Why automation education is key to retaining and attracting talent

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The composition and the long-held assumptions about the UK labor market have irreversibly shifted. Driven by the pandemic and the ensuing changes to working habits, organizations have experienced unparalleled employee churn as staff rethink priorities. Compounded by the tempting prospects offered by growing industries, the all-pervasive ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon has resulted in many organizations experiencing an overt loss of expertise, and an expensive and competitive recruitment process to replace outbound employees.

About the author

Gavin Mee, vice president, UK & Ireland at UiPath.

The impacts of the Great Resignation are heavily being felt by those workers who stay behind. The UiPath Office Worker Survey from 2022 revealed that 58% of employees feel like they do not know what their role is anymore as a result of their colleagues resigning. In order to secure and retain the best talent, employers must react, and offering tech training, such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as part of a commitment to supporting staff to upskill and reskill is one way to play your cards right in this candidate-driven market.

Why change is needed

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), job-to-job moves reached record numbers in October to December 2021, driven by resignations. Additionally, the number of job vacancies in November 2021 to January 2022 also rose to a new record level. It is critical, therefore, that organizations revise their approach to secure and retain the best talent. One way to do this is through training opportunities. This is also backed up by our recent aforementioned research, which found that 33% of UK employees feel further training opportunities would improve their day-to-day efficiency.

In a world where change is a constant and employees are putting higher value on life-long learning, leadership teams must acknowledge this desire and afford workers the opportunity to continually develop and deepen their skill sets. Automation upskilling and reskilling can be a critical part of this.

Regardless of the industry you’re in, tech education is a gamechanger. It’s one of the fastest-growing categories within enterprise software, with nearly 70% of employees interested in upskilling for their roles. Leaders who foster automation skills within their business will make themselves future proof. Not only is this good for employee retention, but it also means they’ll be better prepared to adopt and accelerate digital transformation projects.

Alongside this, with the Great Resignation, workers are looking for new roles and opportunities in which they are able to improve the skills they already possess and, importantly, develop new ones. Positively, the offer of automation education can really help organizations stand out from their competitors to potential candidates, with our recent Office Worker Survey discovering that 63% of UK workers believe the incorporation of automation – including online training – could help their organization attract new talent.

Why automation reskilling?

Automation provides untold opportunities for organizations. Importantly, through its ability to assist workforces in improving product and intellectual property to drive better outcomes and customer satisfaction, automation can create a strong competitive advantage. As for workers, it allows them the time to focus on more enjoyable and challenging tasks, rather than those which are time-consuming and repetitive. This has been shown to dramatically improve employee experience.

Employees have been vocal in affirming they are looking to embrace this way of working. Our research conducted last year found that 86 per cent of employees want to use automation, but only 30 per cent of business leaders are giving them access to it. This is coupled with even fewer businesses (5 per cent) allowing employees to create their own automations.

Organizations need to start satisfying this employee demand – which is being felt by both existing and future team members – through automation education. Not considering automation upskilling and reskilling as part and parcel of career development puts their ability to retain as well as hire top talent, at risk, especially in an unsettled and competitive job market.

The benefits of offering ongoing automation education to existing and prospective workers are twofold. Firstly, employees will have access to the skills and tools necessary to improve their day-to-day working lives. Secondly, with teams spending more time on value-added tasks, businesses can reach new, higher levels of efficiency. In addition, workers will feel more valued and fulfilled in their roles as they know their employers are investing in them and giving them opportunities to upskill.

Implementing education strategies

So, we know the implementation of automation education strategies is important. But how should businesses go about implementing them? The first and most important step is for businesses to listen to employees and support their learning goals. Its clear employees want to upskill themselves, and organizations need to start supporting this.

Research has found that over a third of workers in the UK feel unable to develop new skills in their roles due to a lack of opportunity, despite development and education being crucial to employee engagement. By listening to the current cries of teams, and acting on them sooner rather than later, businesses can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to preventing employee churn.

Create role-based and tailored programs

To make an impact, businesses must create and deliver tailored training content which allows employees to actively apply it to their roles. To do this, it’s imperative to involve subject matter experts. 

Education offerings must adapt to the ways employees want to learn today, which means a blended approach is best; a mix of instructor led, e-learning, on-the-job, mentoring, and other options. Everyone in the company should contribute their expertise via learning tools that facilitate user content creation and sharing.

The benefits of automation

It’s clear the benefits of investing in automation education for employees, both existing and future, are multi-fold. From organization culture to employee satisfaction, upskilling workers in automation will help combat the Great Resignation and prevent the constant churn of talent. Ultimately, not only does this benefit employees, it also helps future-proof the business.

Secure senior-level buy-in

Education is one of the most important investments a company can make, which has a direct impact across all roles including engineering, operations, and those who are customer facing. This investment, though, begins at the board level.

Without senior leadership buy-in, investment into education programs is unlikely to be approved. Luckily for those looking to build a case as to why automation education must be implemented, the pros are vast, and clear – invest in your employees, or risk them jumping ship.

Make the most of third-party assistance

Third-party organizations often provide support to their clients in the form of tailored programs. Utilizing the knowledge of experts in the field is a vital step when designing and implementing education and reskilling plans and strategies which not only work for individual organizations and their teams but have longevity.

The learning ecosystem though must include an expansion beyond just employees and partners. Creating a more informed customer base through free education benefits everyone and reaching out to audiences, such as university students, helps build a pipeline of new workers while building stronger markets.

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Gavin Mee, vice president, UK & Ireland at UiPath.