Artificial intelligence and machine learning are words that feature heavily in today’s technology-focused publications. Most HR professionals are already familiar with those two concepts. There’s a third one—robotic process automation—with which they still need to become well-acquainted.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is the deployment of robotic technology by companies to automate various repetitive tasks. These aren’t the typical metal robots or androids seen in science fiction movies. Rather, the more accurate way to envision RPA is as a digital workforce that can complete many of the monotonous duties that can bog down HR efficiency.
The Need for Automation
Today’s workforce is more demanding than ever. Job seekers expect quick answers to questions and rapid responses to their application submissions. If a company is too slow to deliver them, it risks having its competitors steal away top talent from right under its nose. At the same time, the list of what is required from HR departments continues to grow and now includes managing the needs of the current workforce, onboarding new employees, mitigating disputes, upholding company culture, and many other responsibilities. In order to survive and compete in its niche, an organization should make an effort to identify tasks it can leave to automated tools.
Sorting through mountains of applicant data (resumes, cover letters, social media channels, etc.) can be incredibly time consuming. With help from RPA technology, HR professionals can expedite this process by scanning and filtering applicant data for specified criteria that the company deems necessary 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.
Each new hire possesses unique skills and experiences, but the process of onboarding new employees is mostly the same. Many steps of that process (such as enrollment in the company’s payroll and benefits systems) can be performed by RPA bots, which “are particularly good at performing ‘swivel chair’ tasks requiring the ability to access multiple applications to get work done,” such as retrieving data from one HR system and uploading it into another, scanning documents for completeness, and compiling reports from various data sources.
Of the many duties that HR professionals perform, payroll is perhaps the most repetitive because it typically involves large amounts of data entry. The repetitive and monotonous nature of this work increases its susceptibility to errors. By deploying RPA technology to automate payroll procedures, HR professionals can reduce the inaccuracy rate to near zero percent, correct mistakes introduced during manual insertion, and significantly reduce the amount of time needed to complete the payroll process correctly. Automating payroll procedures can also help ensure that employees are paid on time, thus improving employee satisfaction.
Is RPA The Answer to Everything?
Although RPA can help an HR department make great strides toward 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 completely transform an organization’s HR department.
This article originally appeared in Advanced Resources' HR Insights Magazine.