A drastic increase in the pace of work is driving companies to aggressively pursue business process automation, according to a new report, which found that the least efficient function in business, in terms of speed and ease, is HR.
Only 35 per cent of HR’s delivery of employee services are automated, and the areas where HR is least efficient include employee relocation (at 24 per cent), managing leave of absence (24 per cent) and employee onboarding (31 per cent).
The report found that many Australian companies said their various HR processes are highly manual with unstructured work processes, and this can complexity, time wasted and ultimately, productivity drain.
“Australian companies are close to breaking point and in urgent need of intelligent automation,” said Mark Souter, HR product line sales and strategy, ServiceNow, which recently released its annual State of Work survey.
“The rise of data has led to the increase in transactional tasks generated within an organisation, and HR executives are impacted.”
By 2018, almost half of the Australian companies surveyed (44 per cent) said they would require greater automation to handle their growing workload, or else Souter suggested they would risk hitting breaking point.
The research report found that highly automated companies are six times more likely to experience revenue growth of more than 15 per cent, compared to companies with low automation.
“Companies are close to breaking point and in urgent need of intelligent automation”
Souter noted that Australian organisations seem to be missing out on these benefits when it comes to HR, compared to IT support which reported having the most efficient business processes (56 per cent).
The delivery of many HR services, such as employee onboarding, starts in HR, but can require the coordination of 5 to 10 departments to complete them.
Traditional onboarding solutions support HR related tasks such as capturing employee information, but do not manage the work required from other departments, Souter explained.
“Automation can break these complex processes down into individual activities such as getting a workspace, credit card, security access and computer – and then distribute these to different departments for approvals and action,” he said.
“Automated workflows can track the status of each activity, and remind people automatically if they are behind schedule.”
As a first step, he said it was important to identify business processes that need improving and then map them out.
“You need to look at the process from an employee’s perspective: for instance, is it clear how employees can find information?
“When automation is being introduced to the organisation, it’s crucial to address concerns and provide reassurance for the roadmap, while evolving the team’s skills to help them thrive in an automated world.”
“HR shouldn’t be afraid to consumerise the employee service experience and match the convenience people are experiencing in their personal lives”
The majority of the workforce is already using automated experiences in their day-to-day lives, from online shopping to banking, according to Souter, who said that HR shouldn’t be afraid to consumerise the employee service experience and match the convenience people are experiencing in their personal lives.
“HR teams should map out what the current employee service experience looks like and consider how they can break the ‘artificial silos’ that exist in a modern enterprise,” he said.
“For example, HR is in charge of aspects like recruiting, talent management and payroll, but an employee doesn’t see those as separate functions – they’re all part of HR.
“It’s like when you are checking into a hotel: if you’d be required to check into all departments separately, such as the gift shop, the spa, the concierge, you’d probably go elsewhere.
“This is why HR teams must start providing a consumer-like, holistic experience to employees.
“Foundational to this experience is offering a single place for employees to interact and communicate with HR for all service needs,” he explained.
The research report found that almost 70 per cent of HR work is unstructured, relying on excel, email and calls.
“If your day in the office is dictated by an inbox that sets your agenda, I’d suggest you are not operating at the strategic level you intended,” said Souter.
“These manual and unstructured HR processes lead to complexity, time wasted and ultimately, productivity drain,” he said.
“HR will certainly need to become more comfortable in the world of ‘perpetual beta’”
“With less time wasted on admin, HR teams can start taking on a more strategic role within the organisation and start concentrating on the things that really matter – such as creating a smooth, consistent employee service experience.”
He also predicted that the intelligent automation space will continue to grow and HR will certainly need to become more comfortable in the world of “perpetual beta”.
For years, HR has focused on data and having “one record of reference”, but he noted that the process hasn’t been automated, emails are piling up and tasks are complex.
“In the long run the employee service experience is more important and this is why there needs to be a strategic focus on the interaction that ultimately sets up the transaction,” he said.
“HR systems manage the transaction, but the majority of work goes into the interaction before the transaction.”
In the future, he said HR executives must reconsider how they manage these employee interactions.
“Will it be through emails? Calls? Excel charts, or intelligent automation and chatbots?
“The future HR trends will be based on technological innovation, realities of the modern enterprise and importantly, creating great employee service experiences,” said Souter.
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