When a company like yours first wants to adopt robots into the workplace, there can be resistance from employees.
Some people might be worried about their jobs being replaced by robots. Others might worry that the technology won’t work as advertised and they will have to waste time getting it to work. And some people might just be worried about any new technology, fearing that they are not technically literate enough to use it.
Businesses have always used new technology to increase efficiency and productivity.
In the past — and sometimes even today —, companies have replaced workers entirely with automation. This has led to job losses and caused people to fear for their future employment. Combined with the media portrayal of automation as a job-killer, it’s no wonder some employees are hesitant to embrace their new robotic workmates with open arms.
But you can present robots in such a way that employees become enthusiastic about the possibilities of robots.
Robotic automation in the workplace: the situation today
The question of “Are robots good for employees?” is not a new one. The debate has been going on ever since the first robots were introduced to automotive factories back in the 1950s.
As the technology continues to advance steadily, robots in the workforce are now sparking both excitement and fear.
Many people — both company owners and employees alike — are optimistic about robots and automation. They can see the significant improvements that robots can bring, ranging from increased productivity to improved job satisfaction. But other people are more concerned about robots. They distrust the technology… which actually seems to be the most common response. A recent survey from Pew Research demonstrated that many people distrust new technologies, not just robots.
This means that, for many people, the cultural context surrounding robots is one of fear and uncertainty.
When you are introducing robots as a solution to your employees, you need to take their concerns into account.
How robots can drive employment and employee happiness
The fact is that, for many companies, introducing robots is a good move.
A 2021 research study showed that robots don’t replace human jobs… they create more jobs. The study found firms that adopted robots saw an overall increase in hiring and productivity in the company. In contrast, those companies that avoided automation lost productivity and were more likely to lay off workers.
Robots can create a “virtuous cycle” where increased productivity makes the company grow more, which then creates a need for more human jobs.
This is the sort of benefit that it’s important to share with your employees when you are introducing robots to the workplace. Everyone in your company wants it to be successful. As long as this growth also leads to the employees being successful themselves, automation can be seen as a win-win for everyone.
After introducing robots, many employees find they are happier in their jobs as the robot has taken over the boring, repetitive, and dangerous tasks.
The benefits that robot workers offer your employees
When you are trying to encourage your employees to accept robot workers, there are some compelling benefits you can highlight.
This is something that Usinatech had to consider when they first introduced the Robotiq Machine Tending Solution into their business.
From the beginning, they considered how employees would react to their new collaborative robot coworkers.
They involved the machine operators from the very start of the project and ensured that they had all the information they needed to understand the benefits of the technology and its impact on their day-to-day activities.
Some benefits you can highlight are:
Increased productivity and consistency — Robots can perform tasks accurately and consistently. This allows employees to focus their time and energy on more interesting, complex tasks, and reduces the time they need to spend correcting errors.
Reduced workplace injuries — Robots can perform repetitive and physically demanding tasks that are risky for humans. This can improve the quality of life of your employees.
Enhanced customer experience — Robots can help reduce the product defects caused by human error, improve shipment time, and increase flexibility. Such impacts can lead to an improved customer experience, which means employees have to deal less with unhappy customers.
Every employee will have different priorities and desires for their job.
It’s important that you understand what benefits will be important to each person and highlight these when you present robotics as a solution. Address any concerns people have head-on and provide adequate training and support to help people adapt to the change.
5 steps to ease employee concerns about robot workers
With the proper preparation, your robot adoption can be smooth and beneficial for everyone.
Here are 5 simple steps to help you address and ease employee concerns about adding robots to the workplace:
Take steps to understand what is important to your employees. This is vital for presenting robots in the right way.
Explain how robots will benefit the company. Although you shouldn’t focus on this exclusively, it’s helpful to show people you have good reasons for adding robots — you’re not just doing it on a whim.
Explain the benefits that are important to your employees. For example, if they have voiced concerns about the lack of safety in your current manual palletizing task, mention this when you talk about the benefits of robot palletizing.
Share success stories of other teams that have adopted robots into their workplace. You can find success stories in our case study section.
Make employees active participants in the robot deployment. This is what the team at Usinatech did, which helped to make their machine tending robot deployment a great success.
How to convince your employees to adopt robot workers
Introducing robotic automation into the workplace can be a daunting task. However, with the right approach, your employees can see robots as a valuable tool to improve their own work.
Don’t think of the process as “trying to convince them it’s a good idea.” Instead, just make a real effort to understand your employees and their needs.
By highlighting the benefits and addressing their concerns head-on, you and your team can make robots a success.