Robotic Process Automation answers the global labor shortage. How does RPA help businesses sustain their growth, retain employees, and attract new talents?

Wojciech Andryszek
Robotic Process Automation answers the global labor shortage. How does RPA help businesses sustain their growth, retain employees, and attract new talents?

We all know that world markets struggle with a significant labor shortage. In recent years, millions of people have switched jobs. Some quit work permanently. Only in the US, from May to September 2021, 20.2 million employees left their companies. Consequently, businesses have to review their approach to productivity and look for solutions to help them grow further or maintain the current pace and employees.

The range of possibilities is not extensive. Above all, companies need to challenge themselves and focus on what they can do with what they have. It may sound like an evident and even cheap philosophy, but it provides some practical aspects, including new technologies.

5 ways to deal with workers shortage

Some experts point out the so-called zero-based approach, which suggests finding how the organization can do more, having less. It can be done by cross-sectional verification of what has been done so far and starting from a blank page. And here, a few possibilities are hiding.

5 ways to deal with workers shortage

Redefining and reinventing

Simply put, it means looking at a workforce from scratch. Managers need to determine which work can be interrupted, how to transfer employee competencies, which processes to limit or simplify, and how to improve the implementation and use of available technologies.

Skills management

That may be one of the best ways to prevent employees from switching jobs. Training and retraining will be helpful to retain qualified and productive members of the personnel. More so if the company can identify the gaps within its processes and workforce skills.

Tasks outsourcing

A slightly different approach to dealing with labor shortages is outsourcing tasks. It means that some repetitive and rule-based activities within the organization can be transferred outside. The goal is to reduce the cases of employees discouragement, professional burnout, and turnovers.

Supporting engagement

Another critical element is creating opportunities for greater employee involvement in their responsibilities. These are tasks resulting, for example, from the company's mission, requiring more strategic thinking and performance. In other words, it is about creating experiences in which the employee does not feel like a robot.

Automation with RPA

Speaking about robots mentioned above, businesses can enhance every method we listed so far and, to some extent, successfully replace it with work automation, or more specifically, Robotic Process Automation (RPA). It is a solution that attracts the market's attention to an ever greater extent and expands the investments in this area.

Thou shall software thy robots!

There is no denying that RPA automation has become a significant factor affecting enterprises' conditions, and demand for such solutions is growing. After all, it's still the fastest developing part of enterprise software, with over 60 vendors reaching across the globe.

The business needs to focus on automation, thus integrating various systems, caring about efficiency, and... retaining employees. The more that, contrary to popular myths, RPA technology cannot replace the human workforce. As almost every definition underlines, software robots can relieve employees of repetitive and almost mechanically performed activities. As experts in the field often repeat: "RPA automates tasks, not jobs."

It has a strategic meaning in the context of the global workforce crisis. The goal is for the staff to focus on more strategic or creative operations while bots will perform tedious tasks 24/7 with a minimum error rate at 100% capacity. Among other benefits, like cost reduction and higher efficiency indicators, this situation translates into increased job satisfaction - mostly desired in today's market.

RPA bots counter the routine

Let's illustrate it with a real-life example. Imagine a group of junior and mid-level employees in a well-known advertising enterprise. Their duties include manual rewriting over 3.000 invoices a week - from Excel to the outdated user interface. The process takes a while and shortens the time of fulfilling other responsibilities.

Even though the team does its best, the task involves errors related to submitting invoices for different amounts than expected. And that means the additional work - corrections, repetitions, rush, and the extra stress. In other words, this career vision is not encouraging and favors employee turnover.

Fortunately, the managers decided to implement automation for invoicing. And it wasn't just turning on the software robots. The goal was to avoid automating any flawed processes and fix crucial operations. Otherwise, it would burden the workers again. So, the firm used RPA to trace any problems upstream to the point where the team noticed difficulties with proper calculations while actualizing spending.

group of ppl working with papers

In other words, the organization used RPA to extract data from the involved sources, perform calculations based on supplier conditions, and send notifications with the expectation of being invoiced weeks prior.

Consequently, the bots reduced the manual efforts by 95% (saving over 125,000 hours of work) with a shallow error rate. They significantly increase employee satisfaction, which raises the possibility that they stay loyal to the company. The latter is crucial, especially during a worker's crisis.

Labor shortage or just a staff turnover?

Perhaps the most illustrative example is the situation in the US labor market. At the beginning of 2022, it offered 11.3 million job openings with a high employee turnover rate. Between December 2021 and January 2022, 6.5 million people found a new position, but 4.3 million left their employers. The experts agree that it will be a long process until the situation stabilizes.

According to a survey commissioned by UiPath, a world leader in the RPA automation market, nowadays (2022), 62% of companies struggle with the labor shortage. Their executives point out that the major challenges include:

  • attracting new talents to take on necessary tasks (74%)
  • losing skilled people to manage essential tasks (69%)
  • disrupting workflows due to higher rates of onboarding and offboarding (58%).

Among the most significant factors influencing employees' decisions to leave or change their job are:

  • pressure on work/life balance (58%)
  • low compensation (54%)
  • lack of advancement opportunities (42%).

These challenges and the accompanying numbers are described as The Great Resignation. According to Microsoft's Work Trend Index, over 40% of the global workforce were considered to quit jobs in 2021.