Improving work and HR with RPA
Five questions about RPA and HR
The robots are coming
No better time than now
RPA software can bridge the gap with older HR applications without requiring a restructuring of the existing set-up. But is its implementation worthwhile?
''A cost-effective solution to make HR processes more efficient''
1. What is RPA?
Let’s first take a step back. RPA (robotic process automation) is the technology that allows companies to configure computer software, or a ‘software robot’, to emulate and integrate the actions of a human interacting within digital systems to execute a business process. RPA robots utilize the user interface to capture data and manipulate applications just like humans do. They interpret, trigger responses and communicate with other systems in order to perform on a vast variety of repetitive tasks. RPA is non-intrusive in nature and leverages the existing infrastructure without causing disruption to underlying systems, which would be difficult and costly to replace.
2. Why 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 (CoE) and growing expertise on the implemented RPA software. RPA technology and the new talent within the company can fix the shortcomings in, for example, 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.
3. What are the 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, for example:
Recruiting and onboarding:
When it comes to hiring new employees, there are usually mountains of paperwork involved. 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.
Dealing with fluctuations:
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.
Bridging various systems:
Mergers and acquisitions can often be an HR headache, because integrating personnel-related 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. Especially for companies primed to experience rapid growth, RPA is an increasingly viable solution.
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.
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.
4. Is RPA expensive?
In contrast to many other, traditional IT solutions, RPA allows organizations to automate at a fraction of the cost and time previously encountered. RPA is non-intrusive in nature and leverages the existing infrastructure without causing disruption to underlying systems, which would be difficult and costly to replace. With RPA, cost efficiency and compliance are no longer an operating cost but a byproduct of the automation.
5. Which companies should consider RPA in HR?
All of them! Seriously, RPA can make a huge difference. 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. Particularly companies experiencing rapid growth can benefit from RPA, since it enables them to bridge various systems without requiring a restructuring of the existing set-up.
02. The robots are coming
Threat or blessing?
Robots will make it easier for companies to find, grow, and retain the best people, according to Todd Carlisle, one of the founders of the People Analytics movement. In his TED talk he explains how the arrival of automation and machine learning is evolving the HR field.
A nonprofit in the UK improved its recruiting process with RPA when the Covid-19 pandemic started, and is now saving time and money.
''The recruitment team decided to use the crisis for a reset''
Much has been written about companies that invest in technology during recessions. They are proven to emerge a step ahead of those that don’t. For example, one nonprofit in the UK with over 30K employees, recently described how their HR team proactively flagged its recruiting process as a possible candidate for improvement with automation. While still in the very early phases of exploring RPA, the nonprofit’s recruiters caught wind of the project and approached the governance team to see if RPA would be a good fit for its needs.
Capitalize your downtime
The timing coincided with the Covid-19 outbreak when hiring slowed (as was the case for businesses around the world). The recruiters wanted to capitalize on their downtime to improve applicant pre-screening, candidate workflows, and other recruiting processes. The team stepped back and completely documented the recruiting process, an effort that uncovered many manual steps and identified ways technology could help. This level of process documentation quickly helped the team realize two things: its recruiting process could be significantly improved, and it was a prime candidate for automation with RPA.
The team was able to use RPA to automate resume workflows and screen documents for important keywords. This was an important step to standardize the process for all the different recruiters and move qualified candidates through the hiring funnel much more efficiently.
Save time and money
This project will result in significant savings, both in terms of time and costs. Where pre-screening alone once consumed half of each recruiter’s time (approximately 20 hours per week), the team believes it will reduce the time needed by nearly 95% - down to just one hour per week. This should result in cost savings of $30,000 per recruiter per year, a number that grows exponentially when multiplying it by the number of recruiters around the globe. The organization’s prescreening, recruiting, and onboarding processes are all much more effective now. This will result in a new ability to attract and hire top talent capable of contributing to better results. In short, this one process improvement alone—thanks to RPA—has enabled the nonprofit to increase its competitive advantage as it begins to navigate to the new normal.