RPA is a fairly new term within business; essentially it’s about replicating what people do every day through robotics. This involves basic transactional activity, such as fraud monitoring, opening accounts or onboarding staff.
The business case for RPA usually starts with a desire to reduce cost, but with that comes benefits, such as increased customer satisfaction and decreased risk. From a consumer perspective, you can open a bank account in a matter of minutes. There are also associated benefits around reducing risk: by removing the ‘human’ element from data you can ensure accuracy. Across HSBC’s operations, we hire a lot of well-educated people who previously were tasked with processing data. RPA allows us to free people up to do a more interesting and valuable job. RPA doesn’t do the complete job, but it helps by doing a portion of the mundane role which allows humans to use their judgement for the more complex, meaningful and customer-centric activities.
Most companies struggle with introducing RPA – the technology is easy, but it’s about how you embed it across the business. How do you change the behaviours of operational managers so they understand they are responsible for this new type of workforce? This digital labour in the form of robots means that managers must start to think differently about how they manage. As an ops manager, you might have a team comprised of offshore workers; onshore workers; outsourced employees and robots. You’ll need to know how to manage robots and the tech just as well as you know how to manage people.
RPA also creates new automation career opportunities for operations staff. They will have the opportunity to train and master the robots of the future, which has a hugely positive impact on jobs and careers. The careers of the future will be tech fluent – those coming into the workforce now will need to be comfortable with what technology can do and how you can make use of tools rather than fighting it – we will have a workforce much more attuned to leveraging technology to get jobs done
Brian Halpin is HSBC's global head of automation.
HR manage change and plan the future workforce
Robotics is starting to change the way people do their jobs, so it is prompting HR teams to think about recruitment, training, and performance management in a different way. This will only accelerate. There has never been a better time to be an HR professional as the changes are of a magnitude we have not seen since the turn of the last century. HR has a huge role to play in how robotics and automation is embedded in organisations, by demonstrating the opportunity it brings.
Become an architect of the new hybrid workforce. As roles change, businesses will need skilled HR professionals to plan how the digital workforce will be managed – and how career paths will change as advances in cognitive automation continue.
Interact with the business more than ever. The evolution of the HR business partner will see the profession take on a more strategic role. Learning and development teams will need to reskill the workforce as new roles emerge. With insights from analytics at their fingertips, recruitment teams will have to be agile.
Be more proactive as the digital workforce grows. Planning is needed for areas where automation will work well. Consider how existing HR teams can work alongside new digital ‘colleagues’ to deliver business goals. As simple tasks are automated, shared services centres will be called upon to offer higher value services. Made up of teams of experts from across the business, a new breed of workforce solutions centres could emerge.
Tim Payne is head of people and change at KPMG UK.