Perspectives

Robotic Process Automation HR: Are bots the new super power for the workforce?

Talent's transformation with intelligent automation

This "4th Industrial Revolution" brings with it advancements in emerging technologies, from robotic process automation (RPA) and chatbots, to more sophisticated technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These highly innovative, incredibly powerful technologies are opening up new business opportunities by streamlining processes and tasks previously performed manually by humans.

Every super hero seems to have a “special power.” For the workforce of the future, could that power be bots?

Considerable investment has been put into emerging technologies, demonstrating how fast moving and significant they are becoming. One study suggests that investment in robotics will double by 2020, growing from $91.5 billion in 2016 to more than $188 billion. We're also seeing greater usage across business lines. Of the 250 "cognitively aware" organizations (early adopters) surveyed in the 2017 Deloitte State of Cognitive Survey, "59 percent are exploring mature cognitive technologies such as RPA."

While the HR function has shown strong interest in some of these technologies, with a number of early adopters, Deloitte's 2017 Human Capital Trends report found that only 17 percent of global HR executives are ready to manage a workforce with people, robots, and AI working side by side. Embracing this new way of working may seem daunting. But the benefits can be significant.

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Adapting to “robotic” powers in the workforce

For HR organizations, RPA is a good first step. This robotic technology automates manual, rules-based, and repetitive activities, and it can be implemented via a desktop or in a virtual environment. With RPA, the bots–or software–can gather and collate information, analyze and record data, communicate with users, even anticipate outcomes–interacting with applications just as humans would.

RPA gives HR organizations the capacity to do more with less, and it can help HR move toward an augmented workforce and build capabilities required to manage other "smart" technologies.

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Of the 250 “cognitively aware” organizations surveyed in the 2017 Deloitte State of Cognitive Survey, “59 percent are exploring mature cognitive technologies such as RPA.

Can RPA save the day?

RPA has the potential to transform HR if it's deployed strategically and managed with effective governance processes. By implementing RPA technology, the HR function can reduce some of, if not most, of the repetitive tasks that often consume time from full-time equivalents (FTEs), which can lead to meaningful savings. In fact, we found that almost half of Global Shared Services executives believe RPA will deliver 10 to 20 percent of savings to their respective businesses.

RPA benefits include:

  • Cost reduction
  • Internal control
  • Short payback period
  • Refocuses highly skilled people
  • Capability & scalability
  • 24/7 operations
  • Operational speed
  • Quality

RPA can have a substantial impact on an HR organization. And yes, it can "save the day," freeing hours of HR employees' time and finding a way to rise above the grind to deliver a faster, better service to the business.

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Activating RPA’s full power

Leading organizations that recognize that the workforce is changing and are open to "new talent"–augmented by technologies–may well be ready to activate an RPA mission.

To complement the benefits of RPA, organizations may wish to utilize other smart technologies, such as self-service platforms like Deloitte's ConnectMe™, a digital workplace product that can help the workforce access what they need, when and where they need it. These solutions can create a better experience for employees on the front end, while RPA automates work on the back end. This dual approach will likely create efficiencies for the organization and better prepare it for the future of work.

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Another win-win partnership

Much has been written about "bots taking over," resulting in massive workforce reductions. We don't think that will be the case. In fact, our recent Cognitive Survey found that, of all the potential benefits of cognitive technologies, reducing headcount came in at the bottom of the list. People want cognitive for things like business improvements, enhancing existing technologies/processes, helping humans make better decisions, and reducing tedious tasks—not to replace their human workforce.

And the vast majority of HR executives surveyed in our 2017 Human Capital Trends report–77 percent–expect to retrain or redeploy the human talent displaced by new forms of automation.

At the end of the day, both bots and humans–working hand in hand–can form a partnership that benefits employees and their employers. As the RPA market matures, the interest in other emerging technologies will grow. And the interplay of these technologies will lead to fundamental changes in how businesses operate, enhancing their capacity to deliver exceptional goods and services to customers. Bots and humans, together, may well become the new super heroes of the workplace.

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Bots and humans, together, may well become the new super heroes of the workplace.

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