When we think of automation, we often think of manufacturing, email marketing, or even—for the tech savvy among us—analytics. But human resources? As it turns out, artificial intelligence (AI) and its partner in “time,” automation, have big opportunities in store for the back office. In fact, I’d say HR—like finance—is the perfect candidate to benefit from automating a litany of mundane and ongoing processes. Is improving productivity a focus for your company? Let’s discuss the various ways the back office can use automation to kick productivity up a notch.
Improving Productivity = Time and Money Saved
Just 5 percent of companies say they are fully prepared for the AI tech wave that’s already hitting the HR community. Research from McKinsey also shows, however, that half of HR work could be automated using today’s technology—improving productivity for HR pros everywhere. That means there’s a lot of time and cost savings to be had—and a lot of companies that could still benefit from them. But how? The following are just a few examples:
Hiring. I’m not a fan of this one, but I do understand what time savings it could provide. Most of us have had the experience of applying for the job via an online form. From there, the information is sorted and processed via algorithms that automatically filter the qualified candidates from the not-so-qualified. If you’re like me, you miss the personal touch of being able to follow up on your inquiry, or at least feel like your qualifications are being reviewed by an actual human. Nevertheless, improving productivity could be as simple as automating parts of the hiring process. This is a huge time savings for busy HR professionals who may be managing dozens of job posts per day.
Onboarding. Most employees spend at least the first few hours of their first day at a new job with HR doing paperwork: signing standard company policies, providing addresses and phone numbers, verifying relevant certifications, and ensuring background check approval. But guess what: all of those things can be automatically managed online. Bonus: it also allows new employees to start their first day on the job where they belong—with their new teams and departments.
Training & Renewals. I have a friend who works in the engineering industry who is constantly running around trying to verify that the certifications of various employees are still accurate. For some, they may have lapsed. For others, they may have increased. Either way, it’s an incredibly mundane process that could be managed by a bot—and probably much more accurately than a human.
Payroll & Benefits. Imagine: no more need to send reminders about open enrollment, submitting hours and vacation requests, or verifying benefit eligibility. AI can help manage all of those issues automatically, improving productivity and freeing up HR personnel to focus on spending time with quality applicants. Sounds like a win-win to me.
Scheduling. How many times a day do HR managers spend re-scheduling interviews and trainings because a member of the executive team can’t make it? Using a virtual personal assistant X.ai’s “Amy” could help. Amy is designed to serve as a personal scheduling assistant, automatically answering messages relating to meals, calls, and meetings—without ever informing the sender she’s a bot—and without the HR manager ever lifting a finger or phone. Sign me up!
Indeed, the average HR professional who isn’t using AI or automation to support their function is losing about 14 hours a week in mundane tasks. More than 25 percent waste more than 20 hours! Imagine what you could do with an extra two days of work each week—advancing the industry by focusing on new trends like contingent workers, planning for more efficient workloads, networking with professionals—or even, for some, taking a lunch break! Automation isn’t just about efficiency and improving productivity; it’s about helping employees to keep their sanity. In fact, half of companies say their need automation just to deal with rising work volumes.
The case for AI in HR is a strong one. My only caveat: Don’t nix the parts of the job that require a human touch. And there are plenty of them: complaints of abuse or harassment, employees seeking emotional support, fielding qualified candidates (yes, I added that one because humans can often find things in a person that algorithms can miss.) The point is: like all industries, we need to appreciate AI and automation for the tools they are, but we should never consider them a replacement for the professionals themselves.
Additional resources on this topic: