Imagine you’re a company actively considering — or even already successfully making use of — robotic process automation (RPA). While your initial purpose of RPA implementation may have been to help your employees speed up order processing or improve the accuracy of data transfer between company databases, you’ve also wondered how you could potentially streamline your human resource (HR) processes, specifically in running payroll and hiring new employees.
The 2015 Human Resources Software Buyer Report suggests that “Buyers relying on manual methods are seeking a new system to improve organization (44 percent) and automation (22 percent), while current software users want more functionality (35 percent).”
One method to move past HR obstacles and streamline activities such as payroll administration, talent management, and employee onboarding is to implement a new HR software suite; however, replacing a previous and dated HR system likely involves contacting a new vendor, paying for a new software, and learning the ins and outs of an unfamiliar system.
All of this begs the question: Is RPA able to provide automation that these 22% percent of HR software buyers are seeking without having to implement yet another software platform? Could RPA alone boost a company’s automation capabilities and process support? In tackling these critical questions, we’ll evaluate RPA as a competitive option in addressing HR burdens, the types of HR processes suitable for automation, and where organizations can benefit most from implementing this emerging technology for HR operations.
In order to understand the impact RPA can have on HR activities, let’s first consider the capacities of HR platforms. Increasingly, HR software suites are able to help automate crucial HR processes like hiring employees, performance management, online learning, and payroll administration. Many newer HR solutions are mobile, user-friendly, and driven by analytics. In addition, they can even integrate with social media, allow for internal collaboration, and increase employee engagement.
At the same time, HR technologies are likely to hit the same hefty stumbling blocks as ERP (enterprise resource planning) software when it comes to communicating with legacy systems fundamental to business performance. Integration of a new HR software, especially when it involves full or even partial replacement of a legacy system, can also require substantial amounts of added time and employee involvement.
Now, let’s consider RPA.
Rather than being bogged down by legacy system issues, most RPA software are able to flawlessly bridge the gap with older HR applications because software robots work in the presentation layer just like humans. Furthermore, if RPA is already present within a company, the company is most likely either developing or already has a RPA Center of Excellence and growing expertise on the implemented RPA software. RPA technology and the new talent within the company can fix the shortcomings in existing HR processes by boosting the automation capabilities of the older HR system and automating paths that couldn’t otherwise be automated. This could involve, for example, boosting the accuracy of payroll processing or decreasing the human involvement required to onboard a new employee.
Benefits of RPA in HR
While RPA can be applied across nearly every industry, HR is a less considered space that can substantially benefit from this technology. Because HR processes are typically high volume and repetitive, RPA has the potential to significantly improve HR processes in order to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Some of these HR processes and tasks include:
Recruiting and onboarding: When it comes to hiring new employees, there are usually mountains of paperwork involved. Luckily, RPA software robots are able to help with filling in and processing forms quickly and with minimal error. Once a recruit’s information is transferred into the company’s database, RPA can notify new employees their paperwork has been processed successfully.
Managing “workers”: Most companies experience fluctuations in the frequency of certain operations like order processing. Because the number of software robots executing a process can easily be scaled up or down, RPA is able to largely eliminate the need to hire and dismiss employees to keep up with transactional or seasonal demand. Rather, companies can rely on software robots to meet these variations.
Mergers and acquisitions: M&As can often be an HR headache because integrating platforms from the involved companies is difficult, if not impossible, especially if the platforms are incompatible. Even more so, maintaining disparate applications can be costly and time-consuming. Through its interactions in the presentation layer, RPA is able to bridge various systems without requiring a restructuring of the existing set-up.
Payroll: Especially when a company has weekly payroll or a considerable number of employees, completing payroll tasks involves large volumes of data entry. Because payroll is highly repetitive, it is a process that can be automated with RPA to increase accuracy and reduce processing time.
Data management: HR departments are constantly inundated with data on current and past employees, contractors, and interns, often across various office locations and company branches. And much of this data is in constant flux: each time an employee moves, for example, there is a change in address — and perhaps home phone number — that needs to be recorded. RPA is able to manage this data without the need for employees to update this information manually in the HR system.
While RPA is functionally not intended to replace an HR software suite, it can give increased automation functionalities to HR processes that still are executed within older HR systems. This could mean processes are executed faster, more accurately, and with less human intervention. By giving their legacy system an automation boost with RPA, companies can delay, and potentially even eliminate, the hassle that accompanies an upgrade to a new HR system.
RPA As An HR solution
While RPA is certainly not the only solution to increasing the automation of HR operations, it’s an increasingly viable one for companies primed to experience rapid growth. Expanding companies are faced with growing numbers of employees, business locations, and M&As. This means more HR transactions must be addressed to maintain optimum productivity. Because RPA is a suitable match for processes that are rules-based and transactional, it enables companies to quickly and accurately automate the various kinds of HR activities associated with growth and expansion. RPA is able to boost the offerings of older HR software suites and supports HR tasks by helping companies more efficiently manage the increasing amounts of data and paperwork that accompany organizational expansion.
As a result, RPA can be a key driver in promoting and supporting growth in a more seamless fashion compared to integrating and deploying costly HR suites.