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Deloitte calls them “superteams.” A combination of people and intelligent software robots (“bots”) that together, the teams tackle business challenges, provide insight, and deliver real value to enterprises. This is the true vision for intelligent Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Deloitte argues—augmenting existing workforces with tools to drive competitive, agile edges in difficult markets.

It sounds great, but Deloitte also admits that right now superteams are more of a vision than reality because of the “readiness gap.” The biggest reason for the readiness gap: people. People need to be trained—retrained, to be more accurate—and entire company cultures transformed before intelligent RPA can reach its potential. Over the next three years, businesses estimate that 34% of their workers will need retraining.

The reality is, training and upskilling are now imperatives. It’s not whether your workers will need retraining—it’s now how you’re going to do it.

Why not just hire? For one, a major talent gap

So what’s stopping businesses from buying the talent they need? For one thing, businesses probably can’t find qualified individuals in today’s job market. And if they could, they might not be able to afford them. In LinkedIn’s most recent Emerging Jobs Report, RPA is called an “industry on fire,” with 40% annual job growth. In the overall IT industry, there are more than 700,000 jobs open in the United States alone.

And RPA professionals in particular are expensive. ZipRecruiter found the average salary in July 2021 for an RPA worker was $112,632, with the majority of RPA salaries ranging between $93,500 and $130,000. Top earners make as much as $151,500 in the United States.

Those are just a couple of reasons why it makes sense to train your existing workers—and treat them well—because other firms will try and steal them from you.

What kind of technical skills are needed?

The first type of training that organizations think of is technical training. There are many RPA training options available around the world, including programs offered by RPA platform providers. For example, Automation Anywhere University, the training and education arm of Automation Anywhere, has online and classroom training. It provides employees with a grounding in basic RPA: how to create a bot to integrating bots with popular enterprise applications such as Salesforce, Citrix, and SAP, to earning an Advanced RPA Professional certification. Altogether, Automation Anywhere University offers more than 130 different online courses. Many of them are free.

Although the first place you might look for potential RPA talent for technical training is your IT department, you’ll find it is surprisingly easy, with the right training, to make non-technical workers extremely valuable contributors to your intelligent automation initiatives—and to your bottom line. Not only are business users process experts in their particular domains, but they offer fresh ideas and perspectives as you attempt to use RPA to advance your digital transformation. 

But training must transcend the technical

“The interesting thing about the impact of technology is that, while every company is now really a tech firm, the skills most useful in leading in that environment are the innately human ones,” said Larry Clark, managing director of global learning services at Harvard Business Publishing, in an HR Talk podcast. “Empathy, authenticity, grace, and compassion will never come from an algorithm.” To that end, don’t stop with technical training when upskilling your workforce. Focus on developing the natural talents of humans: their creativity, spontaneity, and ability to make judgments, among other things.

According to Deloitte, almost twice as many companies providing training are focusing on “uniquely human” skills rather than technical ones. This includes almost six in 10 (59%) teaching process skills; half (51%) that are teaching complex problem-solving skills; and 45% that are teaching cognitive abilities. active listening, critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving.

Invest in training to augment

if you’re investing in intelligent automation, it’s also time to invest more in your human workers. Not only will upskilled employees be invaluable helpers on your transformation journey, but you’ll have a more satisfied workforce. And studies show that satisfied workers lead to satisfied customers and higher profits.

But all the evidence today suggests moving beyond traditional technology user training toward enabling workers to effectively use newly implemented technology in a way that augments and adapts their roles. By focusing on human skills as much as technical ones, organizations can create a continuous learning culture that hones its competitive edge.

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