The Surprising Way You Can Retain Talent During the Great Resignation: Business Process Automation

Blog written by Eide Bailly, a Greater Mankato Growth Bronze Investor

From flexible schedules to compensation and benefit packages, the Great Resignation has forced organizations to rethink the way they foster employee satisfaction and maximize staff. One of the simplest answers to talent retention is making sure your employees are satisfied with their jobs. Are they able to focus on higher-value tasks or are they spending hours (or even days) on repetitive or complicated manual processes?

Business Process Automation, or BPA, can help free your employees from manual, time consuming processes they hate and allow them to focus on work that is more enjoyable and adds higher value to your organization. This investment in making the day-to-day lives of your employees better is incredibly valuable. Whether it’s a process that takes 10 minutes every Monday morning or one that eats up three days, lightening the emotional load for your employees can drastically change the way that they perceive their employment experience.

What is Business Process Automation?

Business Process Automation (BPA) is the method in which you utilize technology to automate or optimize processes within your organization. One of the most important things to remember about BPA is that it focuses on process optimization. You can automate any process, but first you need to consider whether the process is worth automating in the first place.

It’s also important to remember that you shouldn’t select a technology and see what problems it can solve; you will be better served by deciding which problems you need to solve and then finding a technology that provides a solution.

How Does Business Process Automation Work?

From admin and finance to HR and marketing, the benefits of process optimization and automation are far-reaching. You will be able to find opportunities for process improvement throughout your entire organization. Take, for example, the hiring process.

Hiring a new employee is a process that involves many people. For the typical organization, hiring a new position starts with the hiring manager and flows through human resources for approval and salary research. From there, the process moves to the recruiting team to post, screen, interview, and conduct background checks. Once an offer is extended and a candidate accepts, it circles back to HR to close the position and transitions to IT to procure equipment and appropriate licenses. The process then ends with onboarding and training that needs to be coordinated to ensure a successful start. It’s a complicated process with timelines and multiple dependencies.

For one client, our team was able to orchestrate this entire process to flow seamlessly between departments using the software they already used daily. Their new automation functions as a “digital project manager” that is programmed to enhance the process and reduce inefficiencies. When someone is ready to hire a new role, they simply enter the required information in Microsoft Teams, which is then immediately transmitted to the HR department who receives a notification of what their next step. After those steps are complete, a notification is sent to the IT department signaling their upcoming tasks. This is all done by leveraging the software that the team already uses, so there’s no switching back and forth between systems.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a subset of Business Process Automation created through enterprise innovation. As companies grow, they inevitably create technical debt— older, legacy systems that don’t make sense to replace, yet still need to interact with the new, cloud-based tools organizations are implementing.

RPA started as a (very expensive) solution that helped automate many of the repetitive, manual processes required to tie these systems together through the use of “digital workers” (also known as “bots”) and artificial intelligence. Recently, however, the technology has become more attainable for everyday organizations who suffer from the same problems as enterprise businesses, just on a smaller scale.

RPA is a stopgap solution for organizations who are stuck in the middle of where they started and where they’re trying to go. When it doesn’t make sense for the organization to spend two days on a manual process, but it also doesn’t make sense for them to invest tens of thousands of dollars on new systems or integrations, RPA can be the perfect solution.

How Does Robotic Process Automation Work?

RPA allows for a more hands-off, user-friendly experience. We recently worked with a construction company to automate their invoice approval process. Starting with a PDF invoice from their subcontractor, the automation we built scans the invoice, pulls out the needed information and sends the approver a message in Microsoft Teams. The approver is then able to see the invoice details, modify them if necessary, save the invoice in SharePoint, and then approve or reject the invoice.

Once the invoice is approved, the automation launches the invoicing application, uploads the data and saves the record. When finished, it closes the application and sends an alert that the invoice was created. The invoice is added to an Excel spreadsheet that logs every transaction.

How to Know When It’s Time to Invest in Automation

The traditional way of determining whether it’s time to invest in a technology has focused on numbers—by evaluating the balance sheet and seeing how long it will take to realize the ROI of your solution. But the Great Resignation has introduced a new metric into the equation: how does this affect employee satisfaction and improve the efficiency of your current staff? The ROI may not be as black and white, but the investment in your employees will go a long way.

Feeling Anxious?

If you answered “Yes!” to that question, you are not alone. In fact, you are part of the majority.

Rates of anxiety and depression among U.S. adults were about 4 times higher between April 2020 and August 2021 than they were in 2019. Some of the sharpest increases were among males, Asian Americans, young adults, and parents with children in the home, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even without a pandemic, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million of adults in the United States age 18 and older. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

Anxiety, in short, is a disconnect between your mind and body. Your mind is worrying about something in the past or future (like an exam). Your body, however, does not have the capability to recognize past or future; it can only live in the here and now. This causes your body to have a set of physical reactions as it is preparing to fight, run, or freeze.

Experiencing occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. It is healthy for the mind and body to experience some anxiety. However, anxiety becomes a more serious issue when it begins to interfere with your daily life, becomes excessive, is unmanageable, or leads to panic attacks. Professionally speaking, you could be diagnosed with anxiety if you experience symptoms for six consecutive weeks. Instead of waiting for those weeks to pass, you can take steps to reduce your anxiety now.

Here are some useful (and maybe even a little goofy) scientifically supported techniques you can use when you’re experiencing anxiety.

1. Give your mind a name. If you give your mind a name, it makes it easier to disagree with and move on to a more helpful thought. The average human has 60,000-80,000 thoughts every day. That’s a ton! How many of those thoughts are actually useful for you? Maybe a small handful each day? Do yourself a favor and name your mind. Mine is named Jeff. We are friends. Jeff gives me quite a few strange thoughts, but I can respectfully disagree with him.

2. Go to your “one-stop” shopping store. Well, you don’t have to physically go there, but imagine that your mind is like that store where there are tons of items. (Your items are your thoughts.)  Some items in the store are useful. Some are worthless to you. Some you never even knew existed! Do you go into the store planning to buy everything in the store? No way! Your mind works the same way. As you are shopping around the aisles of your thoughts, you get to choose what you buy and what you leave on the shelf!

3. Repeat it. Created by psychologist Edward Titchener, this little trick shows people how a word loses its meaning when repeated over and over and over. If you want to give it a try, take the word “milk.” Take a moment and think of a nice, cold glass of milk. Then repeat the word “milk” out loud for 30 seconds. You’ll notice that it starts to lose meaning and just becomes a weird sound that’s hard to say. Try doing 30 seconds of “failure” or “loser” or “ugly” the next time a thought like that causes you anxiety or pain.

4. Sing the thought or say it in a funny voice. I suggest using “Happy Birthday” as the melody to that anxious thought you’re experiencing, and maybe your favorite cartoon character’s voice. I know, I know, it sounds strange. I promise you, though, this is based on hundreds of scientific studies!

These are just a handful of skills that are a portion of Cognitive Defusion. Defusion is part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which was created and researched by Dr. Steven Hayes. I hope they are helpful for you!

To learn more about Cognitive Defusion, you can watch Dr. Hayes speak about it during his TedTalk.

Growing Area Talent Through High School Youth

Mankato Area Public Schools (MAPS) is increasing career pathway exploration by encouraging students to participate in Work-Based Learning opportunities. All high school youth are eligible to participate in activities to explore and refine skills through this unique form of learning outside the classroom. We are excited that so many local businesses have opened their doors to help youth discover and explore their futures! Our options in work-based learning provide “layered learning” for students who need additional experiences to help shape their decisions. Some of these options are listed below; additionally, employers can choose from an array of 12 partnership opportunities by completing this survey:

Individualized Career Exploration Experiences

MAPS students are encouraged to participate in exploration opportunities before extended work-based learning. Below are some of the unique ways that employers can showcase their careers and companies:

Job Shadows

A traditional 1:1 shadowing experience exploring a specific career. Students provide their own transportation.

Career Interviews

A virtual shadowing experience for 1-3 students in a career field.

Career Forums

Employers visit the high school site to share information with a small group of students (2-10) who have identified a specific career pathway of interest.

Lunch & Learns

Targeted group of students who visit multiple industries and post-secondary instiutions throughout the year to learn about career fields and programming.

Mini Site Tours

Small groups of students (2-7) who have identified an area of interest tour a company to learn more.

Note: Other exploration opportunities for students include Classroom Speakers and Classroom Field Trips

Work Experience

MAPS believes that work empowers students to build career skills (soft skills) and knowledge to be quality employees and citizens. Students earn credits for their employment. Students are required to take a Career Planning course prior or in conjunction with their work. This is available for any student in grades 9-12.

Career Internship

A Career Internship is a paid or unpaid experience taking a deeper dive into a student’s area of interest. Students earn high school credits through this model by taking career pathway coursework and then applying that skill and knowledge at a worksite helping them gain skills and experiences. An example of a career internship is our partnership with Mayo Clinic Health System. Mayo Clinic Health System Explorers are students who take a full semester to learn about a wide variety of healthcare careers by working in several departments in the Mankato Mayo Clinic Health System facility. From nursing to pharmacy, lab tech to information technology, students are seeing how their talents and interests can be applied almost anywhere. Students attend weekly seminars at the school to build their resumes and portfolios.

YOUTH APPRENTICESHIPS

These full-year or multi-year opportunities are for students who are highly motivated to work in a field. Currently, our youth apprenticeship programs are in Advanced Manufacturing. An example is our YEAP partnership (Youth Employment Acceleration Program). Students work for up to 2 years at a company, learning the various roles and responsibilities within the organization. MTU Onsite Energy, EI Microcircuits, Kato Cable, and Lindsay Window and Door are YEAP partners providing opportunities for students to take a direct hands-on approach to learning about the field of advanced manufacturing.

Last year–even with COVID–approximately 250 students participated in a work-based learning experience in the district. This number will likely grow as students move toward taking their learning in new directions and businesses continue to look for talent and consider why training the youngest of employees can benefit their organization. Through these experiences, students are developing a network of support that can help them long after they graduate. Students taking advantage of any of the work-based learning options are building their personal toolkit to be career, college, and life ready. 

Thank you for your interest in learning more about partnership opportunities at MAPS, and again, if you are interested in partnering with MAPS, please complete the survey below.

New COVID-19 Guidelines for Keeping Employees Safe

FAQ on New COVID-19 Guidelines:

Here are our answers to the most frequent questions on the new COVID-19 guidelines and keeping your workers safe. Our goal is to keep your employees out of the clinic and hospital if it’s not necessary.

Q: When employees have COVID-19 symptoms, what should they do?
A: They should get tested at a local testing site. Here are some testing options. While waiting for results and after testing positive, they should stay home and isolate from their families as best they can. Treat mild symptoms at home with over-the-counter medication. Stay hydrated. If they have shortness of breath or worsening symptoms that cannot be managed at home, seek medical care by calling your clinic.

Q: Do employers need to require a doctor’s note from employees in order to return to work?
A: No. Please do not require employees to get a doctor’s note to return to work due to the volume of patients being seen at the clinic. A medical visit and note are not necessary to return to work and providers and staff are working to care for those who are very ill.

Q: When employees test positive on an at-home test, is it really positive or do they need to be tested again at the clinic?
A: If someone tests positive on a home COVID test, they do not need to get retested in a medical facility.  A positive home test means they have COVID.

Q: If you have a COVID-positive employee who is feeling better after 5 days, can the employee return to work on day 6?
A: Yes, if symptoms are resolving and they remain fever-free without medication for 24 hours. If they feel better, they can return beginning on day 6 and any day after. Remember, the day symptoms begin is day zero. If symptoms persist after 5 days, your employee should stay home until symptoms resolve, or at least 10 days, whichever is shorter. For example, if symptoms resolve on day 7, they can return on on day 8. When your employee returns to work they should be masked (level 2 if possible) until day 10. If their symptoms are not resolving, they may be out for the full 10 days and no doctor note is needed.

CDC Guidance
Click here for CDC recommendations on quarantine and isolation. The chart is easy-to-read and answers many questions on when to test, what’s a close contact, and how to calculate quarantine and isolation periods.


Podcast: Heartless Hackers Demanding GIft cards

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the importance of cybersecurity has quickly become a quintessential part of today’s business strategy. More than 50% of businesses have been the victim of a cyberattack, and as many as 60% of those hacked businesses end up going out of business.

Continue reading “Podcast: Heartless Hackers Demanding GIft cards”

The Five Stages of Cybersecurity Prevention 

Cyberattacks can cost organizations millions of dollars and 2021 has seen the highest average data breach cost in the last 17 years. While it’s almost inevitable that you’ll someday deal with a cyberattack on some level, organizations who formed incident response teams and tested their incident response plans were able to reduce the cost of a breach by almost 40%.

With the broad nature of cybersecurity and a lot of ground to cover, many companies don’t even know where to begin. Luckily, a comprehensive, in-depth cybersecurity action plan can be broken down into five stages: Foundational Security, Policies and Awareness, Key Processes, Incident Preparedness and Security Monitoring. While each has their own unique benefits, a true culture of security relies on each stage working together for peak efficiency and protection.

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Email, Phone, or Text – Which Is Best for Communicating with Customers?

Customer Texting is in Demand

According to one study, 63% of respondents said they would switch to a company that offered text messaging to communicate. That’s not surprising when 92% say they expect to wait on hold five minutes or more before speaking to a human being.

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Employee Retention Credit: 7k Quarterly Wage Subsidy per Employee for 2021

The COVID recession isn’t over for everyone. For businesses still struggling to return to 2019 revenue levels, the tax law has a lifeline: a refundable tax credit of up to $7,000 per-employee, per-quarter.

It’s easy to see how $7,000 per quarter, per employee, can add up. For a qualifying company with 50 employees, for example, it could mean as much as $1,400,000 in benefits for 2021.

The Employer Retention Credit was first enacted early in 2020 as a tax credit of up to $5,000 per employee for 2020. It applies to taxpayers who have either:

  1. Had a full or partial suspension of business due to a government order, or
  2. Had a significant decline in gross receipts.
Continue reading “Employee Retention Credit: 7k Quarterly Wage Subsidy per Employee for 2021”

Recovering from Financial Data Loss: What to Know About Forensic Data Reconstruction

When financial data has been lost or destroyed, it’s imperative that organizations have their data reconstructed quickly and efficiently in order to move forward. Forensic data reconstruction allows organizations to recreate their accounting systems.

Here’s what you need to know about financial data loss and how forensic data reconstruction can help.

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How To Attract and Retain Employees

Are you struggling to hire quality employees? Has the shortage of employees struck you hard? This is not going to be alleviated anytime soon. COVID-19 accelerated numerous retirements, spurred entrepreneurship, or pursuit of other opportunities while people were furloughed, and with the challenges of finding daycare, many two income homes have found a way to survive on one income, while a stay-at-home parent develops a side hustle replacing a job. And we won’t even get started on the extra unemployment income (but do you really want those employees back anyway?).

Continue reading “How To Attract and Retain Employees”