Knowledge and skill are critical assets for today’s Enterprises: the “war for talent” is ever present. Most CLO’s are constantly tapped by business units to come up with new learning methods that drive higher impact in a shorter amount of time. The sheer demand for content is relentless, particularly in a large organization. Automating operational tasks is more important than ever, and the use of Robotic Process Automation has the potential to free humans from repetitive work, enabling L&D to focus on higher value tasks, and to experience the future first hand.
Learning & Development (L&D) operations are ripe with opportunities to automate the mundane, however, there will be change management hurdles to overcome. With the advent of the LMS (learning management system), solid operational processes have been around for a while, however, L&D operations teams are generally under resourced and lack time to revisit and re-engineer processes for efficiency. And let’s face it, they will probably think that the change they reluctantly embrace could potentially mean job loss. Hence the reason why many humans are resistant and afraid. However, RPA doesn’t have to be all “doom and gloom.” In fact, its just the opposite – automation tends to create more jobs than it destroys. Think of it this way: what could you accomplish if you were given an extra headcount or two..? Oh, the things you'd do!
“The Rise of the Machines”
Bots have recently gained a lot of popularity in the training world. Here are some of the top use cases we’ve seen:
bulk enrolling learners in classes or self-studies
tracking compliance and completion of training
issuing credits where conditions must be met
marking attendance correctly
Bots can interact with and work inside a Learning Management System and easily perform tasks just as a Learning Ops professional would. Bots can also integrate with the back end of an LMS and dig into the database to pull out significant pieces of data that can be used to report on and analyze the training courses and programs delivered. This opens the learning professional up to taking on other important tasks such as critical thinking, creativity, and innovation. What a novel idea!
Despite initial change management hurdles, bots are on the rise, and Robotic Process Automation is the fastest growing software segment. Once a department observes the impact and understands how much easier their lives will be, that is when the buy-in happens.
Trusting the Digital Employee
This is an issue to anticipate and proactively address: for the automation program to be successful, the L&D professional requires training and trust in the bot’s work. L&D professionals sometimes have to train themselves to resist just taking a task and doing it themselves. Understanding the bot and its capabilities are important. L&D professionals need to know that the bot is going to do its job correctly, and that bots have virtually zero error rates.
It is important to note here that a bot is only as good as what it is told to do. If you forget to build an important piece of the process into the requirements and the developer doesn’t program it into the bot, then the bot isn’t going to perform that task! Bots do EXACTLY what they are told to do. That is where we humans need to carefully define requirements that will tell the bot do every. single. thing. (click this, do this, point to that, cross check that, produce this report, log this information and so on). Precise design and testing is also an important part of building credibility in the RPA program overall…you don’t want to give employees a reason to say, “see, I told you a robot wouldn’t work.”
The Competitive Advantage
Bottom line is that L&D organizations should also consider the importance of being recognized as an innovative department within the organization whose processes are streamlined and “transformed,” because transformation is happening everywhere, at all levels. Do it before it is done to you, I always say. Leveraging automation demonstrates that L&D is innovative, concerned about efficiency, responsible in its use of resources and in lock step with its business partners (who may already be using process automation). This also gives your humans the ability to learn and grow and take their careers in a positive future direction.
Aside from internal process efficiency, L&D Departments should consider this: the introduction of digital labor into the human workforce will be one of the greatest disruptions to the workplace since the introduction of the personal computer. This is another important reason for L&D departments to introduce bots into their processes.
Bots are here to stay, and it behooves Learning and Development organizations to embrace the trend, enjoy the cost savings and efficiencies and upskill their people for a bright future. It is also strategically important for L&D departments to understand the profound impact digital labor will have on the world of work.