Humans And Robots Working Together
Carleen stands out as a woman leader in this largely male-dominated area. Currently covering over 100 processes globally, RPA has created a more efficient workplace and provided a significant productivity boost.
In 2018 Maitland started down the RPA journey with a single robot. Today we have three robots – Eric, Helen, and Rory: note they all have human names, a sign that we regard them as true co-workers. Our robots are now an integral part of the Maitland workforce and we have reached the stage where employees see the “bots” as a useful tool, not as competition.
Eric, Helen, and Rory mimic human actions by automating highly repetitive and rules-based processes and allowing skilled human employees to add value where it is really needed and focus on the tasks that humans do best – critical thinking, strategising and engaging with clients.
However, the journey to this point was not necessarily an easy one. We had to work hard at winning employees over to the idea of using robots and then make sure those robots were the quality co-workers the employees were happy to continue engaging with. We did this by taking the following steps:
- Marketing the use of robots: The first step was to constantly market the idea of robots as colleagues to the business. Active sponsorship from the top down cannot be underestimated. A business leader with a vision of the future with robots significantly paves the way for the rest of the business. The success of an RPA implementation depends on the very culture of the organisation itself.
- Building trust: Secondly, once employees were engaged, the only way to build trust was to prove that robots could be their trusted colleagues and were happy to take over all their menial tasks efficiently and effectively. This required a lot of problem solving and creative thinking by the RPA developers! Robots must have the ability to escalate timeously where processes do not run according to plan, such as the inability to access another system.We humanised the robots by making sure they were able to escalate in the same way a colleague would if they experienced difficulty with a process. Employees could then easily pick up these exception escalations and investigate and resolve them. Most importantly, employees should not be asked to adapt to their robot teammates. Rather, developers should design and create an RPA process that functions in the same manner as a team member would within the team, ensuring robots adapt to their human co-workers.
- Monitoring: Thirdly, ensure that you have an experienced RPA Centre of Excellence team that has zero tolerance for error and responds immediately and swiftly to any glitches. Communication with the business is key, as humans need to be able to talk to a person and not a robot to resolve issues, allowing them to have the confidence to carry on with their daily job knowing that such issues will be resolved. Interpersonal trust is important in human teams. The robot teammates must be trustworthy and reliable. Any breaches in reliability by the robots need to be investigated and resolved, and most importantly explained to their human co-workers to maintain levels of trust.
What’s next in this journey of humans and robots working together? Could employees soon be sharing their coffee break with robots? But wait, robots do not take coffee breaks. They carry on working tirelessly and accurately 24/7, leaving employees to take that coffee break and come up with the next great idea!
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