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If you are a CHRO, then your marching orders sound something like this…

  • “Win the war for talent.”
  • “Develop and retain our high performers.”
  • “Get people in the door faster…but make sure we’re hiring strategically.”
  • “Do more with less.”
  • “Reduce headcount.”
  • “Think globally.”
  • “Leverage technology.”
  • “Make off-shore economics work for us.”
  • “Above all, ensure we don’t violate any laws or regulations.” …and you are thinking, “What can I do to get out in front of these demands, demonstrate business leadership, and impact our entire workforce in a positive way?”

One answer is Robotics Process Automation, or RPA for short. Of course there is no “silver bullet” to address the workforce challenges listed above, but RPA might be the most fundamental technology shift affecting business processes in the latest decade. In fact, Gartner predicts that 30-40 percent of existing business process services are likely to be impacted by RPA, and that Smart machines will replace 1 in 3 jobs by 2025.

If you are not actively looking at how to apply Robotics Process Automation, you should, because RPA:

  • Is a low-risk, low-cost, noninvasive technology that can help you optimize your back office, middle office or repetitive front office functions
  • Increases productivity and quality while reducing costs, with minimal investment and a payback period of less than one year
  • Generates 25-40 percent in sustainable cost savings
  • “Takes the Robot out of the human!”

The future workforce will include Robots as one of the four components. Each component requires its own workforce strategies for recruiting, developing and retaining the talent. The Robotics workforce, which is today’s focus, also requires a workforce management strategy-not for the Bots, but for the humans whose jobs will continue to evolve.


There is a fair amount of confusion regarding Robotics. Terms such as “robots,” “augmented technology,” and “artificial intelligence” are related, but tend to overcomplicate what RPA actually does. The easiest way to describe RPA is as “software that mimics human behavior.” The more this human behavior is “rule-based,” repetitive, and requires digital inputs, the more effective and efficient will be the RPA solution. In general, any process that follows rule-based decisions and requires digital inputs can be described in a flowchart, and then translated into one of the many RPA tools, like Blue Prism. Note that there is very little programming. RPA is a Business-Driven activity, but it does require close collaboration with Information Technology specialists.

Once you select one of the RPA vendors, adding the Bot is like adding an employee. That is, the Bot is given a unique log-in ID, password, and an access profile that fits the role (e.g., Recruiter). This allows the Bot to log-onto the system, access your recruiting application, send and receive emails, enter data into your HRIS, and any other rules-based task you would ask an employee to do while logged into their computer. Except the Bot doesn’t mind transferring data from your recruiting vendor to your onboarding application, or sending emails to candidates asking for missing information for the third time. In fact, your Bot will do this 24 hours a day, seven days a week with 100 percent accuracy… without any technology changes to your legacy applications, or interfaces to your recruiting vendor systems’, or automated interfaces to any systems at all!


The ease of deploying RPA, combined with the ability of the business to drive it has sparked RPA deployments in every function in the enterprise, including: Finance & Accounting, IT, HR, Supply Chain, Legal, Internal Audit, Tax and Sales. RPA is able to automate end-to-end manual processes, especially those with the following characteristics:

  • Data-intensive
  • Repetitive in nature
  • Rule-driven
  • Triggered electronically (e.g., receiving an email)
  • Involve manual calculation
  • Suffer high error rates
  • Contain sensitive content
  • Can also be performed outside normal office hours
  • Complex IT landscape

Hence, in HR, there are many processes that exhibit these characteristics, including:

  • Data management
  • Onboarding
  • Payroll reconciliation
  • Termination

Let’s look at a specific “Use Case” for RPA in the Onboarding Process. Before RPA is applied, there are many points of failure that negatively impact the new joiner’s experience. The time required to process a new joiner (once all the forms are complete) is two hours.

After RPA is used, the process looks quite a bit streamlined. And now, the time required to process a new joiner (once all the forms are complete) is three minutes! If we think of the on-boarding example as a use-case, we see that there are definite implications of robotics for your workforce:

  • You will be able to focus your people on tasks that require higher-order thinking, which in turn will drive increased employee engagement. As you implement RPA, your employee responsibilities and accountabilities will continue to evolve, especially where only portions of a process are automated, and when variations are required to tailor processes for local adoption or compliance needs.
  • You will not need as many FTEs on repetitive, rule-based processes, which will allow you to redeploy resources to solving the biggest and most pressing problems.
  • Your workforce will likely require upgraded skills training, and your recruiting pools may change to account for the higher level of skills and experience you need to attract and retain.
  • If your company’s rewards, job levels, promotions, etc., are still based on the antiquated notion of how many FTEs a manager or leader is responsible for, then you will need to change your company’s metrics, as well as its definition of leadership.
  • Over time, your employees will expect to perform less and less administrative and repetitive tasks, which will continue to raise the bar for RPA, as well as for cognitive intelligence solutions.


Significant cost savings (20-60 percent) do drive RPA use, however, other benefits are often what organizations are seeking when they explore RPA:

  • Low-Risk. This is non-invasive technology that is overlaid on existing systems, and integrated with existing data. This minimizes any disruption to IT strategy, architecture or master data
  • Business Driven. Business processes can be automated by the business with very little IT knowledge
  • Reliable. Bots run 365 days a year, and can be operated 24 hours/day
  • Accuracy. The right result, decision or calculation the first time, every time
  • Audit Trail. Robust audit logs essential for compliance, maintained in a central, secure environment
  • Scalability. Instant ramp up and down to match demand peaks and troughs
  • Consistency. Identical processes and tasks, eliminating output variations
  • Right Shoring. Geographical independence reduces need to offshore jobs while still delivering cost savings
  • Return on Investment (ROI). Typical RPA projects include multiple functional “pilots” and the RPA program can be completed in 9 to 12 months with an ROI < 1 year and develop
  • Engagement and Talent Retention. Shifts mind-numbing work to Robots, allowing your human talent to create, innovate


In our experience implementing RPA with ourselves and our clients, we have learned some important lessons to keep in mind as you start your journey:

  • Develop robotic skills. Learning or hiring additional skills in testing and quality assurance to handle bottlenecks that may not surface until robots are executing processes at a scale and are subjected to variables of live virtual machine environments.
  • Explain business costs to C-suite executives. Getting the buy-in of C-suite is the first step, which involves explaining the business case for the cost of robotic vs. in-house or offshore FTEs.
  • Be ready with business case. Having a detailed understanding of the current cost of the business process to be automated. It is difficult to prove savings that could be achieved with a robot unless it can be quantified against the cost of human employees.
  • Collaborate with IT team in novel ways. Getting the buy-in of the IT team is essential to the project’s success. IT support is critical to tackle new issues: capacity planning and failover for servers and storage, licensing of virtual machines, and network latency and response times.


RPA, although not a silver bullet to solve all HR challenges, is a way for HR to demonstrate business leadership. Once introduced into the organization, the benefits will be readily apparent, and RPA will enjoy a viral-like spread to all functions where there are repetitive tasks. HR can lead the way in demonstrating how to address workforce management implications, and then support the operating units in their journey.

Thus, RPA goes a long way to resolve certain HR challenges, and puts the CHRO squarely at the table. At the same time, it triggers the need for a workforce management strategy to accommodate a new kind of employee, and to accommodate the impacts of RPA to existing employees. So, HR can introduce RPA to the organization, or wait to hear about it when the business is implementing it. One way or the other, RPA is in your future!