What is HR Automation?

Human resources automation uses software to digitize and streamline the processing of document-centric tasks, providing HR departments with improved efficiency and reduced cycle time, while reducing the potential for human error.

By digitizing and automating the most tedious, mundane, time-consuming functions, HR personnel can concentrate their time on strategic initiatives that provide value to the company, rather than just filling out and filing required paperwork. What’s more, HR automation can ensure the requisite security and privacy controls are in place to safeguard sensitive information and support corporate governance and regulatory compliance requirements.

Advantages HR automation can offer companies include:

  • Automating Time-Consuming Tasks – HR automation can help with onboarding new employees or contractors by administering, processing and filing the proper forms, but can also aid in candidate selection. Rather than consuming the time of one or more HR people to sort through resumes and qualifications for open positions or calls for contractors, HR automation can identify applicants whose resumes contain the desired skill sets.
  • Embracing the Gig Worker – Companies continue to embrace remote workers as well as contractors that may live well outside the company’s geographic headquarters. While faxing documents back and forth is one way to handle these forms, it’s certainly not the most efficient, because it doesn’t remove the delays inherent in having someone filling out paper forms. Additionally, transmission issues can mean fax documents aren’t legible or are not received.
  • Supporting Strategic HR Planning – Strategic human resource management identifies the long-term best uses of human talent as indicated by business needs and by HR data. With strategic automation, HR teams can reduce paper shuffling and focus the attention on more strategic roles of HR such as talent forecasting, pipeline succession and more.

Ending the Paper Chase

HR automation offers clear advantages for productivity because HR depends on document-driven processes. Employee contracts need to be read and signed; W-2s (W-9s for contractors) need to be completed and state withholding and registration, just to name a few. HR automation introduces digital processes throughout, so there’s no reason to come into the office or to mail or fax forms.

Ensuring that forms are completed, received by HR and are all properly filed is a time-consuming and potentially mistake-prone process in paper-based offices. Someone must check that all forms are routed from the start through to completion and filing stage without falling through at some point in the process or getting “stuck” on a manager’s desk.

Beyond employee onboarding, other HR functions that can be streamlined via HR automation include:

  • Benefits and Payroll: Beyond simplifying payments via electronic check or direct deposit transaction, automating payroll records reduces errors in manually recording time worked, vacation or Personal Time Off (PTO) requests and helps avoid under and overpayment, while also making data much simpler and quicker to find if needed for compliance audits or to answer unemployment claims or for other needs. Health plan enrollment, flexible spending account accruement and usage, and management of other various benefits data is much more streamlined and less error-prone when automated.
  • Time management sheets: Manual time sheets may be filled out one or several days later, inviting errors and inaccuracies. Manual time sheets can be misplaced, too.
  • Records management: Automated records offer better transparency, efficiency and accountability than paper records, as well as being easier to store and retrieve.
  • Evaluations: By automatically tracking an employee’s progress throughout the course of his or her employment, the company has ready data to use to help determine any raises as well as digital documentation for any disciplinary action or termination.
  • Tax documents and forms: Automating documents and forms helps ensure employees and contractors receive the required year-end forms, verifies taxes are collected and remitted as required and provides a digital file, which is much easier to search in the event of an audit.

Different Types of HR Automation

There are a wide variety of HR Automation solutions in existence. Some of these are “purpose-built” for one particular HR activity or use case. These include:

  • Human Resource Management System/Human Resource Information System: These systems organize and store data such as employee profiles, schedules, attendance records and related information.
  • Performance solutions: These track goals and objectives supervisors discuss with these employees and monitor progress. HR can track these as well as provide managers with access to track progress and add notes to prepare for periodic evaluations.
  • Recruiting solutions: These make the hiring process more efficient by posting job ads, tracking responses, sorting and accepting applications, and can sort and prioritize candidates based on key details in resumes and online profiles and can offer other features.
  • Payroll service: A handful of well-known national companies offer services that calculate, distribute and track paychecks and direct deposit payments for employees, as well as offer a variety of payment options for contractors. Some include payroll tax filing and reporting options.
  • Benefits management solutions: While some benefits such as sick days or paid time off may be handled through a payroll service, retirement plans, health insurance, workers compensation and other benefits are usually handled via a benefits management service. Some companies opt instead for a professional employer organization (PEO), which handles compliance issues and is the legal entity that employs the company’s workforce as well as issuing paychecks and managing benefits.
  • Enterprise content management (ECM)Of course, many HR activities and workflows exist in and around these systems, and this is where an ECM platform makes sense for HR automation. Additionally, ECM can be leveraged across many different use cases, such as AP automation and order-entry automation.  While an ECM platform may not offer all the bells and whistles of a purpose-built solution, the ability to expand its usage beyond the HR department is very compelling.

Best Practices for Implementation

A strong, detailed plan is required for a successful HR automation implementation. Key considerations include your budget, timeline, automation needs, stakeholders, and security and compliance. Your HR automation solution should be tailored to the specific demands of your company.

Keep in mind most companies can have up to 10-12 key business systems that may be involved in HR automation. The ability to support bilateral ease of integration with these systems is pivotal to ensure streamlined data access.

Information transfer from existing systems may have data translation issues, so the automating one or more HR processes will involve an investment of time before realizing the time savings HR automation promises.

Know that HR automation will not correct poor HR procedures and policy, it will just help you follow bad practices more quickly. Look for solutions that have best-in-class workflows already architected so you can hit the ground running. These can include automated interviewing, onboarding, and separation workflows.

An HR automation solution that works well for a small company may not scale well as the company grows. Similarly, a system that works well for a U.S.-based company may not operate smoothly if a company expands overseas. Look for solutions that can scale as your business grows and your needs change.

As with any business system, your HR automation solution should be built with the users’ needs in mind. When evaluating solutions, ask yourself (or better yet – existing customers) How easy/intuitive is the system to learn and use? A solid HR automation solution will enable users to capture, share, and retain documents with a click of a mouse or tap of a touch screen. And from an administrator’s perspective, it should allow easy rollout and upgrade, with the ability to easily add new users and set up role-based security access.

HR automation can significantly streamline HR operations, improve productivity and even elevate employee satisfaction by helping “lift” HR leaders up and away from chasing down papers and files to focus on more strategic HR issues that add value to the organization.

Going to the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo?  Be sure to stop by Booth 2526 to learn more about DocStar ECM HR Automation.