Best Practices for Introducing Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) to Human in Human Resources

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Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence are the buzzwords of the moment although the correct terminology should truthfully be Intelligent Process Automation, while “basic” automation, for example Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA), still leaves a lot on the table for smart human processing, the advent of more sophisticated automation solutions that incorporate a learning or cognitive element is propelling us to a brand-new level.

Intelligent process automation technologies make our personal lives easier. Cars park themselves, hit the brakes and will soon drive themselves. Smart home devices can do everything from adjusting the temperature to turning lights on and off to ordering a pizza without us having to get up off the couch.

This level of intelligent process automation is starting to affect us at work, too. The ability to automate manual tasks and business processes frees skilled employees up to perform more high-value work, increasing their productivity. For many organizations, their efforts to introduce automation technologies should begin with the HR department.

For support services focused on human resources, the implications for saving time on non-value-adding tasks, and exponentially scaling up value-added services, promises to propel HR into a far more valuable partner position. The constant pressure to do more with less, deliver operational improvements quickly, provide more reliable data, manage regulatory reporting, and, of course, deliver higher value service mean that intelligent process automation is appearing at just the right time. 

As HR is one of the most people-centric business functions and works on attracting, developing and retaining the employees who help the business grow, to optimize the HR processes that extend across different geographies and that must meet with parameters of compliance, recruiting and rules & regulations, high-performing HR departments have been turning to technology. The initial big step was to move from conventional excel sheets to systems that could integrate with HCM suite, ESS portal and mobility.

HR departments want to provide great service but too often find themselves saddled with repetitive, transactional tasks. Reducing that complexity requires enabling HR professionals to focus less of their time and energies on a number of recruitment activities they have to handle manually. For example, overseeing employee relocation, which can take 14 or more days to process, leaves of absence and onboarding new hires are among the least efficient HR processes.

 

The innovations range from basic to cognitive-driven and include:

  • Chatbots replacing agents
  • Validating internal data against external data
  • Running, formatting, and distributing relevant reports
  • Personalized employee portals
  • Pushing what was tier 1 processing into tier zero
  • Effectively redefining the meaning of a knowledge base or library through meta-tagging
  • Proactively providing relevant information to employees
  • Immediately analyzing job applications and identifying the best fit
  • Adjusting relevant training and learning opportunities for an individual employee based on their activities
  • Reimbursing staff for costs without them needing to apply
  • Catering training to an individual employee’s career and making adjustments

The level of automation varies widely depending on the type of business process.

Figure Source :https://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/EY-robotic-process-automation-for-human-resource/

If your organization’s HR department struggles with these issues, there are five steps you can take to introduce intelligent process automation:

  1. Identify Areas That Could Be Automated

It’s important to identify the business processes that need improving and whether they’re appropriate for automation. You may identify HR as a prime candidate, but that may not only apply to HR. Evaluate all business units to identify processes that can be made more efficient through intelligent process automation.

  1. Map It Out

Next, map these critical business services to introduce automation technologies by using a combination of machine intelligence and human skills. This requires determining the process bottlenecks and areas that should prove easy to automate – including purchase order requisitions, submitting IT support or help desk requests and onboarding new employees with workspaces, computers and badges. Create a map of the ideal end-state process by investigating whether the existing process can be modified to deliver the desired result. Keep in mind that it may be easier to redesign some processes from scratch rather than trying to modify them from manual to automated.

  1. Communicate

Be proactive in communicating with HR employees. Don’t forget that if you’re planning on automating tasks and processes, you’ll be affecting their day-to-day work. Address their concerns and provide reassurance that just the opposite is true. Make sure that they realize the benefits automation will provide to them, such as reducing the time they must spend on administrative tasks and even job creation. Automating jobs drives up demand for so-called soft skills such as collaboration, creative problem solving and communication. Despite the fear that automation of processes leads to job loss, the opposite is often the case. As technology improves, employees are freed from routine tasks so they can focus their time and energies on more creative and strategic projects.

  1. Make Sure the C-Suite Is On-board

This too requires constant communication with employees. Yes, a structured and measurable program plan is essential, but organizational change is more than simply executing a set of implementation activities. The senior leadership team must be visible in its support and its participation in empowering employees to suggest how automation can make them more productive.

  1. Teach Skills

Finally, you’ll need to teach skills to help employees succeed after you’ve created an automated environment. So many of us work through days filled with tedious, manual processes like filling out spreadsheets and replying to long email chains. We’re used to automation and efficiency in our personal lives but not at work. So don’t expect your employees to have the skill sets for leveraging automation tools, which can vary among departments. For example, HR professionals may already have extensive soft skills but need help understanding and interacting effectively with automation technology. It may be just the opposite for the IT team.

Conclusion

There are times, however, when companies would not want to automate some HR tasks. For example, sensitive matters around issues involving employee conduct complaints, medical leaves or a death in someone’s family require what’s referred to in the industry as “high touch when it matters” for these types of situations.

Most HR processes can now be automated, and that requires the role of HR professionals to evolve. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of communicating to HR staff that automation will provide them with more time to work on high-value activities such as high-touch employee services, career development and organizational design rather than spending time dealing with routine cases.

Given the need for HR professionals to ensure smooth integration of men and machines, HR must also upgrade their understanding of technology and start engaging in constructive conversations with the technical team working on the forefront of this emerging new technology.

AUTHOR-Vartul Mittal is Technology & Innovation Specialist. He has 12+ years of strong Global Business Transformation experience in Management Consulting and Global In-house Centres with a remit to drive understanding and deliver Business & Operations Strategy solutions globally. He is always looking for new ideas and ways that can make things simpler.

He has lived and worked across multiple countries and cultures involving senior client stakeholders from various industries like Financial Services Sector, FMCG and Retail. He has delivered engagements for Fortune 500 organizations such as Coca Cola India, Kotak Mahindra Bank, IBM, Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life Insurance, Citibank and Barclays. Vartul Mittal is also renowned speaker on Analytics, Automation, AI and Innovation among Top Universities and International Conferences.

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