How to Explain Robotic Automation to Your Employees

You are already convinced of the value of robots in your business… but what about your employees?

Perhaps they are dubious about robotic automation or maybe they just haven’t considered it at all.

What’s the best way to explain robotics to your employees so that they will come on board and support your plans?

As much as we might like to think that our colleagues have similar opinions to us, we all know that this is not always the case. There is always a mix of opinions about any topic within an organization.

This is particularly true when it comes to the introduction of advanced technologies.

Many people are concerned about automation and the impact that it could have on their jobs. Even if they are generally pro-innovation, they might not understand robotic technology well enough yet to be fully convinced that bringing in a robot is a good idea.

This can be a challenge if you’re the one charged with rolling out robotic automation in the company.

How can you explain robotics in a way that your employees will appreciate?

Hold Back on the Data! Mistakes People Often Make

As technically-minded people, we often think that in order to convince someone of a new idea, we just need to show them the data.

Perhaps you pull out your Return on Investment (ROI) calculations and present them to people in an attempt to convince them that robots are going to be good for the business.

And maybe that works to an extent…

But, getting lost in the data is one of the common mistakes that companies make when introducing a new technology into their business.

Another common mistake people make is to just jump straight into the robotics project without fully planning for the changes that it will cause within the business. This can lead to employees feeling that the automation has been introduced in an underhand way and can lead to bad feelings surrounding the new technology.

It’s much better to get people on-side early.

When you do, you give people the opportunity to become valuable ambassadors for robotic automation within the company.

The Real Trick to Communicating Your Ideas to Employees

If you want people to embrace robotics, you need to explain the benefits of robotic automation in terms that mean something to them personally.

This is true with any new technology introduction, but it is especially true with automation which may have some potentially bad feelings associated with it already.

Before you even think about announcing your new robotics project, you need to work to understand your team’s current concerns, problems, and issues.

This might sound straightforward — and it is — but it can be surprisingly difficult to do in practice.

You are probably thinking of a whole list of benefits that robotic automation could bring to your business, including:

  • Reduced costs
  • Increased throughput
  • Improved consistency
  • Better efficiency
  • Longer working hours

These are probably the benefits that are important to you personally. Some of these benefits might also be important to your employees, but not necessarily.

The real trick to communicating your ideas to others is to reframe them into benefits that are important to the other person.

The Important Step That Most People Neglect

To understand what is important to your employees right now, you need to put on your “detective’s hat.”

At first, forget about robotic automation completely (just for a little while).

Instead, take some time to talk to your employees one-to-one about the current problems in the business that are affecting their work. Don’t try to offer solutions to them at this stage — after all, you know that your proposed solution will probably be robotic automation — but just listen to what they tell you.

Ask many questions and be curious.

Likely, you are already aware of many of the issues that are affecting your business at the moment.

However, the exercise of talking to people face-to-face serves another purpose besides just gathering current problems. It also gives you valuable insights into what is important to each of the people in your business.

These insights are like gold dust. After all, these are the people who will be affected by robotic automation.

How to Explain Robotics in Terms Employees Will Appreciate

Once you have talked to the relevant people, you can now reframe the benefits of robotic automation.

Each person you spoke to is likely to have slightly different desires and worries. This is okay. But, a few commonalities will likely have surfaced during your chats too.

Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1: Robotic welding

Let’s say you learned that your welding technicians are often concerned that they don’t have enough time to complete the more complex welds. They can only complete the large batches of simple, routine welds, but the complex ones are always delayed.

You can use this insight to help you explain the value of robotic welding to them, using their own words to highlight the benefits. The robots can take over the routine, simple welds, leaving them with enough time to complete the more complex tasks.

Example 2: Robotic Inspection

Perhaps you learned that your inspection engineers have far too much work to handle. They worry that work is continually piling up. They are always struggling to find enough time to do their analysis.

You can then explain to them, in their own words, that robotic inspection can help them with the “grunt work” of inspection (e.g. simple scanning and data collection), leaving them enough time to perform the analysis.

What Steps to Take Now to Get Your Employees On-Side

The key is to avoid raising the solution of robotic automation before you have fully understood your employees’ current problems.

First, go out and talk to them without “solutionizing” before people are ready to hear your proposal.

This doesn’t need to take a lot of time. But it can be an extremely valuable way to get your robotic automation plans up and running quickly and effectively.

When you have everyone on-side, they will help you to make robotic automation a success in your business.

What challenges have you experienced when introducing a new technology to your business? Tell us in the comments below or join the discussion on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in the RoboDK Forum.

About Alex Owen-Hill

Alex Owen-Hill is a freelance writer and public speaker who blogs about a large range of topics, including science, presentation skills at CreateClarifyArticulate.com, storytelling and (of course) robotics. He completed a PhD in Telerobotics from Universidad Politecnica de Madrid as part of the PURESAFE project, in collaboration with CERN. As a recovering academic, he maintains a firm foot in the robotics world by blogging about industrial robotics.

View all posts by Alex Owen-Hill

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