The changes in workplace dynamics in the past few years have been dizzying.
Shifts in where employees spend their workdays, what they prioritize when looking for a job, and increased competition for talent have made maintaining a strong workforce tougher than ever. Partners and customers at FORWARD 5 brought up these points repeatedly.
“Future proofing” a workforce involves putting structures in place that keep employees motivated and happy, and allow them to broaden their skill sets. This doesn’t look the same everywhere—companies need to think about how to do this based on their unique industry and marketplace dynamics.
Sarah Parker, Vice President (VP) of Customer Success at UiPath, sat down with an all-star panel of executives from various industries to discuss how they’ve achieved success through:
Optimized change management programs
Innovative operating models
Commitment from both the C-suite and employees
The panelists weren’t selected at random—each was chosen specifically due to the wide-ranging impacts of their automation programs. Parker asked each how they implemented future proofing strategies based on the unique traits of their companies.
Dupe Witherick, Head of Automation at J.P. Morgan, mentioned that the bank is always thinking about how to retain people, especially during difficult hiring environments like today’s. They offer courses to help workers continue upskilling and grow their careers within J.P. Morgan.
Every bank has lots of manual processes, but since J.P. Morgan is one of the world’s biggest, the challenge of dealing with all those processes is immense. Witherick highlighted that process mining is a key focus to understand these manual tasks, and eventually automate them.
Ultimately, reducing the manual workload and adding skills to employees’ toolbelts is key to future proofing at J.P. Morgan. “We’re really keen to upskill people, train people, for me that’s what future proofing your workforce is all about.”
For Monterio Woodson, Assistant Vice President (AVP) of Intelligent Automation at Cox Enterprises, a strong base of long-tenured employees provides a nice foundation for a future proof workforce. Adding automation has helped remove mundane tasks from employee workloads, giving people time to “grow not only their skills, but their opportunities within the company.” Woodson explained that those skills could be technical or managerial, and broaden employees’ horizons.
Gautam Oza, VP, Head of Process Transformation and Intelligent Automation at Wells Fargo, saw the biggest automation benefits within Wells Fargo’s contact centers. Contact centers typically have a lot of employee churn, and reducing new employee training time has been a key focus for the automation team.
Oza explained that, by teaching employees how to use automation instead of needing to memorize hundreds of pages of prompts, employee onboarding has been significantly streamlined. So far, “it’s working out really nice for us.”
It’s no secret that happy, engaged employees are less likely to jump ship if a different opportunity arises.
There are many ways to increase engagement, including offering strong training programs and acting on employee feedback. These strategies have been known for a while, but have their limitations.
These trailblazers found that prioritizing investments in the right kinds of automation can add a big boost to worker satisfaction.
The leadership team at Cox has prioritized evangelism around intelligent automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and citizen development. As workers are trained in how to use automation to help themselves at work, they’ll often spread the word around the company, allowing a culture of automation to spread in a grassroots manner.
Some employees at Cox initially had reservations that robots might take their jobs, and were hesitant to fully embrace automation. But as more and more citizen developers created robots that made their jobs easier, those concerns decreased. Citizen developers were champions for the many ways in which robots could help them.
Witherick shared that, because J.P. Morgan operates in many different regions and lines of business, its IT department has a never-ending backlog of items to address. With the help of a digital workforce, the bank has been able to significantly reduce the backlog. Automations are designed to incorporate what robots do vs. humans and build in any necessary control points required by people.
Parker summed up the benefits of citizen development, saying:
There is an intrinsic link between evangelism and citizen development. One of the things we’ve heard as an unintended benefit of citizen development is, when you unleash the power to automate with everyday business users, they develop a much more intimate understanding of ‘what could they automate’ in their organization.
Sarah Parker, VP, Customer Success, UiPath
Embracing automation for the first time can be intimidating, and it helps to know what “good” looks like before getting started. What are the right metrics to focus on? How do companies know whether their programs are on track, or if they have to change course?
For Oza and Wells Fargo, “the ground on which most of these [automation] programs are established is, what are the direct savings from cost avoidance [and] cost efficiency.” Oza also mentioned that Wells Fargo has seen the dual benefit of cost savings along with better employee engagement.
The bank currently has tens of thousands of bots running, processing over 100,000 hours per month.
The reason we think it is future proofing our workforce is how the employees and team members [...] are much more happy, engaged. My employee engagement as well as customer experience is on the uptick because things are acting out fast.
Gautam Oza, VP, Head of Process Transformation and Intelligent Automation, Wells Fargo
At Cox, Woodson focused on freeing up employee time for more value-added tasks and training. Before automation became widespread at Cox, employees struggled to find time in their calendars for training and career development.
Since unleashing automation, “our program has generated over 13 million transactions across our enterprise. We’ve returned over 1 million hours back to the business.” Cox employees now have more bandwidth to level up their skill sets and do more within their roles.
When embracing new technologies, sometimes hard lessons need to be learned on the way to success.
While employees find automation helpful in the long run, challenges can arise during the adjustment period.
According to Witherick, “it’s never plain sailing.” To get buy-in from J.P. Morgan employees, she needed to patiently listen to their concerns about robots. Demonstrating specific ways in which bots can help them with their jobs, without replacing them, was key. Other panelists echoed this point as well.
Getting aligned with vendor partners was a lesson that Woodson has learned from his years of working with automation. Especially for companies that work with a lot of outside partners, getting their buy-in on automation is essential for ensuring that robots work smoothly day after day.
Future proofing a workforce doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not always easy. But there are key themes to keep in mind when embarking on the journey:
Involve employees in the process—listen to their concerns and feedback, and enable them to create their own robots with citizen development
Establish clear guidelines for which processes have high automation potential
Put structures in place so that employees can learn new skills with the time they’ve saved from robots taking over their mundane tasks
Enthusiasm for automation among employees and leaders is strong. As Witherick heard from one senior executive at J.P. Morgan, “everyone is talking about it.”
Automation won’t future proof your workforce by itself, but when managed well and combined with other pro-employee initiatives, it will help your company get there.
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