The power of automation in HR

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Lizzie Buxton

30th April 2019

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There are mixed opinions in the world of work about the role of robots and automation. While technology is clearly evolving at a pace and some tasks will be able to be done quicker and cheaper, there’s also the fear that automation can pose a risk to human beings and their job prospects. So, while savvy businesses might want to look at ways to invest in automation to streamline their operations, they need to try to move forward in a way that doesn’t cause widespread unrest among their workforce.

It pays, therefore, to consider the role of automation in HR in order to be able to have the right balance for the future and ensure everyone both understands the benefits and can work together to capitalise on them.


What is HR automation and how can it help businesses?

HR automation involves removing some of the time-consuming manual tasks required of a human resources department through technology. It aims to eliminate manual functions that add little value for a business and let HR professionals focus solely on making a real difference within an organisation. Automation aims to reduce the element of human error that can come from high volume manual data handling and processing.

At heart, this is about removing the paperwork burden from workers and freeing them up for the aspects of their role that require human interaction and intuition just as much as it is about reducing errors and improving efficiency and it’s important that businesses recognise this and convey it properly to their workers. It’s also about creating a better employee experience, through speedier and simpler processes.


How does automation work in practice?

There are a number of practical ways in which businesses can benefit from HR automation. These include:

  • Self-service for leave requests. Holiday requests can create an unnecessary headache – and have the potential to cause issues with staff who will quickly lose patience if they’re unable to take the leave they’re entitled to. Allowing leave requests to be logged in a HR system and for line managers to approve or reject these with the push of the button streamlines this. It’s then easy for this information to be automatically loaded onto an employee’s calendar – thus making availability easy to trace – and for managers to get data visualisations to spot potential pinch points where holiday is at its heaviest.
  • Making new employees feel welcome. Bringing a new recruit on board can be tough – there’s a lot to get through and line managers often have a lot else on their plate to deal with. Many businesses are developing onboarding apps or systems that can walk a newcomer through everything they need to know and help them to feel at home right away.
  • Knowledge sharing. How do you ensure that everyone knows and has access to the policies and processes they need to be able to do their job? Managers and employees alike often need access to key information that requires the input of someone from HR. With a knowledge portal you can have accessible, easy-to-follow versions of your policies available to avoid the need for such questions, saving time for both parties.
  • People analytics. How well do you know the people in your business? Getting to know each person individually – and getting the most from them – might be the role of your line manager but it’s a tough task. Through people analytics, businesses can automate reporting and analysis of the data collected – giving people real time insight and an at-a-glance view of the people they look after.


Attitudes to automation

The introduction and expansion of HR automation is something that professionals have embraced across the industry. Indeed, in our HR and the Digital Revolution eBook, we showed how a majority of HR experts do not think technological advances will cut people out of the picture.

When asked ‘do you see the technological innovation in AI and robotics and their increased presence in the modern day workforce as a threat to traditional HR job roles?’, 54.7% of people said no and just 27.65% of people thought that it was a threat.

In HR Tech Trends 2019 we also noted that C-suite and human capital leaders certainly feel that automation will free up recruiters and improve this function, a benefit that HR can be expected to embrace too.

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