The critical role of automation in career advancement and boosting federal employee engagement

For government agencies conscientious of creating a work environment that encourages long-term employee commitment and fuels career advancement, deploying autom...

For government agencies conscientious of creating a work environment that encourages long-term employee commitment and fuels career advancement, deploying automation technology in the workplace will be crucial.

When competing with the private sector for top talent while accounting for a reduced federal workforce and ever-tightening budgets, automation can drastically enhance the federal employee experience and increase employee engagement. A 2021 Gallup study estimated that a mere 36% of employees are engaged in their work and workplace. Maintaining a high level of engagement not only encourages employee retention and acts as a catalyst for productivity, but it also creates capacity for employees to find their passion within the agency’s mission.

Automation facilitates this by delegating simple tasks that don’t contribute to career development or the agency’s overall mission to software robots. For instance, the United States Air Force deployed robotic process automation across the agency, which saved more than $20 million in taxpayer dollars and reduced manual tasks by 75% across 23 bases.

For agency leaders looking to build quality employee experiences, accelerate career advancement for their staff and reach mission goals, there are various ways automation technology can help them achieve these objectives.

Automation empowers employees by building new skill sets

When appropriately deployed, automated software robots serve as trusted helpers to their human counterparts.

They can address the time-intensive, repetitive work that employees often drudge through to complete, freeing them up to apply their unique expertise to higher-value tasks. Implementing automation also helps employees feel valued. Being able to focus on and refine the core responsibilities of their roles creates a greater sense of purpose and fosters satisfaction toward employers.

When employees are freed from tasks that can be completed by RPA, they have time to pursue training and skill-building activities, such as building leadership skills or learning new technology. Given the instances where automation has actually created the need for new jobs with advanced skill sets, many agencies that have deployed automation are directing the funds saved from automated activities back toward employee training and upskilling. For example, the implementation of automation introduces new tasks and capabilities that can lead to the creation of higher-skill roles for workers such as developers, automation directors and automation center of excellence teams.

Automation increases productivity while decreasing error rates

Engaged employees are more productive, which spurs personal growth and overall agency success. Studies have shown that when federal employees are relieved of tedious and repetitive mundane tasks — such as data collection and benefits and claims processing — overall productivity increases. As such, RPA augments the work of employees and improves productivity while eliminating human error.

When RPA was deployed by the IRS in 2020 within its Finance and Procurement Divisions, their team cleared nearly 1,500 backlogged contract modifications in 72 hours. This would have taken them a full year to complete manually. The Federal Reserve Bank saw similar results when implementing RPA, saving over 14,000 hours of manual work annually.

These agencies further utilized RPA to provide relief to employees and provide benefits to those in need. Now, rather than being faced with daunting backlogs, automation has created the capacity for employees to provide better public services and handle more complex tasks that contribute to their career advancement.

The path to automated workflows is a journey

Improving employee engagement and building career-ready skills is part of the automation journey. However, knowing where to begin is imperative. The first step is to develop a strong proof of concept (PoC), which lays out automation’s potential value to an organization by mitigating targeted pain points. Following PoC development, the stage is set to support scaled-up automation efforts by developing an initial team and governing framework. Many agencies succeed by establishing an internal automation Center of Excellence to guide efforts.

And while many agencies have taken that first step by implementing basic RPA, there are still more benefits to be gained by applying intelligent automation and other emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, to improve employee engagement and fuel career advancement.

For agencies looking to improve their workforce’s talents and overall work environment, deploying automation must be a top priority for leadership focused on improving mission outcomes, employee engagement and career growth.

Danny Sutton is a federal account executive at UiPath.


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