Employee perspective on robotisation of tasks

By Anette Haugsvær and Solveig Bersås

19 June 2019 13:49

Employee perspective on robotisation of tasks

How do employees react to robotisation of tasks, and what are the implications for managing such change processes? A case study of a Norwegian bank.

Changes in customer preferences and technology require that companies improve their business processes and accelerate their digitalization. A technology used to perform tasks in a process faster and better is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), a software that automates routine and rule-based tasks.

Implementation of RPA directly affects employees that on a daily basis perform the tasks that are being robotized. We wanted to study how employees react to robotisation of tasks, and what the implications are for managing such change processes. To do so we conducted a case study of a Norwegian bank.

Based on organizational change theory, one might expect mixed reactions to robotisation. While some employees may see it as an opportunity, others may find it threatening.

Our findings show unified employee support for robotization of tasks.

Several factors can explain this.

First, employees have been actively involved in the process.

Second, employees describe close collaboration with and confidence in the bank’s robotics team, which was identified as important change agents. This team is dedicated to the robotisation of tasks.

A third explanation is the active role of the employees’ immediate supervisor, who is also identified as an important change agent.

However, there was also some emerging frustration among the employees due to some tasks needing to be dealt with manually, after the robots have been implemented. We argue that there is a risk that this emerging frustration can develop into resistance if it is not dealt with properly.

An important contextual factor is resource scarcity. This results in a high work pressure which likely makes the employees more susceptible to robotisation of their tasks.

We suggest measures that may be important for companies to focus on when implementing RPA, to ensure support over time among employees.

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