The insurance industry is certainly no stranger to change. New technology, regulatory requirements and shifts in customer demand are driving almost constant change.

Senior managers at big insurers are becoming increasingly adept at change management. And most employees recognize that change is a common feature of the modern workplace.

Our familiarity with change, however, can be hazardous. We can easily underestimate the impact of change on the people who work with us. This can cause serious problems. Low staff morale, high employee turnover and widespread resistance to innovation are just some of the consequences that can impair business performance

Insight into the impact of change is especially important for insurers looking to deploy robotic process automation to gain strategic advantage. There’s no doubt the potential benefits of this technology are substantial. But its effect on the workforce is complex and often far-reaching. Insurers that don’t address these challenges could experience some big setbacks.

In my previous blog, I highlighted the importance of a thorough assessment of the impact of automation on the workforce. Here’s why it’s so important.

Firstly, it’s threatening. Employees are bound to be unsettled by the prospect of losing their jobs to intelligent machines. Handled badly, automation projects can quickly undermine staff self-worth and loyalty.

It’s unknown. Robotic process automation is still in its infancy. It initially made its mark helping organizations improve efficiency. But increasingly it is being deployed in more strategic applications such as improving business efficiency and enhancing customer service. As robotic technology continues to improve it is likely to spread into further reaches of the enterprise.

It’s diverse. The impact of robotic process automation varies. Some processes are better suited to automation than others. Similarly, the effect of automation on different parts of the business, and the response of various groups of employees, will differ.  In back-office environments automation is likely to replace many manual tasks and will probably be seen as a threat by employees. In sales and service settings, however, it can be an enabler, an “intelligent co-worker,” that helps staff work smarter. In such situations employees may very well embrace the new technology.

Finally, robotic process automation is likely to become pervasive. Employees will increasingly encounter this technology not only in the workplace but also in other aspects of their lives such as health care, telecommunications and retail. This will affect how they perceive this technology and their attitudes to its presence in their work environment.

Successful robotic process automation programs are invariably holistic and systematic. The drivers of these programs are members of the organization’s executive. They’ve taken time to understand the impact of automation on the people for whom they’re responsible. Furthermore, they’ve made the necessary investments to ensure that robotic process automation is embedded in the culture of the enterprise.

This may involve training back-office staff so they can be deployed elsewhere in the organization where they can perform more valuable tasks – a move that can boost staff morale and employee performance. Or it could require managers to personalize their new robotic systems and position them as smart co-workers within sales and service teams.

Robotic process automation is a powerful tool for enhancing business performance. But it won’t work if people are neglected.

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