The times they are a-changin’. If there’s any guarantee in business these days it’s that today’s technology will look very different tomorrow. If you’ve been working for a while, you may remember when off-shoring and outsourcing became buzzwords and then common language as companies took advantage of cheaper labor costs overseas and elsewhere. Before that, with the rise of the personal computer and rapid advancement in software technology, people feared losing their jobs to computers.
As with any change, adjusting to these large shifts can be scary. But history proves time and again that the best course is to go with the tide rather than against it, and focus your energy on learning how your value can change or how best to take advantage of new opportunities. The truth is, when we can build a machine to do something previously performed by a human, this frees up people (by far our most valuable resource) to do something better. Technology actually generates new jobs, even as others are eliminated.
The latest shift in this area is Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Currently a buzzword and perhaps one day a common term, RPA is gaining momentum as a viable alternative to off-shoring or outsourcing. Here’s a quick definition fromAutomationAnywhere.com: “RPA software has often been referred to as ‘macros on steroids.’ It records actions a human takes to complete a computer-based task, and then replicates those actions as many times as necessary and at a very rapid rate.” Implemented effectively, RPA can save companies time and money and, as with all automated work, streamline operations and minimize chances for human error. So, here we are again, we can fear the change and worry about being replaced by RPA, or we can embrace the new technology and learn how to prepare for what’s coming.
“To be sure, technological progress has always displaced workers. But it also has created new opportunities for human employment, at an even a faster rate.” – William H. Davidow and Michael S. Malone, Harvard Business Review
Let’s address two main questions: how will this trend impact company culture and how can executives and employees prepare for tomorrow as jobs are replaced and new opportunities come to light.
First, the impact to company culture. An adaptable learning culture that plans for these types of transformations can not only help ease the transition, it can also help your company and employees to reap the benefits of new opportunities—and be happier along the way. As the linked blog above says, the main tenets of implementing a strong learning culture are to have the right attitude, spend your time and money in the right places, and then simply make it happen rather than giving it lip service. A positive learning culture will help the business and the individual evolve as RPA automates more back-office processes—and create a foundation for the next change down the road.
Second, how to prepare. Companies need to (1) educate their employees on Robotic Process Automation and its benefits, (2) identify the timeline for implementation, and (3) shift their workers to the new evolving technologies. With the Internet of Things, big data analytics, 3D printing, and other new technologies, millions of new jobs are being created. It’s important that employees are educated not only on what’s coming, but what it means to them and why it’s not a change to fear.
Find out what your company is doing to prepare for this trend. Are there plans in the works or could you be an agent of change to get things moving? Enroll into new knowledge courses to learn the skills that will be needed when certain positions are freed up and energy can be focused elsewhere. New investments in newer technologies are inevitable and these new technologies need people to understand and manage them. Consider what you may want to learn and be willing to try something new. When software “bots” begin to automate many back-office processes allowing companies to invest in new and innovative ways to grow their business, have your eyes and ears open and be one of the people heading into new territory with a positive attitude.
RPA ultimately benefits businesses and frees up people and money for new jobs. A few million spent on enterprise RPA may save hundreds of millions down the road. So, look for this new trend, get ahead of the game with training, and you’ll be one of the people ready for bigger things.
“And keep your eyes wide, the chance won’t come again.” – Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’
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