Automation is rapidly transforming the insurance industry. The need to adapt to new circumstances in 2020 has accelerated this, with many insurers looking to technology for answers. Automation is being introduced to transform everything from claims handling to brokering processes. Within insurance, RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and OCR (Optical Character Recognition - converting documents to digital) are increasingly being supplemented with more intelligent automation practices that can support informed decision making.
Automation programs can deliver better customer experiences while reducing operating costs, so it is unsurprising that businesses are keen to introduce them. However, employees rarely feel the same way. Instead, they often to see automation as a direct threat to their careers and livelihoods.
With employee happiness directly linked to productivity it is important to actively manage this aspect of the project. Bad communication can cause negativity that leads to reduced quality work as well as increased staff turnover and absences. Unchecked these can significantly affect profitability, firm value and growth rates. So, it is essential that management work to cultivate buy-in and mitigate against negative cultural impacts.
So how can you help your employees to engage positively with an automation project?
1. Understand the fear
Understand that an initial fear response from employees is natural. After all the media is full of stories about people’s jobs being replaced by robots. It is a good idea to try and develop an understanding of common fears about automation and plan communications with them in mind. Try to address people’s fears head on with empathy and honesty. This will bring everything out into the open, helping employees to work out how real the perceived threats are and supporting them in moving forward.
2. Communicate plans clearly
Uncertainty increases stress so it is vital to make sure that plans are communicated clearly. Take the time to identify impacts for individual employees, setting up one-to-one meetings as needed. Make sure that you clearly explain new responsibilities and any staffing changes that will be made. Try to build a complete picture by explaining what will not be changing, as well as what will.
3. Emphasise the personal benefits
Talk about how the program will directly benefit staff members. Think about the ways that it will make their lives easier. For example, it may reduce the time they need to spend on activities that they find boring and repetitive.
When talking about business benefits, relate them to their world. For example, explain how the changes will make things better for customers, rather than talking abstractly about "customer retention rates".
4. Identify opportunities that will be created
Explain changes in the context of the employee’s current and future role by identifying new opportunities that will be created. Talk through the ways that they will be supported in making changes and gaining new skills. Make sure that you provide context on how employees' future roles will help achieve their career goals as well as the company’s or department’s goals. It can be useful to emphasise the value they will add to customers and colleagues.
5. Get HR to help employees to plan how changes fit into their wider career plans
Make sure that you involve your HR team to help support employees. Working with staff to help them transition into new positions when needed. HR can help employees develop career roadmaps, showing how employees can work towards their goals within the context of the planned changes.
6. Focus on ease of use
Automation should focus on reducing complexity and the program results should make employees lives easier rather than harder.
Avoid making temporary changes and do not include anything which adds complexity to employees’ everyday tasks. Deployments need to work smoothly from the get-go!
7. Involve employees in planning the project
Involving your employees in project planning is one of the best ways to increase buy-in. It helps them to understand the reasons behind decisions and increases the likelihood that they will feel invested in the project.
As well as helping employees, involving them will help your project to succeed. Employees know the processes in-depth and have a deep understanding of variances in inputs and outputs that are often not documented. Leaning on their expertise will help ensure the project works as intended and can help to avoid expensive mistakes.
Read our white paper for a detailed step-by-step plan to engage employees throughout the process: