Between day-to-day responsibilities and special projects, HR professionals are busy. And don’t forget meetings. On average, HR professionals spend 1/3 of their time in meetings. With respect to the work, much of it becomes time consuming and redundant. In fact it detracts from their ability to be more strategic and work on high priority projects or problems.
That’s where the HR technology comes in to the equation, specifically automation.
What is HR automation?
According to CIO Whitepapers Review, HR automation “is the process to improve the efficiency of human resources departments through automating the manual human resource processes and eliminating information-centered risks.”
While that defines the term, it does not explain what is automating the manual HR processes. That would fall to machines. In fact, machines can free HR professionals of those mundane and time-consuming tasks such as machines powered by AI or robotic process automation. Whatever the technology, the automation allows HR to drive more value at work and to be more strategic. It also allows for those professionals to focus on high level work, something automation is not capable of managing.
This article represents the first in a series of articles dedicated to automation. Each one will look at a different type of automation and express how it is helping create an automated workforce, which includes HR.
Robotic Process Automation
What is robotic process automation? CIO senior writer Clint Boulton says:
RPA is an application of technology, governed by business logic and structured inputs, aimed at automating business processes. Using RPA tools, a company can configure software, or a “robot,” to capture and interpret applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.
Robotic process automation, or RPA, also commonly referred to a robotics or simply robots. Don’t think of actual robots here, however, with their right angled bodies and tubular arms. No, these are software robots that automate processes, specifically those that are redundant and governed by a particular set of rules.
Onboarding and Robotic Process Automation
Onboarding is a normal occurrence at every company, but not every company does it well. The employee orientation process is essential because it can make or break the employee experience. So, how does it go from “run-of-the-mill” to exceptional?
The answer is RPA. Robotic process automation can change the onboarding process in two ways, one with respect to the new employee and the other with respect to HR.
For the employee, an RPA or a data-driven onboarding experience can actually make them feel valued rather than ignored. In the pre-RPA days, a new employee would be forced to fill out sheet after sheet of personal data. In some instances, the new employee would write and re-write their mailing address upwards of five to eight times. The same could be said about their phone number and other valuable pieces of information. Robotic process automation makes that a thing of the past. With RPA, these forms can already be pre-populated with information saving the new employee much needed time and effort. Instead, that time can then be better utilized by spending more one-on-one time with HR, meeting new team members and getting to know the critical pieces of their new job responsibilities.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
RPA can also deliver an integrated experience for the new employee. It can be used to create a personalized set of tasks for the employee like setting up their first rounds of meetings. They can receive safety and other forms of training on everything from submitting vacation requests and logging work time to sexual harassment training.
For human resources, robotic process automation takes control of the more manual, repetitive tasks. HR can spend more time building relationships with employees at all levels of the organization. It provided ongoing contact with workers collecting valuable insights and helping to create conditions that ensure success.
Compliance and RPA
Furthermore, RPA can help HR ensure complete compliance. The professional world is constantly changing when it comes to regulation. For the HR professional, it’s a never-ending race just to stay ahead. Through robotic process automation, forms, protocols, trainings and so on can be automatically implemented. This protects HR from missing a critical compliance deadline and the company from dealing with fines and or potential forms of damage.
For a long time, robots have been employed on industrial assembly lines. As indicated above, that's no longer the case as software robots continue to show up in offices, hospitals, and schools. That sounds great for employers, but it does worry employees.
A report by Price Waterhouse Cooper says 38% of US jobs could be lost to automation by the early 2030s. On the flipside, however, some say robotics increases job opportunities. IDC reports spending on robotics will reach $135.4 billion by the end of this year. That’s up a whopping $71 billion from just two years ago. $32 billion of that accounts for services in training, deployment, integration, and consulting. Translation: new jobs.
Robots, regardless of the form, are here to stay.