Automation is everywhere. As the “new norm,” intelligent automation plays a key role in our everyday lives. From Lyft providing instant access to a ride and Alexa keeping track of the grocery list, intelligent automation is behind the scenes enhancing services and making our lives easier. With less and less effort required on our part, intelligent automation is quickly becoming the preferred way of doing things.
While the world moves towards increased automation, many companies and HR organizations in particular are striving to follow. However, many HR organizations still rely on manual and unstructured work processes. In a recent study of more than 1,850 business leaders, HR was named the department “most in need of a reboot” with only 37 percent of services being automated. This makes it not only difficult for HR teams to do their jobs effectively, but also reflects on the department overall and what employees experience when interacting with HR. The lack of automation in HR organizations is especially challenging given the dramatic rise in work loads in recent years. Struggling to keep up with the high volume of work, frenetic pace, and employee demands, HR organizations are realizing that emails and spreadsheets don’t cut it in today’s world of increased automation and that the time has come to update their systems.
HR departments want to provide excellent service, but are often bogged down with routine requests and tasks. To avoid these pitfalls, organizations should look at the facts, consider the benefits of automation, and make an actionable plan.
Look at the Facts
The pace of work is rising each year. In fact, by 2020, nearly 9 out of 10 executives believe their companies will hit the breaking point in which they will need intelligent automation to keep up with work volume according to the study. Yet, less than half of business processes are automated, with HR and customer service the least. A surprising statistic considering their impact on the overall service experience and the important relationships they manage with employees and customers respectively.
Inefficient tools and manual processes are making it increasingly difficult for HR departments to do their jobs well. In fact, 91 percent of survey respondents agree that skilled professionals spend too much time on administrative tasks. HR teams are drowning in unanswered emails and phone calls, unwieldy spreadsheets and stacks of administrative paperwork. Respondents also confirm this by reporting that managing employee relocations, leaves of absence, and onboarding are the least efficient processes. Without automation, tasks that should be streamlined and effortless are taking the most amount of energy and time. This leaves HR feeling drained and with little resources left to do their jobs well. As the world becomes more interconnected, the pace of work will also grow leaving companies with one choice – to aggressively automate their HR processes.
Consider the Benefits
When companies consider the financial and productivity benefits that automation delivers, there should be no hesitation to pursue this route. For instance, the study shows that highly automated companies are six times more likely to experience revenue growth than companies with low automation. When asked, executives highlighted some of the potential reasons for this enhanced financial performance including reduced costs (81%), increased customer satisfaction (78%), faster work completion (84%), and more time for strategic initiatives (74%). In other words, the more automated processes in place, the more resources and time HR teams have to do the work they want to do.
Automating HR processes can dramatically enrich the workplace experience for both HR teams and employees. When HR teams are freed from the mundane and drudgery of manual work, they have the opportunity to explore what matters – developing the skills to reach their full potential as productive employees. Instead of spending their days filling out forms, sending emails and updating spreadsheets, they can focus on building workplace relationships, exploring their creativity, and providing high quality HR services to employees.
Make a Plan
To avoid hitting the breaking point, HR organizations need to take action today. The following steps will help companies as they start down the path to full HR process automation:
- Identify HR processes that need improving. Make a catalog of HR services that could benefit from automation. Typically, these are services that have a high degree of repetitive tasks performed by HR or by employees and their managers. These could include simple services like tuition reimbursement, gift matching and employment verification to more complex ones like leaves of absence, relocation, onboarding and offboarding. Plan for dependencies on and touchpoints with other departments providing service including IT and Real Estate and Facilities.
- Prioritize services. Next, prioritize HR services in need of automation based on frequency, volume and impact. Create a prioritized roadmap based on these findings. For example, a critical yet infrequent natural disaster should be a top priority with automated processes in place for if/when these events occur. Similarly, the productivity benefits associated with automating onboarding in a high growth or high turnover organization can be significant.
- Work with teams throughout the transition. Employees are often resistant to change and need management to reassure them throughout the process. Actively seek employee input, answer questions, address concerns, and incorporate their ideas into the automation roadmap. Doing so will improve the final outcome.
- Follow best practices for change management. Organizational change is more than checking off a to-do list. Executive support and active participation by both HR and employees and their managers is essential. By communicating regularly, companies can break down barriers, establish clear ownership, and ensure that every part of the business is engaged.
- Help HR thrive in an automated world. Ninety-four percent of business leaders believe automation will increase the demand for skills such as collaboration, creative problem-solving and communication. Yet many of today’s HR teams are inundated with manual tasks and may not have the skillset to thrive in an automated workplace. Ensure that proper training is set up to help HR professionals through the transition so they can feel better equipped and successful at work.
While many companies have started to use intelligent automation, research shows the pace is not enough to keep up with the rising amount of work expected in the coming years. HR teams will continue to do mundane and repititive tasks manually if companies do not speedup their automation roadmaps. By following best practices for successful HR process automation and organizational change, companies will start to see immediate results in costs and efficiency for HR along with overall employee satisfaction and productivity.