Workflow Automation Can be Scary!

Workflow Automation Can be Scary!

Author Romeo Elias

Many companies are using business process management platforms to automate internal workflows that streamline their processes, increase regulatory compliance and digitize forms. From a business perspective, automation saves money and time, reduces training costs and lead times, and ensures a consistent experience for customers and employees.  This should be common sense for everyone in the organization, however, for many employees, workflow automation means change, and change can be very scary. 

Companies develop their culture and processes over many years and they become ingrained in people, policies and habits.  Thus, changing culture and processes is one of the most difficult challenges to overcome, especially when transitioning from manual processes to automated ones.  Most employees are afraid of change for three main reasons: Workflow automation brings uncertainty, creates transparency, and takes away control.

Workflow automation creates uncertainty:

Change always creates uncertainty in companies, and especially when the change is due to automation.  Is the automation intended to replace jobs with the software?  Or perhaps the automation is intended to cut costs and therefore it’s an indication that the company may be facing financial difficulties.  Could that mean layoffs are next?  This real concern causes employees to feel uncertain about their jobs and livelihood.  As it is often said, people are creatures of habit, and the status quo always feels safer, easier and better.

Workflow automation introduces transparency:

Most of the time, manual processes run slowly, not due to the process steps, but due to the friction involved in the workflow steps passing from person to person or from entering data multiple times in different systems.  That creates delays.  Some delays are unintentional (i.e. “the email went to my spam”, or “the file was under a pile of papers on my desk”, or “I had to rekey the data 3 times”), while others can be intentional (i.e. “I am going to wait on processing this so that I don’t get assigned too many”).  In any case, transparency eliminates all of the delays.  When a workflow is automated, everyone can see where the process is at, how long it has been with someone and when they were notified. In addition, real time reports can compare how long steps take to complete based on role or function. These benefits eliminate the ability for someone to hide behind excuses for not completing their job.  In addition, there is no need to re-enter data in different systems as the workflow can be integrated and send the data automatically which eliminates human error.  Transparency can make some employees nervous as they can no longer hide behind and blame the inefficiencies of a manual process.  Everything is visible and transparent.

Workflow automation takes away control:

Many long term employees at companies develop institutional knowledge over time, and when a process is manual, their input and knowledge is critical to ensuring the successful completion of the workflow.  Some people feel a sense of entitlement, power and security, if they are the only ones who understand the process and can ensure it is executed correctly.  As such, they feel they are in control over situations or can exert control when needed, given they are the experts and no one can challenge them and everyone needs their help.  When automation is introduced however, the goal is to codify the institutional knowledge into the system process rules, templates and workflow.  Those who felt safe in their positions due to the knowledge that only they possessed, now face the reality that they will no longer be needed to run the process.   Automation takes control away from an individual as the process becomes institutionalized in the platform and it guides everyone on how to complete it successfully.

In a follow up post, we will discuss and share best practices and strategies that will help overcome these fears and increase substantially the adoption of workflow automation. If you’d like to learn more and create a Proof of Concept app with Intellect, click here for a free trial.