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How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is Changing Training Administration

Leo Blankenship is the Vice President & General Manager of Conduent Learning Services.

Training administrators are the unsung heroes of many learning and development (L&D) departments. Course leaders and managers may get credited for training teams' successes, but administrators do the behind-the-scenes work that makes wins happen.

Keeping L&D running effectively and on-budget requires overseeing dozens of course schedules, program requirements and trainer activities. Planning calendars, tracking course completions and responding to training requests is a big responsibility – so the larger the company, the more administrators it takes to get the job done.

Or does it? As more and more companies embrace digital solutions in their L&D operations, there's a new kind of coworker available to help training administrators out.

Using a technology known as robotic process automation (RPA), software robots – aka “bots" – can handle much of the day-to-day drudgery that slows administrators down. In doing so, RPA can help administrators and their L&D teams deliver more value to the business – earning them more wins, with less manual effort.

Making administrators more valuable

Since the size and scope of the L&D operation determines the job duties of training administrators, the role looks different at every company. Regardless, many training administrators find it challenging to harness their day-to-day effort for the greatest impact.

In an ideal world, training administrators would spend the bulk of their time helping L&D teams optimize training strategies for success – whether helping them adapt to different learning styles, improve course completion rates or upskill to more data analytics-based roles such as producers, curators and data analysts. Instead, busywork often holds them back.

Managing spreadsheets and schedule changes, for example, may absorb hours of administrators' days. Maintaining accurate records and LMS objects also requires tons of data collection and data entry for reporting.

But as L&D evolves, those repeatable tasks will be a smaller part of administrators' days. If the processes inside a company's learning management systems are efficient and streamlined, they can “botsource" many routine administrative activities using robotic process automation.

Taking repetitive tasks off their plate

RPA software can mimic repeatable human processes. By deploying RPA, companies can automate rules-based activities in the learning organization.

Even with fairly basic LMS systems and processes, software robots can do much of the data collection, form-filling, and step-by-step facilitation administrators do today (for things like request processing, course scheduling, etc.).

The impact shows itself quickly in terms of saved staff-hours. McKinsey research found that RPA can deliver potential ROI of 30% to 200% in the first year alone.

In back-office applications, companies are reporting savings of ~25,000 hours of human work on an annualized basis in exchange for their investment in ~30 programmable bots. And since bots are less error-prone than humans, accuracy and security are also heightened with automation.

Automating tasks, creating opportunities

RPA helps companies realize new advantages in speed, agility, and efficiency (helping lower overhead costs and resource needs). And the more sophisticated solutions and processes supporting L&D, the more opportunities companies have to deploy RPA and enjoy the benefits.

The advantages are motivating many organizations to map out and standardize activities they never had before, in an effort to deploy RPA into every process-heavy area. Some are also exploring whether to adopt so-called 'xAPI' tools capable of capturing and integrating L&D related activity streams from other, separate software systems. Creating the resulting integrated ecosystems allows companies to automate additional processes and collect ever-more data to power algorithms or feed analytics.

Of course, doing that kind of process mapping/re-engineering and L&D solution research requires deep expertise in the system-wide activities that facilitate learning. So who's helping enterprises rethink L&D for a “bot friendly" future?

Their training administrators are. In fact, that's just the kind of strategic, teamwork-driven project that expert employees will have time to do as RPA takes some of the drudgery off their to-do lists.

Reaching future-ready L&D

By using RPA to shift administrative talent to impact-driving projects instead of repetitive activities, companies will better understand which learning activities best support the business. And that will ultimately unlock a more intelligent, agile era of L&D – in which training activities are more tailored, personalized and beneficial for employees.

It will also unlock a new future for the role of training administration in the enterprise.

By helping their employers glean insights into what investments and activity drive high-impact wins, training administrators will go from “unsung heroes" to strategic assets in L&D. As companies scale their learning operations, the help of bots will keep L&D staffing needs low and performance high.