Employers can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to retaining great employees. However, certain jobs, especially routine-based jobs with few growth opportunities, have notoriously high turnover rates. Robotic process automation (RPA) technologies offer a potential solution with new opportunities for engaging and retaining talented employees through more valuable, rewarding work.
The retention challenge
A new survey from global staffing firm Robert Half shows 81 percent of employers are concerned about holding on to top talent in today’s tight employment market. Meanwhile, 57 percent of employees indicated that they do not plan to look for a new job in the next 12 months. So, are employers’ concerns overblown?
No. "In a tight employment market, workers have more options, and the grass may look greener somewhere else," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half, in a statement. "Employers can help prevent turnover by learning what motivates their most valued employees and customizing their retention strategies.”
What doesn’t motivate employees? Repetitive, micro-managed tasks. In fact, a study conducted by Forrester shows that employee engagement improves when employees are freed from repetitive and mundane tasks. While it’s natural for people to lose interest when performing the same task over and over, the same doesn’t apply to robots. Or, as Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a co-author of a report about the automation of jobs, tells CNBC, "If your job is boring and repetitive, you're probably at great risk of automation."
Let’s be clear: repetition isn’t all bad. There’s value in repeating tasks to master a new skill, for instance, but when the tasks employees are completing don’t increase creativity or productivity, it’s time to consider better alternatives.
Increasing employee engagement with automation
What RPA can do is alleviate an employee’s workload of time-consuming and repetitive tasks and allow the employee to focus on higher quality customer interactions.
For example, consider an HR manager’s work day. Repetitive and routine tasks such as sending follow-up emails, posting jobs, and entering data quickly eat up time. With the convergence of other technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, RPA solutions can take over these tasks, freeing the manager to work on activities that a bot can’t do—such as listening to and addressing employee concerns with emotional intelligence, solving unique challenges, and developing strategies to improve employee engagement and satisfaction.
Get back to being human
The reality for many people who are tasked with repetitive manual processes is that the tedium and monotony associated with these jobs makes them feel like, well, robots. Additionally, unmotivated and bored employees are more prone to making mistakes.
RPA solutions reduce human error while enabling employees to feel more human by engaging in conversations and assignments that are more complex but could also be more rewarding. For instance, instead of having a contact center associate enter information while also speaking with a customer, an RPA solution can automatically collect, upload, or sync data into with other systems for the associate to approve while focusing on forming an emotional connection with the customer.
Onboard and train more people in less time
RPA can also facilitate and streamline employee onboarding and training. An RPA tool, for instance, can pre-populate forms with the new hire’s name, address, and other key data from the resume and job application form, saving the employee time. For training, RPA can conduct and capture data from training simulations, allowing a global organization to ensure all employees receive the same information in a customized and efficient manner.
RPA is not for every department and it’s certainly not a panacea for retention and engagement problems. But by thinking carefully about the benefits that it offers to employees, RPA can transform workflows—making employees’ jobs less robotic and more rewarding.