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Transforming human resources with RPA

(Image credit: Image Credit: MNBB Studio / Shutterstock)

Now more than ever, there is a real need to use intelligent digital solutions to enhance the way people do their jobs. The limits of what humans can do at their desks with legacy technology have been thrown into the spotlight, and it’s time for organisations across all sectors to think about their processes in a new way. Where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was beneficial in many ways before, it’s fast becoming a vital ingredient to daily operations at many organisations.

With that in mind, RPA is the most freeing solution you can deploy in the current situation, both for employees and for customers, or anyone who uses your services. Far from taking away the human touch which we all crave, I believe it adds value in many more ways.

Considering the benefits to employees

In its most recent report on the topic, Gartner predicts that by 2023, there will be a 30 per cent increase in the use of RPA for front-office functions. There’s no doubt that many organisations already recognise how RPA can benefit both their employees and customers alike. Back-office processes are often the first target for automation and usually involve highly-process-driven, very repetitive manual tasks.

For employees, RPA removes the burden of time consuming and repetitive work that often goes hand in hand with functions like HR and payroll. Whether it’s logging into applications, moving files or folders, copy and pasting information or auto-filling forms, RPA allows organisations to add value at every level – both for those tasked with the HR or payroll delivery role and the individual’s engaging with the function. By putting the needs of their people at the centre of HR and payroll systems and processes, departments can reap a wealth of benefits. However, organisations must look at their own unique needs before choosing a supplier to help with the deployment of the technology, but once established, a good partnership will be vital.

Using a combination of innovative technologies, many suppliers are driving better quality in this space – focusing on improving efficiency, accuracy and enhancing the overall employee experience. With a steadfast focus on achieving operational excellence, organisations can successfully use RPA technology to record information such as adding new starters to the payroll database or processing sick leave certificates. Organisations that are heavily regulated can also benefit from RPA, as automating relevant processes often leads to greater accuracy and compliance.

Adding more value to the human touch

If organisations choose to work with a supplier and implement a RPA-based solution, what value will employees see? There are a few points to consider.

Firstly, it means that teams can achieve high levels of accuracy in the delivery of their services. Again, using HR as an example: from the perspective of the employee, payroll errors can be highly frustrating at best, and can have serious consequences at worst. The impact of being paid incorrectly can be wide-ranging – upsetting and stressful for employees, with knock-on effects for their family, particularly if they aren’t on a basic salary or are perhaps in receipt of benefits. It is not up to them to be the experts, and yet more often than not the onus is on them to resolve the error. Inevitably this also compromises their time, and that of their manager. Removing those pain points for employees adds untold value.

In addition, by automating processes where it makes sense to do so, time is freed up to re-invest in what really matters – being there to support staff. Answering queries quickly and getting it right first time enables employees to be fully present and armed with all the correct information. This then affords the organisation time to analyse the types of enquiries coming in, so self-service solutions and resources can be optimised.

In some cases, automating a single process can free up hundreds or even thousands of hours. Anecdotally, one our biggest customers saw immediate benefits from implementing RPA – including a 20 per cent year-on-year reduction in the number of calls relating to payroll because of the improvements generated by the technology. Saving such a considerable amount of time means they’re now able to focus on activities that provide more long-term value for their customers and business as a whole.

Through elements like self-service, the right solution will make it easy for staff to access and update their own data as well as view and download information they might need. They can do this at a time convenient to them via a desktop or mobile device, rather than having to wait for someone to do it for them. Manager self-service options are also user-friendly and intuitive, allowing them to submit information quickly and efficiently when it suits them.

Remote processes that add value

When technology is used to complement the role played by people, organisations can free up time to spend where it is really needed. The emphasis shifts towards a proactive rather than reactive approach, affords organisations the time to invest in analysing employee needs and using that intelligence to continually improve the service. In turn, members of staff will enjoy a better experience as a result. Right now, more than ever, services need to work with total efficiency and at speed, and automating some of the processes is bound to be of benefit.

Increasingly, organisations are looking for ways to enhance the relationships they have with employees and clients. The more they can reduce the time it takes to complete administrative or repetitive tasks, that could be handled by RPA, the more time they are able to dedicate to complex processes that require human intervention. It’s all about striking a balance between what can and should be human-led, and what can be supplemented with intelligent use of RPA technology. Identifying that, the needs of the organisation and where it can truly be of benefit is the key to unlocking its real value.

Mark Harris, Head of IT Operations, Cantium Business Solutions

Mark Harris is head of IT Operations at Cantium Business Solutions.