In my previous article I wrote about the commoditisation of labour and the differentiation journey of human labourers. In any operational approach it is important to make a clear distinction between labour and labourers, in other words the work and the employees that are doing the work. Does it matter who does the work, a human or a robot? Or should a company focus on how the work is done most efficiently and effectively? With a hybrid workforce organisations are able to lift their operations to a next level and increase their competitive edge.
How to build a human-machine collaboration
Humans and robots can work together seamlessly as long as it is clear how both are dedicated to the highest added value. Embracing forms of automation, like RPA and artificial intelligence, means thinking through what tasks can and cannot be done by robots and, in relation to that, how to redeploy employees in a way they can contribute to an overall better operational performance.
There are a few questions to take into account: which jobs will be retained? How will you make retained jobs more empowered and interesting to carry out? How about human-machine interaction; how are human workers supposed to interact with their virtual colleagues?
Adressing capacity limits with automation
RPA powers businesses to become much more agile, since software robots are not restricted by capacity limits. Because automation unleashes the ability to scale up or down effortlessly, it helps them to cope with fluctuating demands for example. With machine learning as the intelligent add-on, robots are able to learn from data patterns and prior decisions, enabling the bots to make decisions on their own and perform a scalable number of repetitive tasks around the clock. A great way to augment the human employees; the impressing amount of their time that will be freed enables them to focus on things like better customer service, dealing with more complex exceptions and creative thinking.
Good governance for successful automation
When managing a hybrid workforce – a human-machine collaboration – a holistic governance framework needs to be in place. Take the monitoring of absence for instance. If five employees do not show up for work, that does not go unnoticed. However, if twenty robots cannot perform their tasks because they cannot log on to a system, it may take a few days before it is discovered. This is just one reason for good governance over the hybrid workforce. Re-skilling is another. How are you going to make sure that the employees fill their freed time with added value work?
Automation and the job count
Let’s consider a best practise. Since 2015 intelligent automation expert Another Monday has been working closely with Deutsche Telecom. This telco company provides over 100,000 employees in Germany with work. You can imagine the number of processes running every day. Not only customer service employees but also the technical crew had to deal with inefficient, time-consuming processes. The administrative tasks during a customer visit were overwhelming, at the expense of good customer interaction. These two companies joining forces resulted in seamless processes and streamlined operations through automation. This successful partnership built on trust has developed into a hybrid workforce, augmenting the employees by integrating over 1500 bots – or multi-skilled frontend assistants as they like to call them – into the workforce.
Meanwhile already 20 processes have been automated, which equals the work of 30 full time employees. Did the robots deprive the human employees of their job? Certainly not. Out of the approximately 40 programme participants, about 30 employees developed from agent into RPA Digitalizer and 10 employees developed into Business Analysts. Also new jobs came into life, like squadleaders, coordination managers, development roles, and operational support. This success has led to adding another 19 processes on this year’s automation roadmap.
A hybrid workforce works
The case above is just one example, there are many more. Think of seasonal peaks, like Christmas in the retail and e-commerce sector or flu season in healthcare. People need to be onboarded and trained for a fairly short period of time. Take some robots to do the boing stuff and provide your current workforce with the time and re-training to handle the added value jobs, even in peak times. A hybrid workforce works. Together, human and robots will become a lot more productive and creative!