When you consider that about one-third of American adults take some sort of vacation each summer, it’s no surprise that organizational productivity takes a significant dip during the warmer months. No company can keep production dialed up to the max when one-third of its employees are sunning on the beach in Half Moon Bay, Hilton Head, or Honduras.
But it’s not just the loss of bodies that slows productivity. According to one survey I read, 25 percent of office workers feel their on-the-job productivity falls during the summer, even when they’re not on vacation. Ten percent of employees even say they spend “significant time” in the summer arguing with coworkers over the correct setting for the air conditioning. That’s right — arguing over the air conditioning. And those employees whose summer vacations aren’t approved are likely to be a little cranky.
Workers get bored when their tasks are mundane and repetitive, and boredom leads to lower engagement and productivity. When employees get bored during the summer, it’s like a double whammy: so much mundane, repetitive work to get done, and so many other things they’d rather being doing.
One way to counter this lack of focus is to automate those mundane, repetitive tasks using robotic process automation (RPA) software.
When I mention RPA software, the first thing many people think about is the age-old fear of employees losing their jobs to computers. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Companies that deploy RPA software have plenty of work that needs to get done. The executives I’ve talked with are thrilled to direct their employees’ efforts toward more strategic functions, leaving the boring data entry and manipulation to the RPA software.
It stands to reason that an employee who feels engaged in an interesting job is much more likely to stay focused and busy than, for example, someone with a mind-numbing data entry job. In addition, when someone does go on vacation, it’s much easier to move the automated portion of their responsibilities to someone else on a temporary basis. An employee will be much more willing to verify that an RPA job has run than to actually do extra work on behalf of their vacationing coworker.
RPA software sounds great — but is it really a good fit for your organization? Frankly, I find very few companies where the answer is no.
To answer this question for yourself, start by assembling your operational and IT stakeholders for an automation brainstorming session. Discuss your entire organization, its workflows, and its processes. Chances are you’ll be able to identify some low-hanging fruit by answering these three questions for any process that you think might be a candidate for automation:
- Does it involve fingers on keyboards?
- Is it a rules-based process?
- Does the process involve structured data?
If you can answer yes to all three questions, the process is probably a good candidate for RPA. From my experience, a lot of processes in a lot of different departments will meet these criteria, regardless of your particular vertical.
If you decide to take the plunge, consider these questions when evaluating RPA software:
- Usability: Can employees in operational departments use the technology without any handholding from IT, or does the technology require intensive IT support?
- Versatility: Will the software meet all of your automation needs, or is it limited to only a few applications?
- Scalability: Was the software designed to accommodate your organization’s growth over time?
- Support: Simply put, what is the provider’s service reputation?
You need to accept the fact that some summer slump will occur no matter what you do. You just can’t compete with all that’s going on out there in the real word. The best you can hope to do is minimize the summer slump’s impact.
Do not attempt to eliminate summer vacations. That will just build resentment and further hinder productivity. In fact, I would actually encourage you to offer more summer vacations. The benefits of time off to both the employee and the employer are well-documented. If you plan ahead, automate as much as you can with RPA software, and keep your employees engaged with meaningful work, the summer slump will be little more than a speed bump on the road to the holidays (and the inevitable holiday slump).
There will always be a summer slump. RPA software can help minimize it.
Richard Milam is a CEO and early innovator of robotic process automation, including Foxtrot powered by EnableSoft.