Using RPA to Reduce Brain Drain


When a valuable employee retires or leaves the organization, it can have a major impact on operations. That goes double if they’re the only person who handles a type of transaction or business process. Recovering from lost knowledge can be a slow, arduous process, but robotic process may be able to help.

Among all the wonderful things said at the Automation Innovation 2014 conference (hosted by the Institute of Robotic Process Automation) last December, the thought that RPA could help organizations reduce brain drain has stood out. Brain drain is the loss of institutional knowledge that occurs when intelligent people leave a place. One presenter noted that RPA was a consistent method of knowledge gathering and sharing. But how would that work for an organization’s benefit?


In essence, the knowledge of your employees is shared with the software robots once a business process is programmed into the computer. Of course, most high volume repeatable processes should be a matter of scripted protocol, not experiential knowledge inside someone’s head. But if there’s only one guy at the office who knows how to download all the new customer e-mails into a spreadsheet and make it look presentable, that’s the kind of unique knowledge you’d want to keep around. Or you might have a woman who does all of the ordering for office supplies, but since she started, you’ve switched vendors and now she’s the only one who really knows the system. You could require her to write a training document in the event that she leaves the organization, but now you could also ask her to automate some of her steps.

The key takeaway here is that RPA can act as a database of recorded processes for future use. Before, employees could leave behind written records of what and how they did things, but with RPA, you can actually see what they did. The whole process is laid out before you, and at least with UiPath, you can play it back anytime. Even if the process itself cannot be automated (perhaps requiring lots of value decisions), the steps could be recorded and played back for the next employee during training. You retain the knowledge and are able to pass it on as necessary, without relying on human dependability.

 We’re always excited to hear about new ways to use RPA for unforeseen benefits. What do you think of its potential to reduce brain drain?

Katie Behrens headshot
Katie Behrens

Client Service Representative, Arts People

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