What is Automation in HR (And Where Will it Lead Us)?

HR Insights for Professionals

HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Learn more about how automation is transforming Human Resources and creating efficiencies across the function. Discover how to bring robotics to life in your organization.


Maybe it seems counter-intuitive – suggesting robotics and automation for processes that are fundamentally about people. The way the world is moving however, there is a definite trend across all parts of business, including HR, to explore how automation can change the way we do things.

For a Human Resources team, automation and computer programming tasks and operations can bring cutting edge technology to what can sometimes be seen as a paper based, slower moving and policy driven part of the business. But have no fear, common sense, and research, has shown that there are some HR processes that cannot be automated and even those that can will still need a human touch.

What is automation in HR?

As with other areas of business, automation has found its way to the Human Resources department. Enterprise content management (ECM) software can be used to automate mundane and repetitive tasks without sacrificing the quality of the work involved. This can involve:

  • Importing documents to the correct places
  • Organizing them into a coherent system where they are easy to find
  • Maintaining files in a standard format that is optimized for sharing (across different devices and between employees)
  • Archiving files according to compliance regulations
  • Ensuring information is easy to find

What can be automated?

As robots become more and more sophisticated there are fewer and fewer tasks that cannot be done by automatic systems. Options exist for records management, contract and form signing and tracking, benefit options and selection, health and safety operations, employee communications (reminders etc.)

But would you consider a chatbot for HR queries and transactions? We are used to seeing chatbots now as a “live” help option on websites for finding answers to your frequently asked questions. In terms of HR this is the next step from a knowledge base system when, instead of a simple search engine, an intelligent chatbot can decipher your question and provide suggested answers. The most sophisticated of these can also carry out administrative tasks for employees such as booking time off or changing personal details within a system.

One of the most important Human Resources process – recruitment and selection – is also becoming more automated with systems available that can pull keywords from CV’s as part of the selection process and interviews conducted solely by computer. Job hunters can now apply for jobs from their smartphones, have their CV selected by a computer and then have their first interview conducted by a computer and have no human interaction with the prospective employer.

Through all these developments it is desperately important to ensure that we are not automating for automation’s sake. Employee experience should improve and not become another frustrating customer experience where pressing option 1 and then option 2 just takes you around in circles.

Can HR be at the forefront?

The “rise of the machines” brings a real opportunity to think about how we do things. Are our processes scalable and are we making use of all the available technological options out there? Developers are constantly pushing boundaries for industries and operations such as communications, automotive, marketing etc. but is there someone in HR’s corner discussing the processes that HR themselves want automated? Can we, the service function, the policy keeper, a mere side-kick to the business, really be at the design end of the robotic future?

What are the opportunities?

So, what are the key points and opportunities for your business? A tip from the experts is to ensure you automate the right things for your organization.

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” Peter Drucker

The size of your organization will determine what’s worth doing and what’s not – but bear in mind something not worth implementing now may be a necessity one day in the future; consider your employee experience through the decision-making process and compare your process today to what you might like it to be in the future.

Is Human Resources moving as fast as the business around it? As mentioned before HR is somewhat late to the party when it comes to technology and robotics, but this doesn’t need to be the future. To be a true partner to the business do we need to step up to the technology plate?

Consider a time and skills analysis in your team – what could be automated? Automation should free up time for human activities such as planning, organization, development, strategic work and those activities where having a person do it really adds value to the task and not just a pair of hands.

Evidence exists for technological advances changing the face of HR with cloud based systems, for example, forcing changes such as wholly standardizing polices and creating 20% less human HR transactions through the new implementation.

Automation is here to stay and will be taking over more of the daily tasks both in our lives and in business. What you take on board and what you save for the future is up to you but by considering the opportunities for your business you could open the doors to possibilities that haven’t existed yet.

To help you make better informed HR decisions, click here to view more industry trends.


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