DoL’s emerging technician chief engages staff, identifying pain points to drive automation.

Written by John Hewitt Jones

Engaging federal agency workers and gaining a deep understanding of their daily challenges are key to responsible process automation, says the Labor Department’s chief of emerging technologies.

Krista Kinard, speaking with FedScope Tuesday, said early discussions are critical to ensuring the relevance of newly engaged automation systems.

“It starts with responsibility — engaging with people and understanding what their challenges are before they bring technology to the table and making sure the technology is actually solving that problem,” she said.

Kinard spoke with FedScoop after receiving the Emerging Leaders Medal at the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Awards for her work automating repetitive administrative processes at the Labor Department.

She won the award for controlling the use of robotics process automation to design and organize an employee performance review in less than 40 hours and less than three minutes.

“[The work] It started with an interview with the Labor Department staff: What’s the part of your job you hate the most? What is the most boring, repetitive, mundane thing? ” Kinnard explained.

“How can we automate them so they can focus on the work they’re trained to do? That takes your knowledge and training and empathy as a human being.”

Under her leadership, the Department of Labor has deployed more than 30 bots to help federal workers focus on more valuable work.

Kinard added that the design of new technology implementations is key to ensure that agency staff are included in the development process, and emphasized the importance of strong governance for new technology.

“We certainly don’t want to build bots that replace people or harm people or create any kind of discrimination.”

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