The Not-so-obvious Benefit of HR Process Automation

According the Chief Executive magazine, consultancy group Future Workplace found that 42% of the 619 US-based HR professionals it surveyed expect automation to generate a more than 10% increase in productivity for their companies over the next three years.

Process Automation has long been equated with productivity, and for good reasons.  But when you automate processes, there’s an opportunity to enable second strategic benefit.  To understand that benefit, let’s dissect automation down to three steps:

  1. Standardization
  2. Replacing paper forms with digital smart forms
  3. Automating the process workflow

The second step - digitizing forms – contains the opportunity for that strategic gain:  Smart forms enable you to capture process-related information as reportable data.  And once captured, the data can be analyzed in many ways to reveal new insights.

Data leads to insights.  And insights lead to leads to more effective business decisions, which can lead to strategic improvements.

Let’s look an example of HR Process Automation...

In this example, we'll look at an organization that automates its tuition reimbursement process.  The paper forms used during the pre-automation phase required the employee to list information including the name of the institution, the course title, the reason for taking the course, and estimated costs.

When the organization replaces the paper forms with digital smart forms, they continue to collect that same information, but in digital format.  But they didn’t simply ask the same questions.  The used the opportunity to collect additional information to support a deeper analysis of employee skill sets and training investments.

To collect this information, the process owner added some additional data fields when designing the smart form.  Those fields captured the “skills gained” from taking the course.  The employee  selects a "Primary Skill" (e.g. Project Management) and "Secondary Skill" (e.g. Time & Cost Management) they expect to gain from taking the course.

New Data reveal New Insights

After running the automated process for about a year, the recruiting teams had enough data from which to gain some new insights.  They began to see clear trends where various business units were making investments to upgrade the skills of certain employee types, within two years of hiring.

In addition to paying for the employees to gain skills they didn’t have, the business units were in some cases losing the productivity of those employees, for the duration of the courses.

Based on the information, the Recruiting Teams modified the requirements for certain positions to include those skills that the company had been paying for through its Tuition Reimbursement program.   After the change, new employees were equipped with these skills on day one.

This strategic change was made possible by the new insights resulting from the collection of data within a smart form, at the start of the automated process.

The Takeaway

When you automate processes, think beyond efficiency.  Think also toward insight, and the actions you mike take, with the right information.  What new data can you capture – what new data should you capture in smart forms, to gain a deeper understanding of the business to make strategic improvements?

Process automation delivers more than productivity.  If you think strategically when designing your smart forms, you’ll be better equipped to take strategic actions.