How Automation Is Helping HR Become the New Face of Change

The move toward remote, mobile, and flexible working has been progressing for some time now. Yet, the global COVID-19 pandemic has acted as an unexpected catalyst, accelerating digital transformation and universalizing remote working across the world.

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It has forced working life to change almost overnight, evolving the workplace into something more distributed and flexible. Yet, to manage these changes successfully, HR must adapt in tandem. To maximize the talent pool and ensure employees are supported remotely, organizations need an unprecedented understanding of employees, their skills, and circumstances.

However, just 18% of HR leaders believe they have successfully transitioned from focusing on HR processes to being truly employee-centric. More than 8 in 10 (86%) thought the transformation would take up to 10 years. It’s clear now that organizations don’t have this much time on their hands. 

Fortunately, new technologies can help organizations navigate the uncertainty and elevate their workforce. Automation, mobile, and cloud are just some of the tools that can streamline enterprise functions and help HR and people teams become more adaptive, flexible, and agile in today’s changing world.

A Pressing Need for Speed

Organizations are entering into a complex new phase of their COVID-19 recovery. Many employees are returning to the office, organizations are reopening after weeks of lockdown, and some organizations have started hiring again. However, companies and their leaders also need to be ready at a moment’s notice for the potential of another wave or further localized outbreaks.

HR and people leaders are on the front line of this ever-changing landscape, with many driving new ways of working in their organizations today. Data-driven decision-making; authentic two-way personalized communication; and a significant focus on health, well-being, and building great remote experiences are now mission-critical. They ensure employees are supported and engaged and that the company can remain resilient.

Yet, on-premise outdated legacy systems struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of change in today’s remote working world, where employees need to be able to access technology anywhere, anytime.

If an organization needs to adapt its business model or rehire a portion of its staff, HR won’t have the time to manually key in all that information across myriad spreadsheets. Furthermore, on-premise HR solutions have become redundant with remote working employees, who have no way of accessing them.

What’s more, if HR teams can’t extract and interpret employee information quickly, they may not be able to take a proactive role in the transformation process. Instead of leading with strategy and insight, they may be pulled along and forced into decisions that jeopardize the company’s valuable talent. 

Automation Is People Power

The pace of change is only accelerating. HR and people leaders are striving to maximize their productivity and need all the time they can get. Yet mundane, repetitive tasks have proven to be a considerable time sink. The matter isn’t helped by disconnected data environments and silos. Although HR practitioners should be focused on measures that increase collaboration and agility, they lose precious time hunting for data and approving holiday requests.  

Automation can be the solution, providing HR leaders with the speed and capacity required to liberate them from admin and processes. By applying automation throughout the entire employment life cycle, organizations can free up valuable HR time, deliver a more engaging workforce experience, and boost productivity across the business. Indeed, 60% of workers could automate almost a third of their jobs and responsibilities, according to McKinsey.

At the process level, automation and self-service eliminate many day-to-day administrative tasks. Rather than having to be signed off individually by HR, holiday requests can be approved by line managers automatically as long as they meet the set parameters. Instead of chasing colleagues for feedback, HR and people teams can simply send out targeted pulse surveys on a regular basis. 

Employees can get the support they need through an automated, consumer-friendly system so they no longer flood HR with routine questions. This leaves HR and people teams with more time to focus on value-adding activities, such as introducing new collaboration tools to deliver a more engaging workforce experience or building career plans for staff.

Furthermore, centralizing HR and people data in a single source of truth that can be accessed anywhere, anytime reduces costs and the risk of human error. It enables HR leaders to have real-time, actionable insights on their people and operations. In fact, providing access to data from anywhere in the organization is the main driving force of cloud adoption, as cited by 42% of organizations.  

Forged by Change

HR is built around change. From new hires to a new payroll month, HR leaders need to remain agile and adaptable. Yet navigating today’s unprecedented changes can be challenging if they don’t have a clear understanding of their organization’s transformation vision, how it’s performing, or what its people need most.

The change leaders of the organization have an enormous opportunity to harness the latest tools to emerge more resilient, adaptive, agile, and stronger from the crisis. Thanks to technologies like analytics, automation, self-service, and the cloud, HR leaders can transition from being process-focused to people-focused. They can make a real difference in employees’ working lives and have a demonstratable impact on the bottom line.

Hannah Wright is the Director Product Marketing at Global Sage People. Wright has over 13 years’ experience across different areas of marketing. Since joining Sage 8 years ago, Wright has worked in product, commercial, and customer marketing roles across a range of Sage HR and payroll products. She began her career in talent acquisition, gaining first-hand insight into the opportunities and challenges HR and People teams face.

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