UiPath’s Chief People Officer on deploying AI for HR

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The advent of AI and automation is reshaping work. These technologies are not just driving productivity, but also charting a democratised future for the workforce. However, the uses and impact of these technologies vary across organisations and industries.

UiPath, a provider of robotic process automation (RPA) software, is one such company navigating this shift in the workplace. While known for its automation solutions, UiPath is also exploring how these technologies can be harnessed internally to enhance its own work processes and employee experiences.

In this interview, Frontier Enterprise speaks with Brigette McInnis-Day, Chief People Officer at UiPath, to discuss the impact of automation in their own operations, their adoption of generative AI, and the potential of AI-powered automation for extending careers, among others.

How can organisations leverage AI-powered automation technologies such as RPA to enable older workers to have longer and more productive careers? What specific strategies or implementation approaches can be adopted to maximise the benefits of automation in this context?

The workforce is rapidly ageing – by 2050, one in four people in Asia-Pacific will be over 60 years old. Governments in Asia are increasingly pushing for an extension of the labour market to support economic growth. For example, in Singapore, the retirement age has been raised to 63 and will gradually increase to 65 by 2030. To support employees and alleviate their responsibilities, AI-driven automation presents a potential solution by simplifying work processes and enhancing productivity.

At UiPath, we believe that automation can enhance human capabilities, opening doors for workers of all ages — from junior to senior — to excel in their roles. AI-driven automation can support senior employees by extending their professional journeys and boosting productivity. In assisting senior employees with their daily tasks, AI-driven automation removes unnecessary menialities and bottlenecks, allowing experienced employees to devote more time and energy to applying their expertise towards beneficial outcomes.

As employees age and gain experience, performing repetitive and mundane tasks doesn’t help with any physical or cognitive limitations they may face. By automating such tasks, companies can free up valuable time for experienced professionals to engage in higher-value activities that require their seasoned expertise. This not only enables them to contribute more significantly to business objectives but also helps in keeping their minds active by involving them in creative and productive work.

Organisations can maximise the benefits of automation for senior employees through comprehensive training and tailored process assessment. Senior employees need to be armed with the skills and knowledge to effectively use automation technology. For instance, they can engage with user-friendly automation platforms that offer training resources for individuals with a diverse range of skill levels. Our recent global survey found that close to half (44%) of Baby Boomer workers are receptive to the potential of AI-powered automation in their work. This openness to automation presents opportunities for businesses to train senior employees, enabling them to work more efficiently.

Additionally, workflows developed by senior employees can be optimised through tailored process assessment. In this approach, AI identifies bottlenecks and other issues and suggests enhancements that workers can opt to implement. Through this collaboration, AI and senior employees form a mutually beneficial relationship. Automation boosts the productivity and longevity of experienced employees, while their expertise directs the automation journey.

Can you share some examples of how UiPath uses enterprise technologies to address the challenges of a shrinking workforce and increasing demands? What specific initiatives, tools, or strategies have been implemented at UiPath to effectively manage workload, ensure productivity, and maintain job satisfaction in the face of these challenges?

UiPath uses AI-driven automation solutions internally to streamline operations, boost productivity, and improve the work-life balance of employees. Within the UiPath Center of Excellence (CoE), we have implemented several AI-driven automation solutions across various departments.

For example:

  • The Finance team uses automation to streamline order-to-case processes.
  • The Marketing team uses robots to gather relevant information for weekly emails to Sales.
  • The People Ops team built an onboarding robot called the “Rocketeer,” which assists new employees during their onboarding.
Brigette McInnis-Day, Chief People Officer, UiPath
Brigette McInnis-Day, Chief People Officer, UiPath. Image courtesy of UiPath.

Another example is the use of AI-powered automation to reduce time-consuming and costly human interaction for common user queries sent to the IT department. In this scenario, our employees use a chatbot to describe their IT issue, and the bot either fixes the issue immediately, or routes it to the IT help desk for further evaluation, depending on the complexity of the problem. This has helped to reduce workloads for the IT help desk, as the bots now handle and automatically resolve about 15% of incoming requests. Employees saw an improved end user experience, as average handling time of each IT request reduced by about 98%.

We believe in giving employees an active role in the automation initiative, and utilise low-code or no-code solutions to allow non-technical users to build and deploy applications through simple, drag-and-drop interfaces. Our citizen developers help extend the capabilities of our CoE by sharing automation knowledge across the company. This strategy has helped us in scaling automation across the company, freeing up more time for employees so that they can take on more meaningful, strategic, and fulfilling work.

As Chief People Officer at UiPath, how do you see enterprise technologies shaping the future of work in Singapore? How might companies utilise these technologies to boost productivity, foster a positive work environment, and support employee well-being?

Enterprise technologies, such as AI and automation, are driving accelerated productivity and innovation across organisations, and will be critical in charting an inclusive and sustainable future for the workforce.

In a period where Singaporean employees are expected to handle more work with less support, AI-enabled automation can assume repetitive, mundane tasks. This boosts productivity by enabling workers to accomplish more with less. It also affords people more time to concentrate on the creative, strategic, and fulfilling aspects of their job, thereby enhancing job satisfaction. Our global survey indicates that 69% of Singaporean workers believe automation can alleviate burnout and enhance job satisfaction. This percentage is higher than the global average of 58% and ranks third among all countries surveyed globally.

To fully exploit the potential of these enterprise technologies, businesses must invest in workforce development through upskilling and reskilling opportunities. This will equip the workforce with the necessary skills to confidently incorporate these technologies into their daily workflows. Prioritising the democratisation of information, access, and learning is essential as we aim to capitalise on the strengths of human and digital workforces in the future of work. A holistic approach through public-private partnerships, such as sharing industry expertise and forming alliances with academic institutions and workforce development agencies, can significantly contribute to building a resilient and skilled workforce.

For instance, at UiPath, we aim to foster an automation-first mindset by making our software freely accessible for students and educators. We also offer courses and have established a network of global automation professionals and users through the UiPath Academy. Furthermore, as part of our UiPath Academic Alliance programme, we collaborate with higher education institutions and workforce development agencies, such as NTUC LearningHub in Singapore, to provide RPA training

Can you talk about how the adoption of generative AI such as ChatGPT and Bard has influenced the roles and processes of employees at UiPath? What changes have been observed as a result, and how have employees adapted to these changes?

Generative AI systems, including ChatGPT and GPT-4, are seen as beneficial tools by many. These robust language models, initially trained on vast amounts of data collected from the web, allow a wide range of individuals, from CEOs to students, to incorporate generative models into their lives and work. At UiPath, these tools have been extremely valuable across all teams.

One notable advantage realised by our IT department is the ability to rapidly produce code documentation. Generative AI simplifies the demanding task of creating comprehensive user documentation for code. After our developers input pertinent information into generative AI models, they can ask common user questions and use the generated output for their documentation.

Moreover, generative AI enables them to create code from natural language requests. Our developers and citizen developers utilise generative AI models to generate automation workflows based on natural language descriptions. They merely describe what they aim to achieve and ask the model to generate the necessary code. This capability provides support to our employees of any skill level, unlocking new possibilities in their daily work.

From an HR perspective, when you eliminate the repetitive processes in an HR professional’s day-to-day tasks and return the essential time and resources they previously lacked, they can concentrate on the broader business strategy. At UiPath, we have implemented a range of automation solutions that focus on recognition to enhance engagement. For instance, we have begun the creation of an interactive automation that all employees can use for HR-related queries. Among its initial features, the bot can raise tickets on behalf of employees, eliminating the need for them to navigate different systems to make requests. The result is a one-stop solution for employees’ inquiries.

Another instance involves Clipboard AI, a recent development at UiPath. This tool merges UiPath AI with large language models like ChatGPT and Bard. Clipboard AI can copy information visible in scans, screenshots, or screens, and can determine where the data should be placed and paste it accordingly. In the context of HR applications, Clipboard AI can extract data from resumes and job applications, such as candidate names and contact information, and transfer them into HR systems.

Apart from UiPath’s RPA platform, are there any other automation tools that UiPath employees find valuable in their work processes? How does UiPath foster an environment that encourages the exploration and adoption of a diverse range of automation solutions to meet different business needs?

At UiPath, we prioritise creating an environment that encourages the exploration and adoption of diverse automation solutions to meet various business needs. We value openness to new ideas and solutions, recognising that this benefits not only our customers but also our employees by easing their workloads and providing opportunities for growth.

From a compliance perspective, automation has helped in auditing employee data in Workday, a platform we use for HR services, across all other systems. This helps ensure data accuracy and alerts HR administrators if it identifies an anomaly. Automation has also significantly reduced the time it takes for a specialist to log into various systems, download invoices, and reconcile them in Excel to send to finance teams. This labour-intensive process becomes easier with automation because it lets HR employees spend time on value-added tasks.

In addition to this, we have also used automation tools to transform employee interaction by introducing Athena, a Slack application that aids in employee learning and mentoring. By integrating conversational AI with Druid chatbots, Microsoft SQL Server, RPA, and Slack, Athena provides a platform for engaging dialogue between employees, serving both learners and mentors. Athena on Slack has seen quick and positive adoption, with nearly 700 UiPath employees joining the Learning Hub Workspace. Today, Athena’s impact spans 18 countries where UiPath operates, with high user satisfaction due to the chatbot’s seamless matching of learners with mentors.

To further encourage a culture of exploration and facilitate the adoption of automation solutions, employees can utilise our courses from the UiPath Academy. They also have access to the UiPath Community platform, where they can connect, learn, and collaborate with peers across the entire automation community. This platform serves as a hub for sharing knowledge, best practices, and fostering collaboration among professionals.