Human vs. Digital – Why the Hybrid Workforce is the Future


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Friday, January 8, 2021

With the rise of intelligent automation tools like robotic process automation (RPA), much of the conversation about the future of work centers around how digital workers might displace the human workforce, making many roles redundant and leading to large skills gaps.

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Human vs. Digital – Why the Hybrid Workforce is the Future
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While there will undoubtedly be some reskilling needed as we move toward a more digitized workplace, this kind of discourse fails to see the wood for the trees. That’s because the true value of automatic process optimization can only be unlocked with a hybrid approach—one that brings human and digital workers together in a process of combinatorial innovation. In order to highlight the benefits of a hybrid workforce, let’s first break down RPA.

Robotic process automation

RPA is a form of business process automation technology based on metaphorical software robots or on artificial intelligence/digital workers. It’s sometimes referred to as software robotics.

RPA can be broken down into two categories:

Unattended RPA

Unattended RPA can be used to automate mundane, repetitive tasks that don’t really require human intervention. This is mostly rules-based, high-volume work with a low level of complexity. Data entry and sorting is a perfect example. The chief benefits of unattended RPA are the time saved and improved accuracy of output.

Attended RPA    

Attended RPA, which presents the most likely starting point for organizations on their automation journeys, can run on front- and back-office desktops at which human employees are working. It offers the fastest way to implement automated infrastructure at scale and can provide immediate benefits to your human employees.

Think, for example, about call center workers. Many of the tasks that consume their time could be automated, such as manual searching, retyping and information retrieval or communication. Using advanced machine learning, these processes could be eliminated within weeks, freeing your employees up to focus on relationship management and tasks requiring creativity or human judgement.

These are both distinct RPA types, but it doesn’t have to be an ‘either-or’ choice. In fact, combining both unattended and attended RPA in a hybrid approach will enable business leaders to empower their employees and deliver ROI at scale.

Nevertheless, there are still concerns and misconceptions about RPA and other forms of artificial intelligence and automation. If your automation transition is to be a successful one, you need to bring your employees along with you by inspiring enthusiasm for this new hybrid workforce.

Combining your human and digital workers

First of all, you need to be able to demonstrate why you’re embarking on this automation journey in the first place. What needs does it serve? In addition, be sure to highlight how it’ll make your employees’ lives much easier in both the short and long term, easing the burden of those repetitive tasks. This much is obvious; we all want to know how something will benefit us, but you’ll only get so far with this approach.

To really get the most from your new hybrid workforce, you need to highlight the value of uniquely human skills, such as creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence. As your staff’s mindsets shift and they come to realize the potential for automation to free them from unfulfilling tasks, they can start to concentrate on the tasks that engage their uniquely human skills.

Championing these abilities will mean that your workforce can spend more time being creative, taking time to collaborate on new projects, and even thinking about new ways to deploy digital workers to enhance both their workplace and enrich customer experiences. To get this process started, have your team leaders set up some initial sessions to generate ideas about the tasks and processes a digital workforce could handle and the value this new workforce could add to the organization.

In this newly crafted culture, your team may become disconnected from much of the heavy lifting their days once revolved around. But once they see that, by embracing an augmented workforce, they have more time for strategic thinking and meaningful collaborations with co-workers that enrich their daily lives, it’s unlikely anyone will miss the previous way of working.

If you remember to add a diligent and focused learning and development plan for reskilling into the mix, you’ll end up with a much happier, more innovative and productive workforce. As you prepare these employees for a workplace that evolves with automation, the development of non-technical and soft skills will become a necessity.

In both the long and the short term, it should be a priority to consider a business-wide talent transformation strategy and avoid a siloed approach to upskilling and retraining your staff.

Implementing a hybrid approach

Once you’ve got your employees on board, and a strategy to help them get the most from RPA, you’ll be ready to implement a hybrid workforce for rapid deployment and scalability. Almost all organizations will involve tasks or roles that can benefit from attended RPA and unattended RPA, and the hybrid approach ensures that robots are working alongside your employees to work more effectively.

It can be an end-to-end solution, most effective as part of a fully integrated intelligent automation platform, ensuring transparency, governance and improved performance across your organization. By taking a hybrid approach, you can ultimately lower costs and increase productivity, which have always been the twin pillars of successful business.

As a result, the future of work is bound for a hybrid approach, and it could be one that fundamentally changes the way businesses are run, finally allowing human employees the time and support needed to unlock their inner creativity and innovation. Don’t let the conversation be either-or; choose a hybrid approach today and lay the platform for untold growth and productivity within your organization.

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