The Impact of RPA on Employee Engagement, a Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership Paper


Many companies bet on robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline the interaction with their customers, but clients aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this technological revolution. The human workforce itself benefits from the most considerable advantages of RPA. Rather than fulfilling stereotypes as job-eliminators, software robots are increasingly becoming reliable and appreciated coworkers for employees globally.

In hoping to prove this, we recently commissioned a study through Forrester Consulting to investigate the impact of RPA on employee engagement and experience. Forrester conducted eight interviews and gathered data from a survey of 100 decision-makers from core business lines.

The results were encouraging. In the survey, 66% said RPA restructures existing work, enabling employees to have more human interactions, and 60% said RPA helps employees focus on more meaningful, strategic tasks.

Employee experience becomes a top priority as RPA marches on across organizations

There is a long list of compelling reasons for RPA adoption: to optimize costs, to achieve higher accuracy, to improve cycle times, to increase compliance, and more. Some enterprises are also adopting automation software to bring down employee headcount and numbers, but that’s precisely the wrong reason to be implementing RPA.

Better customer service is one of the top three benefits that 85% of surveyed firms expect to achieve through RPA. It’s generally thought that customer satisfaction is about ensuring that the customer has what they want. In contradiction to the traditional “customer first” mantra, successful automation and cutting-edge customer services are even more fundamentally about employee experience. With overstretched and unfulfilled employees working in an unengaging environment, it’s nearly impossible to achieve or maintain satisfied customers.

Psychological barriers hold back the potential of RPA

It’s tempting to focus on the alarmist headlines that automation reduces headcount or results in everybody losing their jobs, but that’s when fear settles in. Fear builds up the emotional resistance of people and can potentially kill an RPA initiative. Of the firms surveyed, 82% emphasized change management as a challenge, especially when it comes to cultural issues.

Obviously we cannot expect such transformations to come easily, but with well designed change management programs, good training, communication and collaboration, leaders can maximize the positive psychological impact of RPA. (Ask the experts during  the next UiPath and Forrester  Webinar

The truth is that automation is going to help employees be effective in what they do. People are most productive and happy when they equip themselves with the tools to take their work into their own hands. It’s in the hands of every manager in every company to help make the bold vision of an engaged workforce a reality and exploit RPA’s full potential.

Capitalize on the transformative potential of RPA by keeping your employees engaged and happy

More than half of surveyed firms report improved employee engagement as a benefit of RPA. Other benefits include increased efficiency (86%), deeper insights into customers (67%), and improved customer service (57%). Organizations are finding that once they put in RPA, the value of their employees is much higher than they thought it was.

The way I describe it is, just because people are doing monkey jobs doesn’t mean they are monkeys. So, what tends to happen is they [the companies] put in RPA and it spreads very fast. Then they find that, actually, their employees are doing much more effective jobs. If employees can remove the ‘busy’ work and they can focus on what they believe is most important, they’ll knock the ball out of the park.

One robot for every person

The reason that the private equity and venture capital organizations are getting so excited about the RPA market is that automation is applicable across all industries, all geographies, and all service lines throughout industries. Indeed, the potential addressable market for automation is one robot per employee for all employees in the world.

When evaluating the potential of RPA, it’s important to consider not just the influence of RPA on individual companies. Identifying RPA as a tool for employee satisfaction underlines the general outlook of RPA’s impact on the future of work: instead of being a predictor of mass unemployment, automation is increasingly being identified as a mechanism for mass empowerment and job creation.

Let’s rewind to the start of the first industrial revolution when 98% of people worked the land. As that figure is now only 2%, does that mean that 96% of the population is unemployed? Of course not. It is now generally understood that automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will lead to net job increases as new ways and methods of working become the norm.

Any reduction in the number of people doing back-office corporate functions will be more than counterbalanced by an increase in people providing improved customer service. I ultimately believe that customer intimacy could become the only true differentiator in the future of business.

For nearly 70% of organizations, RPA is enabling employees to have more human interactions.

guy kirkwood uipath
Guy Kirkwood

(Previously) Chief Evangelist, UiPath

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