shield at FORWARD III? Get our free event pack to see how the world’s top companies are building change management strategies with automation in mind.