Automation Technology Makes Human Resources More ‘Human’


Many companies are now realizing the significant impact robotic process automation (RPA) can have on driving efficiency and boosting the bottom line – but can it increase workplace happiness? Here we examine ways in which HR can use RPA to eliminate low-value, repetitive tasks to put the Human back into human resources, wites Nancy Hauge, Chief Human Resources Officer, Automation Anywhere

We’ve all experienced that moment-in-time in the office when you’re in a meeting, and it goes so efficiently and productively that the host says those magic words, “I’ll give you some time back.”

Doesn’t that feel like an unplanned, micro-vacation? Those extra 15 minutes can feel liberating – precious time you can apply to whatever else needs prioritizing.

That’s the value of RPA – artificially intelligent software bots that work hand-in-hand with human workers to automation the mundane, repetitive tasks they do every day. In my three decades in HR (over the course of which I have hired more than 29,000 people) never have I seen such a transformative shift in the way we work. 

Industrialization has dehumanized human workers. We once were artisans, explorers, and thinkers. Now we are human resource. However, technology also allows companies to make their approach to managing their most important asset – people – more human. 

The Future of Work is Human

While technology has always allowed us to work more efficiently, it’s often gotten in the way of human interaction. In 2005, when someone asked you the weather you would open your laptop and “Google it” on an internet browser; in 2015, you would look it up on your smartphone; and in 2019,  you just ask “Alexa.” 

The key difference? Today, with automation, you never have to break eye contact or pause human interaction. This next era of smart assistant technology places more emphasis on human relationships.

In HR, when we have technology behind us, we are empowered to focus on human care. For example, one of our customers issued 8,000 offer letters last year, and how many humans touched them? Zero. When intelligent bots give back time to human employees, to the tune of up to 30 percent a day, work is no longer based upon industrial age throughput process. It’s about relationships, not transactions.

Learn more: Worker Satisfaction Improves with Intelligent Automation and RPAOpens a new window

Don’t Be Afraid of Technology, Be Afraid of Missing Out

When people talk about the future of work, they often talk about flexible hours or open seating plans. As a society, we struggle to break the silos leftover from the industrial age.

The existential worry that comes with disruption has a long history, which means we can learn from it. There was widespread panic that the industrial revolution would disrupt America’s agriculture-based economy. It didn’t, and all economic sectors thrived. When the Solectron Typewriter was invented, everyone thought it was the death of women in the workforce because so many were employed as typists. This is not what happened. New technology freed women to pursue more meaningful careers, which in turn led to a rise in women pursuing higher education and moving into leadership roles.  When we cut the tethers to the keyboards, women thrived.

Just as with previous technological revolutions, bots in the workplace will require human adjustment. Once incorporated, though, they will unlock human potential.

What Do We Do with This Extra Time?

Every time we write a bot, we strip the camouflage from the human worker, and I can see a capability that was buried in administrative tasks.

The first HR bot we ever implemented at Automation Anywhere was designed to produce weekly headcount reports. That bot effectively gave back six hours to the employee who was generating those reports by hand. We went on to create 72 more HR-focused bots immediately.

There’s an underlying consequence to implementing bots: attracting and acquiring talent, moving forward. Do you think that employee would ever go back to producing head counts manually?

If you haven’t automated mundane, rules-based tasks, it will become nearly impossible to hire candidates looking for more digitally evolved companies. Why would anyone ever go back to analog, legacy processes?

Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine and an avowed futurist, put it best:

“Over the long term, while productivity goes to the robots, what we become involved in is creating new roles and new tasks that we want done – that we didn’t even know we wanted done – and give them to the robots. Our jobs will become creating new things for robots to do.”

While Mr. Kelly is looking ahead, at present we have technology that empowers humans to focus on what humans do best: building relationships, using creativity and strategy to improve employee morale, enhancing corporate culture and engaging with employees.

The real meaning of the Future of Work is finding new ways of helping workers be successful. People feel more successful and fulfilled when they’re able to create and ideate. And bots help create that head space for employees to do what they do best: be human.

Learn more: Combining Human and Artificial Intelligence for a More Inclusive Work EnvironmentOpens a new window