In today's rapidly changing business landscape, automation is essential for organisations to remain competitive and efficient. While many departments have benefited from streamlined, automated processes, HR automation presents its own unique challenges and opportunities. From enhancing diversity recruitment to ensuring GDPR compliance, automating HR processes is a complex undertaking.
We interviewed nine astute professionals from various industries to provide a well-rounded perspective on this topic. Each brings a unique perspective, highlighting the benefits and challenges they've faced in their HR automation journey. Understanding these insights is essential to inform your organisation's HR transformation strategy.
Onboarding Automation as a Complex Challenge
We recently tried to automate our onboarding process for new employees; however, we ran into several issues and ultimately had to revert to our manual process. The thought behind the automation attempt was that we could save time and ensure every new hire received the same welcoming experience.
Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that there were too many departments and communication handoffs involved in the onboarding process to efficiently make it work without human intervention.
Likewise, we found that we actually do not want every employee to have the same onboarding experience. We prefer when each department takes control since they all operate slightly differently and have certain methods of operation for the new employee to learn and understand.
Jumping Legal Hurdles in HR Automation under GDPR
In the UK, Europe, and other locations that abide by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), automated decision-making can be prohibited by law. This is particularly important for HR processes, as they are often considered to have a legal or significant impact on people, granting them certain protections.
For example, when hiring and shortlisting, GDPR prevents organizations from making automated decisions regarding selection and assessment, requiring human intervention. Consequently, automating HR processes comes with certain unique legal and practical challenges, more so than most other departments.
Ultimately, HR professionals must ensure proper compliance when automating HR processes, especially if these involve sensitive decisions on behalf of employees.
Avoiding an Over-reliance on HR Automation
One challenge I see HR teams face is that they become overly reliant on automated processes. This can lead to issues if a software updates, changes, or simply ceases to work, which means that, in turn, so do your processes!
My advice is to not rely entirely on a single automated process, and always retain the human element via your internal teams where possible.
Handling Exceptions in Automated HR Processes
The biggest challenge is that automating HR will only capture around 90 percent of cases for whatever process you happen to automate. There will be exceptions that will fall through the cracks and create a headache when you have to figure out a way to reconcile it with whatever tool you happen to be using.
I've seen it happen a few times, most often with something that has to do with benefits and leave, as exceptions crop up for that seemingly every other day.
Balancing Automation and Human Touch in Onboarding
When I think back to our journey, one notable milestone was the decision to automate some of our HR processes. On the upside, this brought remarkable consistency to tasks like employee onboarding, which used to be a logistical maze.
Before automation, each trainer's onboarding experience was akin to a roll of the dice—sometimes smooth, sometimes riddled with hiccups. With automated checklists and document management, we could ensure that every new hire got the same, high-quality introduction to our company culture and safety protocols.
However, it wasn't all smooth sailing; some staff found it impersonal and missed the human touch. While automation streamlined our operations, we also learned it couldn't fully replace human interactions.
Maintaining Authenticity in Automated HR Processes
It's difficult to automate some HR processes because automation eliminates authenticity. Take birthdays or work anniversaries, for example. If you just get an automated message, then the sentiment falls flat. You want to automate parts of that (giving a gift on a birthday, for example) while still allowing for a personal touch or personal comments. We use our own tool as a recognition software to create a great balance between automated and personalized.
Gaining Efficiency from Automated Candidate Communication
The greatest benefit of automating a portion of the HR process, mainly candidate communication and pre-hire assessments, is reclaimed time and increased efficiency. According to the Harvard Business Review, pre-hire tests correlate with post-hire performance better than interviews, CVs, and previous work experience. However, the testing process is manual and tedious, and requires a lot of your HR's time. Back-and-forth emails, endless Google Docs, and millions of questions.
Automating this process allows for the setup of custom email campaigns for each role being hired for, the design of specific tests for each role, and the avoidance of many questions by providing information upfront, instead of waiting for a candidate to ask.
Optimizing Resources and Data Security in HR Automation
In the dynamic sphere of information technology, automating HR processes offers a crucial advantage by optimizing resource allocation. A 24-year journey in driving corporate growth underscores the importance of efficient resource management.
Through automation, workforce scheduling and skill mapping have been streamlined, ensuring the right talents are assigned to intricate mobile app development projects. However, a pertinent challenge is ensuring data security amidst automation. This is tackled by deploying robust cybersecurity protocols, safeguarding sensitive HR data in the quest to lead digital transformation for a rapidly evolving clientele.
Promoting Diversity Through Automated Recruitment
The most significant benefit of automating HR processes is its capability to eliminate bias and help recruiters in selecting candidates according to the concept of diversity and inclusion.
By narrowing down the specific demographics, gender, race, or age of the candidate, Applicant Tracking Systems make the selection of the candidates incredibly easier. Artificial Intelligence can now evaluate candidates' resumes using the criterion HR professionals choose. Consequently, companies can rest assured that no potential future employee is discriminated against. We commonly make unconscious judgments about people, but automation eliminates this risk.
As an employer, I took advantage of the opportunities such innovation presents. It was essential for me to make sure I gave equal opportunities to all the candidates. Since then, this feature of ATS has remained my best ally in creating an open work environment full of compassion and respect.
As our expert contributors have shown, HR automation is a complex and nuanced undertaking with both potential benefits and challenges. On the one hand, it offers the promise of unprecedented efficiency, reduced bias, and optimised resource allocation. On the other hand, it raises concerns about data security, the loss of the human touch, and the need for continuous learning and adaptation.
The key to success is to strike a balanced approach, blending technology with human intuition to create a truly harmonious blend of man and machine. As C-suite executives, managers, and business owners, we must be mindful of the potential pitfalls while embracing the power of automation to enhance our HR functions and transform our organisations for the better.