The A-Z of HR Automation
Your practical guide with real examples
Employees are often highlighted as an organisation’s greatest asset. Following that logic you might expect HR teams - the teams responsible for the support and wellbeing of employees - to be prioritised when it comes to implementing modern tools and ways of working.
Human resources play a vital role in the success of any organisation. Companies would struggle to function without effective processes for recruitment, onboarding and offboarding of employees, learning and development, time management, employee benefits, payroll, performance management and much more. With each of these processes comes a significant amount of administration, yet many HR teams still work with outdated systems requiring a huge amount of manual entry...but it doesn’t have to be this way.
HR Automation or Robotic Process automation (RPA) uses software to automate repetitive tasks freeing up your HR team to focus on people centred activities, building culture and supporting employee wellbeing.
For anyone new to automation the technology and the terminology can feel daunting. With that in mind our automation specialists have shared their experience to get you started on your automation journey including:
- What is HR Automation?
- Automation in HR eBook
- A-Z of HR Automation
- Ask our experts
- 8 Key steps for an effective HR Automation strategy
What is HR Automation?
HR automation, also known as RPA is a digital tool which can complete high volumes of repetitive processes. Often talked about in terms of robots or bots, but they’re fully software-based. Since they interact with applications and computer systems in the same way as a human, they are sometimes referred to as digital workers.
HR automation is an ideal solution for structured, repetitive business processes which are usually completed manually, such as transferring information, extracting data, and maintaining records. These tasks are typically extremely time-consuming, and a mundane and unfulfilling aspect of employees’ working lives. Through intelligent automation, such tasks are not only processed much more quickly and efficiently, but employees are free to complete more value adding tasks in other areas of the organisation.
While automation and RPA are associated with structured, rules-based processes, the technology is constantly evolving. Thanks to progress in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing, it is now possible to apply digital workers to tasks that require a level of decision making ability. This opens up the potential of automation to more areas of the organisation, with greater time and cost efficiencies to be gained.
Automation can be applied to a range of different business processes to save money and staff time. However, the most impactful benefits of the technology lie in moving strategically towards an automation-first organisation. This involves looking past localised processes in individual departments and teams, and automating as many aspects of services and systems as possible across the organisation. Senior leaders often approach automation as a way of addressing a specific problem, but are surprised to discover they can benefit from the technology in much more powerful ways.
Automation in HR eBook
Starting your HR Automation journey can be a daunting task when faced with a lack of internal capability and potentially complex processes.
Download our HR Automation eBook for:
- An overview of Intelligent Automation
- The role Automation can play in HR departments
- Use cases of automation technology for HR professionals
- A case study featuring automating processes for UCL's HR department
Learn more about automation in HR with our free eBook
The A-Z of HR Automation
Automation is an ideal solution for many HR processes but it does have its limitations. To give a flavour of the breadth of processes suitable for automation here's our "almost" A-Z of HR automation.
Access to apps and tools
Apps and tools have become an essential part of business with a recent report finding that organisations use an average of 73 applications in their day to day operations. Ensuring new starters have access to these apps with the right permissions can be an extremely time consuming process for HR and IT support, not to mention your new employees on their first day.
RPA solutions ensure that tools are set up and permissions granted based on the new starter’s specific role within your organisation.
Automation technology offers a whole host of benefits. HR automation tools improve the operational efficiency of your HR team, helping them to do more with the resources available. They also speed up response times, improve adherence to legal requirements, and provide a better staff experience. Automation technologies seamlessly integrate with your computer systems, using the same software, mouse clicks and keyboard strokes as human employees. All they need to access your systems is a username and password.
RPA bots can automatically extract the important fields from expense receipts, saving a significant amount of time and relieving employees from the hassle of keeping track of bits of paper. All that’s needed is a picture of the receipt and all the relevant data will be extracted.
The bots can be set up to approve genuine expenses with a rules-based procedure to identify the type of invoice submission. The software then processes the claim after ensuring it follows all the compliance requirements. This key HR automation trend both reduces errors and improves the day to day working lives of staff.
Data analysis and risk management
Today's organisations produce huge amounts of data. This data can be extremely valuable in predicting trends and highlighting business risks, as well as areas of opportunity that can be tapped into. RPA technology can pull data from a range of different sources into a single location, helping organisations with their forecasting, flagging up risks before it's too late, and identifying potential new growth in markets, products or customer bases.
It’s always important to keep staff engaged with your organisation’s aims and purpose. Through automation, forms such as surveys can be regularly sent out to your people to keep track of key employee engagement metrics, helping to foster an inclusive and happy culture. Furthermore, RPA can often be implemented to remove mundane and tedious tasks from employees, allowing them more time to focus on satisfying and engaging work.
Generating official documents
Generating and maintaining employee documents is part and parcel of nearly every HR process. From offer letters to contracts, and salary reviews to performance management, accuracy is crucial, as is the speed at which HR teams are able to turn around documents. Automation technology reduces the potential for human error whilst improving adherence to legal requirements, and providing a better experience for your people.
Holiday and leave
Digital workers can operate 24/7, don’t get sick, don’t make mistakes, and take care of the mundane tasks no one really wants to do. They might not take holidays, but they can help your teams keep track of theirs… By integrating automation into HR systems, employees have greater oversight of when their colleagues are on leave, helping them to plan and manage projects.
IR35 legislation has now come into effect, designed to assess whether a contractor is a genuine contractor as opposed to a ‘disguised’ employee, for tax purposes. The new legislation has forced HR teams to review the language and phrasing used in all contracts with freelancers and contractors to ensure they are compliant.
HR Automation enables bots to search through documents to flag any problematic or risky language, as well as highlighting any missing text that the legislation requires. Additionally, they can automate emails to line managers to ensure they have undergone the relevant IR35 training and are implementing contracts that do not risk violating IR35.
Job evaluation (grading)
Automation can help HR teams assess the value of the work being done by staff, by breaking it down into component parts for analysis. This helps to maintain fair and accurate grading structures, ensuring an organisation pays its people equally for work of equal value.
Automation improves the flow of knowledge in an organisation, ensuring that documentation is kept up to date and accurate, and is sent where it needs to be. It can also provide a single source of truth through the management of information in a central location. By integrating conversational AI chatbots with automation systems, for example, employees can manage their RPA through other tools. An HR team member could type in a new starter's information on Slack, and tell the automation to create accounts and permissions for this user.
Legacy systems (data bridging)
For many established organisations, legacy technologies are still an integral part of business functions. These systems can create huge challenges as they seldom communicate well with one another, resulting in knowledge workers having to perform manual tasks and workarounds.
While replacing legacy technology is a huge project, intelligent automation is a more manageable solution to bridge the gap between your legacy systems, improving both customer experience and back office efficiency.
Management information and reporting
Analysis and reporting can be a cumbersome process for any department, but none more so than HR. Switching between multiple systems and datasets, extracting unformatted information, and then maintaining reporting dashboards can be a slow and tedious task - and that’s before factoring in any human error. RPA bots can be programmed to run these reports at regular intervals or on demand in a fraction of the time it takes a human, allowing a smooth and error free process.
Notifications and reminders
Automation technology can be utilised to generate notifications and reminders for your employees at predetermined touch points. From ensuring documents and timesheets are completed on time, to reminding employees about upcoming training, events, or progress towards goals.
Onboarding and off boarding
HR automation can help streamline your on and offboarding processes with 100% consistency. This reduces error, and ensures the whole process happens much more quickly for new starters and leavers. Automations can trigger predefined workflows when a new account is created or flagged to be closed, ensuring all necessary permissions are given or revoked, and all documentation is completed. This lessens the burden of a typically time-consuming task for HR teams.
Managing payroll can be a challenge, particularly when staff are engaged under different terms of employment. Automation can help HR teams streamline the payroll process, making sure an organisation is compliant with employment legislation and pays its employees on time.
Question and queries
HR teams can be inundated with questions and queries from employees. These are often common questions that are simple to address. RPA bots can interpret incoming emails and react to frequently asked questions based on the pre-defined answers you set. Should the question be more complex, the bot can forward to a member of the HR team to resolve.
Recruitment is one of the most time consuming activities organisations undertake. Automation can help with many aspects of the recruitment process, such as posting job ads, tracking responses and CV screening. It can even be used to generate letters inviting candidates to interview or offering them the job.
Screening and background checks
CV screening and candidate shortlisting can be a drain on time and resource for any HR department. Through automation technology HR teams can collect, screen and compare CVs or application forms against the relevant job requirements. Furthermore, the technology can also be used to aid cross-referencing. This might be verifying candidates’ data against different sources, cross-checking employee information against backend databases, or even running reports to flag potential issues with verifying employment history.
Training and induction
Training and induction is key to ensuring that all employees are fully up to speed with the technology and skills they need. When applied to an induction and training process, RPA software checks the certification status of the employee against the requirement of a role or project. In addition, it can notify employees about the certification requirement, manage their certificate compliance, as well as update employee calendars according to training schedules.
Updating employee data
Organisations typically have a range of employee data, whether that's for current or past employees, applicants, or contractors, with this data often sitting in many different locations. Updating any record (small or large) can be a lengthy, repetitive and tedious task, involving editing multiple datasets, systems and formats. HR automation tools can make light work of these tasks, completing them in a fraction of the time and reducing the risk of incorrect data entries.
RPA bots can be programmed as virtual assistants to assist your teams in their day to day activities, from answering questions and generating reports, to logging information and managing calendars.
Workload and time management
An efficient workload management process helps to maximise performance across your organisation, reducing stress, and leading to engaged, rather than overwhelmed teams. Digital workers can alert HR departments to stretched teams and major absenteeism that will likely disrupt workflows; even assisting with workforce reallocation if necessary.
Your new team member
Automation might seem an unfamiliar concept at first, with employees questioning what the technology will mean for their role. Once they are up and running, however, automations soon prove their value thanks to their ability to take on the tasks no one else wants to do, and improve the level of service staff are able to deliver. Many departments even give their automation solution a name, demonstrating how quickly they become a crucial part of the team.
Ask one of our Automation experts
Working with a partner that understands both the opportunities and limitations of automation will help you avoid time-consuming and costly mistakes.
If you're interested in discussing your HR challenges and exploring how automation could help join one of our 1-2-1 Can I automate that? sessions
After this session, you will have received:
- An introduction to Intelligent Automation
- A demo of a digital worker in action
- An overview of automation use cases
- An extensive list of sample processes that you could be automating
Book a 1-2-1 with one of our HR automation experts
They'll help you get the ball rolling and outline some key considerations before getting started
8 key steps for an effective HR Automation strategy
- Create a long term vision for your adoption of automation across the organisation - with an outcome of collaboration between your people and the technology.
- Gain buy-in from across the organisation. Subject Matter Experts, senior stakeholders and IT (if they’re not driving the project) among others are often the key to success.
- Have a clear plan of how it will impact employees across the organisation - and communicate it effectively with them throughout the lifetime of the project(s)
- Choose the right technology platform for the job
but don’t deliberate too long
- Focus on what the people will do once the tasks
have been automated
- Start small and scale quickly
- Choose processes wisely based on your key
- Track and measure benefits and showcase the
learns to your organisation.
Getting buy in
If you've read this far you'll now be familiar with the benefits of automation:
- More accurate than humans
- Able to work 24/7
- Don’t get sick
- Can operate from anywhere...
They’re every employer’s dream, right?
Well, maybe, but framing the conversation to get buy-in from your senior stakeholders can often be challenging. That's why we've created this handy infographic to help bring HR Automation to life