Robotisation implementation - change management

Robotisation implementation - change management

Robert Ćwiertnia, Senior Consultant Crowe
Robotisation implementation - change management
More and more companies are deciding to implement robots into their business processes, but this requires convincing employees to the change. How to effectively manage such a process?

The progressive digital transformation of businesses, difficulties in attracting qualified employees, falling performance indicators are the daily reality for the majority of managers. Robotisation of business processes more and more often is the answer to such challenges. Implementation of automation in the area of accounting, order processing or marketing not only increases the effectiveness of particular activities, but also relieves employees from tedious and repetitive tasks. However, it is usually accompanied by some resistance among the team.

Natural resistance to change

Most of us do not like change. Regular day-to-day business activities, such as product launches and the recruitment of new employees, are often accompanied by resistance, which causes stress, delays and negatively influences the whole process. Robotic Process Automation, which entails a change of professional duties and the use of new work tools, is no exception. But how can you make change better tolerated by your team?

Many companies make the mistake of underestimating the impact of organisational changes on people. It is important for a manager to understand this process, particularly in order to prepare the team for it and dispel any doubts that may arise - says Robert Ćwiertnia, a robotisation consultant at Crowe.

Change usually has advantages as well as disadvantages. It is both an opportunity and a threat. Unfortunately, employees facing change tend to focus on its negative side.

To accelerate the process of learning how to make real changes, we need to provide the team with favourable supportive atmosphere, training opportunities and realistic goals to achieve. Compliments and autonomy to experiment and make mistakes are also extremely important - adds Robert Ćwiertnia.

One of the major concerns of employees experiencing a process of change is the belief that it is being implemented outside of them, not with them. The more the change is imposed from the top of the organisation, the greater the resistance tends to be.

Robotisation of business processes should be started together with employees who know well both the organisation and the process to be automated - says Agnieszka Omielczenko, Manager at Crowe responsible for implementing office robots for accounting.

Am I up to it?

Resistance to change implemented in companies largely stems from a sense of uncertainty and fear of the unknown. This is not the case only for regular employees, but also for executives. The person who initiates the change also faces the risk, for example, of uncertainty about his or her own competences, required in the new situation.

Those who had to work with a robot had doubts as to how to verify the correctness of the data the robot provided. The new model required switching from monitoring one's own work to controlling the robot's work" - indicates Agnieszka Omielczenko from Crowe.

When it comes to acquiring new competences, a curve effect of experience also comes into account when carrying out the process of change implementation. Throughout this process, employees need help and support. This is partly related to creating an atmosphere of trust, partly to providing training to develop new skills.

More work to be done?

Maintaining the status quo in a company may seem exhausting, but a change requires even more effort and time. And that's a sufficient reason to create resistance.

When implementing robotisation, one of the main concerns was the fear that there would be more responsibilities and the need for overtime work due to extra analytical tasks. Therefore, a process like this should be carefully planned so as not to burden people with extra work. Initially, in our area, there was one person dedicated to this task, supported by the IT department in technical matters, and then the team grew with other employees who became interested in RPA during the implementation - says Agnieszka Omielczenko from Crowe.

To make it easier for employees to go through the process of change implementation, it is worth to do it gradually. It may also be a good idea to keep some of the existing procedures, which are familiar to the team.

At the very beginning, it was important to present the benefits of automation, without the need to take extra effort from operational staff. And it worked well - highlights Agnieszka Omielczenko, who has already implemented several dozen robots automating accounting processes.

Having all parties involved in the process understand the nature of the changes to be introduced, will help you to be better prepared to deal with any problems that may arise. It will also help transform opponents of a change into its supporters.

Honest, clear communication was important from the very start of RPA implementation. The involvement of executives played a major role here, as they informed employees about the assumptions and objectives of RPA implementation in the organisation and what the process would mean for them. Moreover, the team received educational materials concerning robotisation - says Agnieszka Omielczenko.

Getting the whole team involved in the process, discussing concerns together, looking for solutions and brainstorming not only helps to get used to a change, but also encourages employees to come up with new ideas and improvements.

Today, people from the team come up with ideas for automating subsequent processes. We analyse each of them together and check whether in a given case such automation is possible and economically justified - emphasises Agnieszka Omielczenko from Crowe.

Positive examples have a motivating effect on the rest of the team.

After the first two robotised processes, the employees became convinced that it works and brings benefits, also to them. So, they wanted to keep participating - adds Agnieszka Omielczenko.

Key concerns about robotisation

According to an OECD[1] report, 14% of all professions have a very high risk of being automated in the next few years, while one in three has a 50% chance of being automated. By 2030, 6 out of 10 jobs will be one-third automated, as McKinsey Global[2] indicates.

Technological progress is changing the list of professions. The importance of some specialisations is decreasing, but they are being replaced by new ones. The specificity of work is also evolving, e.g., in many different industries digital competences are becoming more and more important - says Robert Ćwiertnia from Crowe.

It seems that the loss of work is one of the main concerns related to the implementation of process automation. Agnieszka Omielczenko from Crowe also draws attention to this issue - The first impression of the team was that we want to replace people with robots. That is why we emphasised in our communication from the very beginning that the purpose of RPA implementation is different.

Robert Ćwiertnia indicates that a lot of company reorganisation processes are accompanied by the same objection - all actions are undertaken in order to dismiss someone. That is why communication is so important, as well as presenting the benefits for organisation and for a team also, e.g., relief from tedious duties or elimination of errors.

Share the change

The feeling of being part of the project increases wellbeing and reduces objections. The team opens up to changes and actively participates in them. Agnieszka Omielczenko from Crowe also underlines this - After a few months from the start of robotisation, our employees became more and more interested in how these robots worked, what their full potential was and where they could be used.

As the digital transformation of business continues, more and more managers and employees will be confronted with the challenges to change the current way of working and managing their teams. Robotisation is already becoming an integral part of business, but in order to fully benefit from its implementation, you cannot forget to involve your team in such a process, from the earliest stage. And one should not forget that resistance is an integral part of any change, but if it is well managed, it will significantly reduce or even eliminate the problems.  

[1] What happened to jobs at high risk of automation? OECD, 01.2021

[2] Jobs lost, jobs gained: Workforce transitions in a time of automation, 12.2017

Business process robotization