There is a lot of internet buzz about the newest and latest technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, and Natural Language Processing, and how they might be applicable to HR. Compare that level of buzz to the reality of the innovation application in HR and there is a stark difference between what organizations are talking about and what they are actually doing. Research by Sierra Cedar shows that currently only 50% of organizations they surveyed have at least one HR application in the Cloud. And only about 40% of organizations have HR transformation strategies that are scheduled for 2018 (1).
In the midst of all the buzz about AI or robotics, it is easy to find ourselves thinking that the world has started using the latest technology while our organization is falling behind. But the stats indicate that organizations have a long way to go to fully utilize the latest and greatest technology.
What is HR Digitization?
Digitizing HR encompasses the automation of business processes through workflow automation that have historically been manual, paper-based, or difficult to complete because data and information is scattered throughout spreadsheets, emails, and one-off HR applications.
For example, in the absence of an automated workflow solution, you may send benefits forms for new employees through emails as PDFs files, and then collate them to re-enter that information into your benefit software or a benefit provider’s system. But with a workflow solution, you can provide employees access to a self-service portal where they can go and enter their information, select the plans they require, and then automatically route the approval of their application to their managers and/or HR and Payroll. Errors are drastically reduced and efforts in the process are not duplicated. The process is faster, cleaner, and more enjoyable for the employee.
Why digitize HR through workflow automation?
Organizations digitize for the following 5 reasons:
- Streamline processes
- Improve productivity
- Make information easily accessible
- Maintain security and privacy controls
- Stay compliant to regulations
So what are the first steps to digitize your HR department?
Start with an integrated HR strategy first
Digitizing HR has a spectrum of tactics and software solutions available. From ‘mobile first’ strategy, to the use of the Cloud and social media, it is easy to get distracted and pulled in multiple directions. Therefore, start with the reason digitizing HR will be beneficial to your organization. Use that reason as your guiding principle and evaluation criteria for your selection of tactics and tools. Will it remove redundancy in tasks? Will it improve efficiency so employees can focus on what they do best?
Do a needs assessment
While it may be tempting to say all problems need fixing, find out which problem if solved will have the biggest impact and do a cost analysis of the money saved for each problem solved. Create a roadmap of areas where improvement is needed and how digitizing will save costs or improve productivity, and use that list to set your priorities for implementation.
Get executive sponsorship and support
We all know that projects fail without executive sponsorship and support. Make sure the productivity and cost savings are clearly defined so that the executive team gets on board early and supports the efforts.
Evaluate solutions on the market to ensure a good fit
With so many solutions on the market, it can take considerable time and effort to make sure you select the one that is a fit for your needs and your organization culture. The software has to solve your problems while at the same time, the vendor team needs to fit with your organization’s (and implementation team’s) culture and vision.
Implement, Test and Train
Use proven project management techniques and vendor resources to formulate a plan, bring together the appropriate team for the project, and develop an effective communication strategy for your project stakeholders (including employees who will be impacted by the change). Once you are ready to roll out your solution, make sure adequate training is available to help make the transition as smooth as possible.
Harnessing new technology and changing the way things are done in organizations are always challenging endeavors. But with proper planning and a commitment to continuous improvement, your organization can take full advantage of HR digitization and workflow automation.
About the Author:
Marnie Larson is the CEO of StarGarden Corporation and oversees its operations in Canada, US and New Zealand. She has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry and specializes in HCM, Business process automation and Workflow technology.
Follow Marnie on Twitter: @mblarson
If you are reviewing your current HR processes and thinking of automating some of the tasks, then talking to HR experts will help prioritize and evaluate your organization’s needs.