Choosing your battles: Navigating HR wars with automation


The HR landscape is presently fraught with challenges from increasing amounts of routine tasks, a shortage of talent that’s not prepared to take on digitized workplaces, and the growing focus on mental wellness and work-life balance. When the battles are as wide ranging as this, it is critical that HR teams pick and choose battles they want to focus their energies on, by weaponizing the power of automation and digital solutions.

Gartner identifies three trends that are expected to shape the face of HR in 2023: HR leader and manager effectiveness that refers to leadership that takes ownership of its failings to develop deeper connections with employees, organizational design and change management that focuses on being change ready in an environment of rapid shifts, and employee experience that’s focused on addressing growing job dissatisfaction. This final point is further substantiated by research conducted by Gallup that states 87% of employees worldwide are not engaged. Disengaged employees cost U.S. companies $450 to $550 billion per year in lost productivity. Each of these trends further implies that the efforts of modern HR teams need to move beyond mundane tasks and into the realm of more strategy-driven initiatives, while investing in automation to take on routine, time-consuming work.

According to Forbes, by 2025, an estimated 75% of the workforce will be millennial talent, which means companies need to start engaging with them immediately as well. A streamlined recruitment process attracts millennial talent, and they are inclined to stay at technologically advanced companies.

Strategizing for the future

HR teams must navigate three key areas of the employee journey and most of them are labor intensive – requiring time and effort to accomplish routine tasks. However, many aspects of this journey can be automated, ensuring HR teams have the time and resources to focus on the issues that matter like employee skills development, job satisfaction, and aligning the people strategy to that of the organization.

Let’s take a closer look at these three stages, identify a few areas that are best suited for automation so your teams could free up time and resources for areas that require human intervention.

1. Hire to manage

This stage includes the formulation of an HR strategy, recruitment and onboarding new talent, managing references, and maintaining & documenting employee data.

93% of HR talent professionals say that creating a positive hiring journey is critical to attracting and retaining top talent – especially because the onboarding process says a lot about how strong a company’s processes are. Moreover, the hiring process is one of the most labor intensive processes. Automation can help when creating job descriptions, screening candidates, and ensuring that those who are not suited for the job are filtered out. For example, the Hotel Chain Hilton created an algorithm that used the key traits of top performing employees to screen new recruits -the process ensured that those who were not suited for the job and the company were filtered out.

A few more aspects that are ripe for automation in this stage are:

  • Creating job descriptions and posting them: AI can help generate job descriptions that are devoid of unintentional biases and can post jobs 5 times faster than humans.
  • Managing pre-employment verification: Ensuring the CV matches the requirements of the vacancy, and the required number of references are mentioned etc.
  • Create and manage reports: Formulating reports on prospective employees, their scores on evaluations, and how far they have progressed in the recruitment process.
  • Updating employees on information requirements: When requests for documentations are made to new hires, automation can help identify the required documents based on their skillsets, job role and function, and generate automatic requests for the role-specific information. If there are missing uploads, email notifications requesting missing information can also be automatically generated.
  • Generating offer letters: A bot can be used to pull the required information from the necessary documents, iron out discrepancies, and create accurate offer letters.

Time freed up to:

  • Develop hiring plans
  • Define and nurture culture
  • Plan organization hierarchy/ structure
2. Manage to engage

This stage includes training and developing employees, managing their performance, compensating their efforts, managing employee movements, and attending to life-time events and special requests.

Another key aspect of this stage is the cultivation of an enabling work culture – one that is inclusive and welcoming to all regardless of gender, nationality, or race. IA which combines technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), artificial intelligence/machine learning, and intelligent document processing, can help pinpoint when there are biases in performance reviews etc., ensuring that an inclusive workplace is built from the ground up.

Moreover, when automation supports in accomplishing routine tasks, your HR teams can free up time to engage with employees and ensure their wellbeing and growth are fostered.

Three more aspects that can be automated with ease in this stage are:

  • Managing employee performance: Ensuing employees are aware of KPIs and have documented accomplishments on the system while alerting to biases when they crop up in performance reviews.
  • Finalize bonus and incentive payments: Can be managed based on tenure spent at the organization, performance trends etc.
  • Prepare certificates as per defined template and send to employee: This applies to special requests for certificates and other documents etc. that are requested by employees for which templates can be utilized.

Time freed up to:

  • Evaluate and update training materials
  • Develop performance management strategy and policies
  • Benchmark compensation against industry standards
3. Engage to retire

This stage includes managing HR helpdesk, managing reporting, looking into payroll, and the offboarding stage of the employee journey.

Much like the onboarding process, this stage is vital for companies, and many areas of this stage are ripe for automation. Automation can be used not only for exit interviews but also to create reminders on assets that have to be returned, and notifications for all employees on the departure. It can also help create retention strategies based on the journeys of employees within the company and marked trends in their reasons for leaving.

A few areas that can be automated with ease in this stage are:

  • Gathering employee feedback: If employee feedback is collated using a feedback form, automatic processes can be adopted to organize the information.
  • Exit reports: The employee offboarding process requires extensive paperwork that can be generated automatically if a template is utilized.
  • Create and manage reports: Reports that document employee feedback etc. can be developed automatically.

Time freed up to:

  • Develop HR helpdesk strategy, and processes
  • Process payroll interfaces for pension contribution and loan repayments
  • Develop offboarding strategy, and processes

Ammunition for automation

RPA allows businesses and organizations to configure software robots to carry out routine, rules-based computer tasks in a way similar to a human employee. Robots can fill out documents, read and send emails, enter data into business applications, and much more.

To understand which areas are best suited for RPA, you must review the task, and consider which parts of the task are repetitive and rule based, and which parts require human intervention. Finding the right balance in distribution of work between your bot and human workforce will result in a good, collaborative solution.

In a recent Deloitte survey, 74% of respondents mentioned that they are implementing RPA or ‘intelligent automation’ – these organizations expect to see a 31% – 70% decrease in the cost of supported processes. However, automation not only supports cost cutting strategies but also ensures HR teams are able to engage more effectively with employees.

Equipped for battle

In a world that’s changing rapidly, the global work force is not one that can be treated lightly. Employees of today value a balance in personal and professional growth. The work of HR teams has also changed drastically – it is not only a matter of maintaining employee data and compensating efforts, HR also needs to move away from routine tasks to ensure their work contributes to the growth and wellbeing of the workforce – particularly that of Millennials and Gen Zs who will soon dominate the global labor market.

Automation provides a viable solution – by helping humans accomplish routine tasks, it allows them to allocate more time and effort to the areas that contribute towards the welfare of employees, and in turn the advancement of the organization.

So, if you are part of an HR team, choose your battles wisely. If some of your wars can be better fought by robots, let them lead while you strategize for the battles to come.

Wondering if your organization is ready for RPA? Check out our RPA readiness checklist to pave the path for automation success.