The Case for Human Resources Automation
Human resources departments aren’t generally known for their radical innovations. Quite the opposite, in fact. HR departments are often seen as the critical-but-hidebound folks who we have to “deal with”, not the empowering change agents we hope they might be. Why is that? Here’s a theory: it’s all about paperwork.
It starts before you even start to work at a company. Applying for jobs these days isn’t so much an exercise in selling yourself. It’s an exercise in filling out online forms. Indeed, LinkedIn, Taleo, and other companies have smoothed out that process somewhat. Yet the lack of a universal format for parsing resume fields usually leads to applicants filling out bespoke forms again and again. The HR people have already alienated us, and we don’t even know them yet.
Then there’s the onboarding process. All the tax forms, all the health insurance elections, all the choosing of beneficiaries – the paperwork multiplies considerably. The core of this information is already available to HR through all of those detailed application forms you filled out to get the job in the first place. Unfortunately, that’s a separate data stream.
Once people are on board with a company, HR usually takes a back seat. The core information required from employees usually doesn’t change much, with the occasional exception of new benefits, a change in benefit providers, or employee life changes which require altered paperwork. Many companies outsource these “maintenance” functions to payroll companies, creating yet another data stream which employees have to deal with. Or they place the burden on employees to manage these systems themselves, cloaking the added work in the guise of “self-service”.
Finally, there can be a lot of paperwork to leave a company. Undoing all of the onboarding work sometimes requires collecting the same information one last time – another inefficient data stream. Lack of automated HR processes can also mean that employees might have system access far longer than they should. Sometimes it just takes time for the request to get to I.T., and for the I.T. people to act on it. The systems themselves are automated, but the process to turn them off is not.
Plenty of innovative companies still rely on Stone Age HR systems. Perhaps they feel like they have to – it’s the way things have always been done. Or they don’t know of any viable alternatives. Or they believe it’s too expensive.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In the end, HR data is just like any other data. When used efficiently and securely, HR data can be used to create a life cycle of information which benefits employees and employers alike. Just as companies are looking to eliminate stovepipes in their operations, they should be looking to eliminate stovepipes in their HR systems.
Is the change worth it? There are many factors which influence this decision, to include the sunk costs of existing systems, the cost of re-training staff and employees, the systemic cost of turnover, and the possibility that economies of scale might not exist. This is generally not an easily defined equation. It requires real investigation and thoughtfulness – particularly because HR manages the very core of the company.
Want to transform your HR department into the data-driven resource that it should be? We can help.