HR automation is accelerating the value-creation agenda for leaders and organisations. By enabling faster diagnosis, clear communication, better productivity, and personalised management, automation is helping organisations reshape their HR framework. But, while many have started the automation process, it is rife with challenges, assumptions, misconceptions, and a lack of knowledge.
On World MSME Day 2023, People Matters organised an exclusive webcast with Keka, highlighting the basics of HR automation and the practicalities of implementing such solutions. Leaders also discussed devising an actionable HR automation plan and how organisations can embark on this journey. The session featured Kshitiz Sachan, Process Coach - Performance Management, Keka, and Vikrant Gupta, CHRO, Apna.
Employee experience and HR automation
The world of work has a multigenerational workforce. Entire industries are operating as digital-first enterprises, and for many companies, their employees are also the target consumers. This makes employee experience the most important factor when redesigning HR processes to ensure accessibility and ease of use. In such a setting, Vikrant explains that employee experience is no longer just about convenience or engagement but provides a competitive advantage and profound EVP as it has the potential to convey organisational policies and values in a direct and customised manner. So, employees must be at the centre of all HR automation initiatives to ensure their experience remains uncompromised.
Factors to consider when creating a roadmap for HR automation
All organisations have a distinct purpose which varies in scope and complexity. Similarly, every employee also has their purpose, and a misalignment between these aspirations is where the HR automation journey begins, Kshitiz explains.
The essence of HR automation is to gather relevant data that can help make better people decisions and understand the core collective purpose of teams. Peter Drucker famously said, "What cannot be measured cannot be improved," this aspect of creating measurable and improvable processes is what we need to keep in mind while building HR automation roadmaps.
Since every organisation has a unique purpose, it will face unique challenges, which means that the automation process and objectives will also likely be unique. To set the right goals, leaders can look at past mistakes or successes, consider the present challenges or needs, and envision the future evolution of the organisation. This approach can help define critical priorities and bring a holistic approach to automation planning.
Steps to Create a Roadmap for HR Automation
To make a realistic roadmap, Vikrant says that the first step must be to introspect and understand why we are automating a process. It can be tempting to focus on the 'what' or the 'how,' but focusing on the 'why' will help clarify what's significant and urgent. This step will also help identify the business objective that it will achieve, establish the direct RoI, and finalise the metrics to measure. When HR teams need help finding these answers, it is likely that they are not fully aware of the scope of the challenge or are focusing on solving the wrong problem, which will ultimately result in obstacles during adoption, usage, and measurement.
The next step is to prioritise different objectives based on the considerations such as time, resources, and money. It is usually not recommended to open battles on several fronts when implementing change, and prioritising one or two key goals is likely to get better results. This can also make procuring business buy-in from company leaders and board members easier. Once you finalise how much time and resources are committed, find the capability and expertise to ensure that automation will result in meaningful change.
Finally, a thorough assessment of the company's existing tech landscape and capacity is vital. This will ensure that different systems and data sets can talk to each other and that effective integration garners business-critical insights. Having the buy-in from the company's executive board during the entire process can bolster the entire process significantly. So, HR must ensure that automation is a priority for the company's C-suite to ensure things get done.
Aligning HR Automation with business strategy
"HR needs to stop underestimating itself and letting others do the same," Vikrant said. In 2023, HR automation cannot be a project-based initiative but needs to encompass the organisational goal and strategy. Next, HR leaders must continually ask themselves, is their solution scalable, repeatable, and reliable? Can they offer a unified experience to every employee in the company, regardless of location, role, or background? As C-Suite executives look for evidence-backed decision-making, HR leaders must find ways to weave data-driven tools and approaches to help look at the larger picture. These actions can considerably shift the balance in favour of success during implementation.
Kshitiz adds that HR leaders need to be more aware of what they seek through automation and think deeply about how such solutions interact with people and the workplace. Before automating a process: Think about why it exists in the first place. Look at the policy framework. And understand the unique purpose it serves.
Once there is clarity about these process aspects, it will be easier to automate and ensure people are engaged.
Assessing outcomes and the cost-to-impact of HR automation
Many metrics are already available, but more important is how to make them applicable in the specific organisational context. Every team in the organisation works with similar constraints and aims to achieve more with limited budgets and timelines. The disconnect happens when the metrics used by HR need to convey their business impact. For example, instead of measuring engagement or attrition in isolation, it can be better to find out the effect of an intervention on the product roadmap acceleration, time-to-market launches, and financial impact due to shortened product cycles. When we start looking beyond engagement scores and attrition rates, we will be able to translate the proposition of HR automation into a language that business understands.
When starting the journey of HR automation and designing a roadmap, HR leaders need to be realistic and focus on the 'why', have clarity on what they wish to achieve, and convey the business benefits of the process to senior leaders. Every journey needs a destination, which makes it essential to consider the end goal for each HR automation initiative while practically preparing for anticipated roadblocks.