‘Artificial intelligence’ and ‘machine learning’ are buzzwords you might find in any given publication centered around technology, but there’s another popular phrase that HR professionals might want to be aware of: robotic process automation.
So, what is it exactly?
Robotic process automation, or RPA for short, can be defined as the deployment of robotic technology by companies to automate various repetitive tasks. These aren’t your typical metal robots or androids you might see in the movies. Think of them instead as a digital workforce that can complete many of the monotonous duties that can bog down HR efficiency.
Why is there a need for automation?
Today’s workforce is more demanding than ever. Jobseekers expect quick answers to questions and application submissions. If a company is too slow to deliver them, they risk having their competitors steal away top talent from right under their noses. In addition to this, HR professionals are expected to manage the needs of their current workforce, onboard new employees, mitigate disputes, uphold company culture, among other responsibilities. The list of what is required from HR departments continues to grow, and in order to survive and compete in their niche, companies should make an effort to identify tasks they can leave to automated tools.
What do some of these tasks include?
Talent acquisition. Sorting through mountains of applicant data in order to find the best match for a particular position takes time. A single applicant might require an examination of their applicant profile, resume, cover letter, and social media channels to find qualities that are indicative of their competency for a role. With help from RPA technology, HR professionals can expedite this process by scanning applicant data for specified criteria that the company deems as required for a role. The resulting list of candidates should be similar to one that an HR professional would have produced had the process been performed manually.
Onboarding New Hires. Every new employee that enters a company possesses different skills and experiences, but the process of onboarding them is mostly the same. During this process, there are many steps—like setting up new hires with the company’s payroll and benefits systems—that can be performed by RPA bots. “RPA bots are particularly good at performing ‘swivel chair’ tasks requiring the ability to access multiple applications to get work done,” claims Greg Vert, a senior manager at Deloitte. This might include retrieving data from one HR system and uploading it into another, scanning data for completeness, and compiling reports from various data sources.
Payroll Administration. Among the many duties that HR professionals perform, payroll can be viewed as perhaps the most repetitive. That’s because it typically involves large amounts of data entry. The repetitive and monotonous nature of this work is also what makes it more susceptible to errors. By deploying RPA technology to automate payroll procedures, HR professionals can reduce this risk of inaccuracies to near zero, correct any mistakes that occurred during manual insertion, and significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for the process to be completed correctly. Automating payroll procedures can also help ensure that employees are paid on time, improving employee satisfaction.
Is RPA the answer to everything?
Although RPA can help an HR department make great strides towards efficiency, it’s important to acknowledge that human involvement is still essential for successful HR execution. RPA bots can indeed perform many of the duties with which they are tasked; however, in order to run most effectively, RPA bots need to be instructed on how to go about performing these tasks. Additionally, a qualified individual should be assigned to oversee that each process is being done correctly and make any necessary modifications to the bot’s process. That said, combining the effectiveness of RPA technology with the guidance of qualified HR professionals can be the difference your organization needs to completely transform your department.