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Kit Cox



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Automation & Robotic Service Orchestration: driving the evolution of HR Shared Services


HR today is not a case of human or machine. We have now reached an age of human and machine. The variable now is how the division of labour is managed.

Yet the role of automation in HR shared services centres has been limited in scope and success. Few companies are doing it well, and of those that are, few know how to take advantage of automation technology in a way that will actually improve employee experience.

There are a whole host of HR related processes that have benefited from the deployment of Robotic Process Automation (RPA):

  • processes surrounding new starters and leavers
  • maintaining attendance
  • absence and annual leave records
  • changes to contracts surrounding salary, benefits and even contact details.

The automation surrounding these processes is often limited, and frequently results in a ticket being raised for some intervention by way of the HR shared services centre. This is often especially the case for multinational companies with various geo-locations.

A so-called ‘global’ HCM may struggle to deliver services consistently across different countries, leaving shared services centres left to handle local variances in process and data.

What is Robotic Service Orchestration and what is it doing for HR shared services delivery? 

Companies are using Robotic Service Orchestration (RSO) platforms not just to help robots and humans to co-exist in HR shared services centres, but to create a ‘culture of automation’ where robots and services work together to deliver better services.

RSO is not to be confused with robotic process automation (RPA), the task bots sent in to do repetitive jobs. Customers don’t buy tasks, they buy services – end-to-end, customised and comprehensive services.

And in the case of HR shared services, the customers are the employees who increasingly look to compare their overall HR experience to their ‘consumer’ experience in the B2C world.

RSO is often implemented during RPA deployment pilots in order to provide a strategic framework to manage and measure bots. While RPA controls robotic activity at a process and activity level, RSO strategically manages at the contact and service level, delegating to bots and monitoring and measuring all activity against business goals.

RSO & service standardisation: How does it work?

At the moment, many global companies have HR shared services centres in place that struggle to deliver services consistently. A ‘new joiner’ or an ‘employee leaving’ service may be delivered digitally in one country, and may involve a lot of slow paperwork in another.

RSO is helping companies to get control and visibility across processes at a high level – where processes can still be regarded as standard.

With a simple user interface, shared services teams are able to optimise the automation they do have in place within services, handing over the ‘human’ part of the job to location independent processing facilities. It means better services, optimised use of bots, and increased operational flexibility.

RSO tools are designed to handle the complexity of global standards and local variance by providing a layered approach to standardising process. Rather than enforcing standardisation to the most granular level, RSO allows you to define standard processes at a high level and support local variances in both activity and data lower down.

Once you define a local variance, it is then available to re-use as you deploy other countries if they have this particular requirement.

This initial deployment is very rapid (a matter of weeks) and provides an environment where service delivery teams can still work processes flexibly to meet local needs.

Once visibility is achieved, adoption moves on to capturing processes at lower levels. A great way to think of this is like specifying a new car – choosing the paint colour, interior and fixtures – all of the ‘variances’ are standard – but allow you to create a completely custom car through your selection.

Once services are understood at this lower level, the door is then open to sensible automation with RSO platforms delivering a measurable business case.

They work to set out what should be automated and in what order, while defining the value that will be released.

Simply put, with RSO managing the show, bots are working 24×7 alongside humans to deliver better services for a better employee experience.

And HR shared services centres are emerging from the depths of what has long since considered to be a disappointment, into a new role where HR is re-defining itself to deliver a truly positive 21st century employee experience. 

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