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In this Digital CxO Leadership Insights series video, Amanda Razani interviews Bettina Koblick, the chief people officer for UiPath, about burnout, the great resignation, and the need for automation through digital transformation initiatives.


Amanda Razani: Hello. I’m Amanda Razani with Digital CxO, and I’m here today with Bettina Koblick, the chief people officer of UiPath. How are you, today?

Bettina Koblick: I’m well, thanks. How about you, Amanda?

Amanda Razani: I’m doing well, thank you. So, you shared a survey, earlier this month, interviewing over 5,000 people, globally, about the Great Resignation and employee retention. And it’s clear, from reading this survey, that there are some major challenges businesses are facing with employee happiness and retention. And moving forward, there are gonna have to be some extreme changes to solve this problem. But first, I would like to have a little bit of backstory. What led to this issue?

Bettina Koblick: Let me, and maybe I’ll take a little bit of liberty and also give you a little context about the lens that UiPath uses in thinking about this, before we kind of get to how we got here. One thing I think important for people to understand is what UiPath is all about, and kind of our vision in reshaping how people do work. And that’s all based on robotics, automation, and now, in a more sophisticated way, a wholly kind of automated enterprise platform. Which means that a lot of what people do at work today that is mundane, repetitive, time-consuming, not challenging, not happy-making, can actually be done – can be discovered, can be built, can be done, can be monitored by our platform. So, because of the core of what we do and our founder, who really thought about his product, about – his lens was how to create a better workplace and a better fulfilled, this time is so critical for UiPath and how we think about how do we then make that vision come true.

All right, so, how we got here, why are people frustrated, why is such a large percentage of many companies in many countries thinking about either leaving work all together, changing careers all together, or simply going to a new company? I think it’s kind of a conflation of a bunch of things. One is that there is a lot of work that is actually not intellectually challenging, it doesn’t inspire people, it’s rote, it’s repetitive. Think of doing that work in an environment that is very closed, such as what the pandemic has introduced. So not only are you now spending your time doing rote work, but you’re also, the stimulus of your life has narrowed in such a big way that I think it’s really hard, even for an introvert like me, it’s become really difficult to find joy in my work, until I can invest time in areas that actually have me thinking or interacting with people.

And I do think that’s led to a time where people are really reflective. I also think that the pandemic gave people a false sense of needing to stay with a company, initially, the pandemic. It wasn’t a false sense, actually, it was a sense, because we were all concerned and somewhat unsure. I think the world now realizes that a lot of work can be done remotely, and it’s given people that work in these kinds of jobs a lot more freedom. So I think that the combination of the work we do, the lack of stimulus, you know, that brings joy and happiness to people, and this freedom, I think, around, “Wait a minute, we have choices, we can go elsewhere,” and most enterprises are now offering remote work. I think it’s a perfect inflection point where people say, “Hm, you know, what’s next for me?” So that’s my longwinded answer as to why we are where we are today.

Amanda Razani: And to that regard, do you think that it’s ever gonna go back to how it used to be? Or is this the way of the future, and it’s gonna be even more remote and hybrid work options moving forward?

Bettina Koblick: Yeah, and this is my thinking [laughs], not the world’s thinking. I think this was a real change in how people expect to work, which I think is a great way of influencing how enterprises work. So I do think there’s a fundamental shift. Do I think we’ll go back to some more, you know, in-person times, offices will remain, but I think it will never be exactly as it was. I think it’s kind of beautiful; it’s a shift and it gives people a lot of freedom. But we also now have to shift in how we think about people’s work.

Amanda Razani: Mm-hmm, absolutely. I wanna delve into some of the findings from your survey. Eighty-three percent of employees said they’re taking on up to six new tasks within their jobs, and 70 percent are looking for new jobs. What do you think, can you share a little bit more about these findings and why they’re not able to hire in other employees to take on these tasks? Why are so many being put onto current employees?

Bettina Koblick: I think a couple of things. One, it’s a very tight labor market; there aren’t that many people available to do work. I also think people are getting more discerning about the type of work they wanna do, so if you’re going to the market and saying, “Hey, we want you to do these,” let’s just say, six things that are highly repetitive, right? I just don’t think it’s so attractive to a big part of our talent out there. I also think companies and people within companies are getting much – they’re questioning more about, “Why exactly are we doing this? And why this additional task?” We now, I’m gonna date myself, but, you know, I didn’t come start working with a mindset of process, of efficiency, of automation that is technology-driven, right?

For me, it was, “Okay, how can I make a document shorter, so that I only have to fax two pages instead of ten pages?” Simple example. But I think we have a much more savvy workforce in the Millennials, Gen Z – this is how they live life: they want simple, quick, fast. And I think they recognize, when they’re doing work within an enterprise, that some things are unnecessarily complicated, are not automated when they could be, and they’re savvy, they’re tech savvy. So, I think it’s, again, a bit of a confluence of a generation that’s more savvy, the labor market is tight, and I think the enterprise needs to make a shift. And usually enterprises don’t make shifts until people, if you will, rise up, right? And so, I think it behooves all of us to listen and make the shift.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely. And to that point, 57 percent of employees said that they were irritated because a lot of the tasks they were doing, they thought, could be automated. And 94 percent were suffering from exhaustion and extreme frustration due to all these mundane tasks. So, thinking about the automation factor and how companies can move forward and solve these challenges, where does digital transformation come into that picture?

Bettina Koblick: So, imagine – I’ll just give an example that always helps me think about this, right? Imagine someone comes to work, they open an Excel spreadsheet, they open Salesforce, they open maybe Workday, which is the HRIS, and they’re tasked to pull together information that’s housed in each of those systems. The APIs between those systems aren’t specific enough to allow for an easy pull of that data, but the data needs to be pulled every day, and pushed out to, you know, pushed out to a number of critical stakeholders. Conventional wisdom would say, “Okay, we’ll configure the systems, we’ll build the APIs, we’ll do x, y, and z.” But that doesn’t work anymore, because there is so much complexity with that.

Actually, it does work, but there’s a lot of complexity, a lot of time, and it’s not necessarily the most efficient thing. So if you think about a different mindset around how we think about technology and digital transformation is, how do we become agnostic in a way that automation could be a platform where that ties those things together? We can automate all of the things that a human would normally do, to bring together the information, to click on a site, to open a document, to read the document, to understand the document, to fill in fields. So, imagine that there’s a digital workforce, out there, that just augments the human workforce in a way that’s actually freeing to humans, not frightening to humans but freeing to humans. And in the end, frankly, makes the enterprise efficient, people hopefully happier. [Laughs]

And frankly, it also removes some things that humans just are prone to, which are, we make errors, right? We make errors. We have biases, by the way, even if they’re completely hidden and unknown to ourselves, everyday when we do work, we have biases, whether we screen 1,000 resumes and we keep looking at the same candidate from the same school. We can remove those kind of biases with automation, and then train the automation to continue to improve on any biases that were built by the human who built the bot, right? So, if you think about it like that, it’s thinking about how do you move from a workforce that defaults to the human to do the work, to a workforce that thinks about, “What can be done digitally? And how does that work with our human workforce?” For the betterment of everyone’s experience, and output, frankly.

And what we have found is, just like with the industrial revolution is, just because you introduce a new faster way of producing gidgets doesn’t mean the jobs go away. As a matter of fact, more and more jobs are necessary. It’s a question of how do we teach more people to think in an automation mindset that can now help this digital transformation. So, I think it’s an interesting concept and one we’re bringing to life.

Amanda Razani: Absolutely, and that’s a great point that you just mentioned. Many worry that automation and digital transformation is gonna reduce the amount of jobs available, but your thinking is, in fact, that will open up many new jobs available.

Bettina Koblick: Yeah, and the data actually shows it absolutely does. And try to find RPA developers out there, it’s actually pretty tough. So, one of the things UiPath is doing, just a shameless little plug, we do a lot to educate via university partnerships, via partnerships with organizations like Black Girls Code, all of those kinds of organizations that help us teach the world and really democratize this notion of who can automate things. Because we believe the jobs are waiting out there and that’s just gonna get bigger.

Amanda Razani: That’s fantastic. I wanna thank you so much, Bettina, for coming on and speaking with us today, and I look forward to touching base down the road and seeing where the future leads us with digital transformation initiatives.

Bettina Koblick: Thanks so much, Amanda. Have a good day.

Amanda Razani: Thank you.