In many areas of business, the rapid adoption of technology and automation has come as no surprise. From manufacturing and logistics, to travel and retail, businesses are becoming more efficient, saving time and money by handing over many important processes from humans to machines.
Technology that helps not hinders
There are of course many industries in which people will never be replaced because the roles require human intelligence, decision making and compassion. HR is one such profession. That being said, it would be unwise to ignore technology altogether for there are a wealth of platforms, tools and apps that can improve HR’s effectiveness, efficiency and expertise.
As someone who has over 27 years of HR experience, working across a wide range of sectors, I have made it my mission to understand how the challenges facing HR and people management can be reduced through technology. Here are some examples to help you unpick how tech can lighten HR’s workload.
1. Automation of low-level tasks
These days, HR departments have more responsibilities than ever before, which doesn’t leave much time for the important strategic planning functions that keep an organisation successful. HR management software can be a powerful tool in freeing up time for more strategic tasks and can be used in a multitude of ways including keeping track of employees, managing leave requests and administering benefits.
The time it takes to file pay slips on behalf of an employee can now take minutes instead of hours with intuitive technology
Tools such as machine learning and RPA (robotic process automation) can be used by HR professionals as an extension of themselves – for example, the time it takes to file pay slips on behalf of an employee can now take minutes instead of hours with intuitive technology that does all the labour intensive work for you. The beauty of machine learning is that it doesn’t even require any investment in time from you to set up as it learns as it does the work.
You may have seen the use of ‘chatbots’ on retail websites but do they have a role with HR? We, as customers, are getting used to using them in our personal lives but they can play a great role in internal communications too.
Because they act as a triage platform, funnelling enquiries through a pre-set range of questions and answers, you could use them for a range of HR issues such as updating personal information, answering questions via employee handbook references or giving best practice advice on certain issues. This would save an HR professional hours of time as simple queries could be handled entirely by technology.
Another is the automation of workflows such as recruitment rounds and new starter onboarding. It would automate every step involved such as scheduling of meetings, sending out key communications and ensuring that tasks have been completed.
The pandemic forced many businesses to embrace remote working and while workers are beginning to return to the office, it’s likely a hybrid of office and homeworking will become the norm for years to come.
If this is the case for your business, you should review your video communication subscription – in case it was purchased in haste – to ensure that you have something fit for purpose that will enable you and your colleagues to communicate effectively (and discretely) wherever you might be. If you are to communicate a difficult message, then ensuring the software won’t skip, jump or experience sound or connectivity issues is key too.
Technology can capture a great deal of information on your workforce beyond demographics, salaries and sick days
3. Collaboration and security
Staying on the subject of working from home, there are a number of cloud technologies you can use to get the best from your employees. From two factor authentication to ensure your business systems remain secure and you keep your cybersecurity team happy, to timesheet technology and collaboration tools like Slack and Asana, there is no reason why your business can’t thrive in a hybrid of home and office.
Another area where you will find benefits to technology is recruitment. Why spend thousands on recruiter fees or waste time trawling job sites yourself looking for candidates when technology can do that for you?
Companies like LinkedIn and Glassdoor use algorithms to find you candidates based on certain experience or keywords. What’s more, a CV can only tell you so much about a candidate so technology can gain extra insights by reviewing their social media profiles for extra insight to help you make a decision.
Chatbots can also play a role in the first stage of the recruitment process by screening the initial applicants for unsuitability and schedule interviews for the second stage.
5. Forecasting and data analysis
How much time did you waste on the last board report? Technology can capture a great deal of information on your workforce beyond demographics, salaries and sick days. By analysing trends in fulfilling open vacancies, resignations, training, skills, employee engagement responses and more, it can predict future opportunities or challenges that you may wish to prepare for.
On the subject of employee engagement, beyond writing the questions for the survey, there’s little else you should need to do. Let technology create the questionnaire platform, issue the survey link, collect responses and then analyse the results for you.
6. Virtual reality for training and onboarding
Some businesses welcome hundreds of new starters a month. That’s a lot of induction sessions and welcome meetings. But what if this could all be done virtually? It is possible to deliver virtual tours of the office or factories, as well as training “onsite” to get up to speed before work starts by employing a VR specialist to develop these programmes. This will not only save you a lot of time but this form of training will be far more engaging for your staff.
It’s no secret that HR is a difficult profession to work in. There are constantly new rules and regulations, employees who need training, interviews to conduct, recruitment processes to oversee, or just emails from your boss asking you for an update on the company’s latest initiative. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The world of technology has given us many tools which can help with all these things and more.