The exponential growth of automation in the workforce has resulted in the technology being equally accepted and rejected. While RPA and AI are disrupting internal departments, they are also inviting innovation and the creation of new job roles and responsibilities.
Yet, how an organization perceives automation in their workforce ultimately comes down to how well they can identify and understand how to connect automation to processes and where they can reap the benefits. Without this fundamental understanding, it is no wonder many aren’t using RPA to its full potential.
This is apparent within the modern HR movement as HR services evolve towards improved value-added strategies for the business. The modern HR movement leverages and embraces RPA and digital transformation and identifies where it can best serve its purpose. Research compiled by The Hackett Group reveals that HR organizations who integrate automation into their practices can reduce costs by 17% and operate with 26% fewer staff hours. Automation is not just about driving the most cost savings. RPA, cognitive automation, intelligent data capture and other leading technologies can all contribute to improved effectiveness and free up resources to be directed to enable more strategic and value-added work.
Getting into Position
Start with the Process and the Planning
The first step to enabling automation always comes with understanding your processes and going back to the fundamentals to determine where you prioritize your changes. Skipping this step will result in a lack of organization and create potential risks in underestimating the amount of resources, time and effort that goes into the transformation. Integrating automation may take a fair amount of preparation and process mapping, but this type of review should be standard practice in any case.
Enabler not Replacement
The most common misconception with integrating automation is the fear of losing people and talent. However, automation does not mean that human talent will become obsolete. Rather, finding, shaping and guiding the right talent that will complement the automated process will become integral to the business’ success. If new automated HR systems are introduced, then adequate training should be implemented to help ease the staff in transitioning to new processes. HR operation teams must encourage a balance between modern, automated tasks with human processes as automation is ideally used to simplify administration, not replace talent completely.
Communication and Change Management
In a 2019 Global Shared Services market report, those surveyed highlighted that a lack of effective change management strategies was one of the primary reasons for failing to adopt RPA initiatives. As automation disrupts traditional methods, there is great potential for cultural and human resistance. Therefore, how organizations manage the change will influence the return on investment.
Building awareness, preparing and training staff and simply talking about the opportunities and risks can help in gaining buy-in and support for the new processes. When effective communication practices are used and organizations can clearly articulate why they want to automate and what their goals are, staff are likely to embrace the change and might even show enthusiasm in taking on new skills, learning the language and becoming automation champions.
Reaping the Benefits
Through HR automation, organizations will ultimately reduce the time and cost spend on manual HR processing and instead, pay more attention to the strategic roles of HR such as workforce or succession planning. From payroll to performance management to on boarding and recruitment, there are a plethora of benefits that crucial HR functions can leverage when automated. Here are just a few.
Reducing Errors and Repetition
All the keystrokes to perform these mundane tasks can easily be replicated. ‘Robots’ can be programmed to work the pre-set processes of your system, therefore enabling a faster process and less possibility of error. This also removes any repetitive traditional tasks that are known to cause delays, giving the HR operations team the ability to focus on more value-added activities that contribute to the organization’s growth and culture.
Increasing Capability and Better Efficiency
Since automation is an enabler and not a replacement, it presents an opportunity for innovators to spearhead its roll out and increase their skillset with working with new processes or move into new, advanced roles. Staff can become resilient, agile and become more productive.
Improved Compliance and Control
Digitalizing and automating HR documents that may contain sensitive information can help improve control and demonstrate compliance. Data that is recorded and compiled on paper-based means are prone to security breaches or information landing in the wrong hands. Automation and digitalization therefore ensures that documents and information are treated according to compliance requirements.
The advantage of moving towards automation is that once an organization can identify what processes and tasks to automate, there may not be a need to replace the whole system. In fact, there are some fine modules that can be attached to an existing HR software that will still achieve the benefits and ROI mentioned above.
Automation is the logical developmental step for any HR department looking to simplify administration processes and suppress the potential for error. Taking payroll for example where automation has seen to become the key to better working, doing away with repetition and error-prone posting, the spotlight has now turned to a wider range of HR activities where such opportunities can also be seized.
As Aram Lulla, General Manager for Human Resources Practice at Lucas Group quotes in Forbes: “Rather than fearing automation, I encourage HR professionals to gain a robust understanding of automation’s practical applications. Automating tasks like onboarding, performance tracking and offboarding not only delivers a better employee experience, but also frees up time for higher-level strategy work. Mastering employer branding and talent development essentials is where HR professionals can truly shine.”
There is no doubt that globally we are heading towards a more automated future and HR must stay ahead of this curve and embrace automation to encourage more strategic thinking for the future.
* This article was co-authored by Katherine Fernandez, the Content Marketing Manager of The Shared Services and Outsourcing Network.*
Denis Barnard is an HRIS specialist and a founder member of Global Talent Advisors