Achieve automation with HR technology
Save money and time, eliminate duplication, cut paper consumption and queues at the printer with the technological options now available. By Peter Alkema
In previous articles we looked at the five pillar framework for how technology can support customer centric HR shared services. Mobile technology has also become a key enabler of new and convenient channels for self-service HR processes. A further area in which technology can play a significant role is the reduction of costs through automation of processes. This article considers two aspects namely automation inside an HR shared services and also to support self-service and line management HR processes.
Sadly there is still too much paper in HR processes. Much of this comes from compliance related requirements, but equally the profession has become guilty of over-printing and excessive paper consumption. Instead of actively looking for opportunities to remove paper from our own processes, we seem to have looked for more forms to fill in and more reasons to copy and distribute pages unnecessarily. Technology can play a role in achieving automation by driving once-only capture of information as far upstream as possible. From talent acquisition processes to post termination, more steps can be taken online with tools and systems that ensure data is easily captured on user-friendly screens, remains in one place and is widely available for people that need to use it.
If a job seeker has to enter their contact and address details before being able to load an electronic CV onto your recruitment portal, these are sets of data that are in your systems even before the person is hired and shouldn’t ever again be requested from the employee in paper form. To trigger a process, employees will often have to fill in a form, but this can be automated with a decent query management system and could even be set up as a pro forma submission on the payroll system.
One example of automation that has been successful in a large bank is the selection of employer contribution to pension fund. An online form was created with a real time salary calculator enabling employees to load different percentage contributions and see how this would affect their monthly pay. Once they have chosen an option, they could submit it and it would be entered against their record for processing at the month-end, an entirely paperless process. A value-add service was the financial planning advice given when this solution was rolled out to advise employees to take advantage of employer contributions and increase it for longer term wealth creation rather than reduce it to increase short term monthly take home pay.
A large shared service that doesn’t leverage technology will drown in piles of paper, boxes of records and reams of documents that just have to be printed. Often the only reason for this is, “But that’s how we’ve always done it. You have to print "Form 139xj6" three times, one for the red file, one for the archive and one for that team,” etc! Truly progressive and tech-savvy operations management will question the need for any piece of paper and look for every opportunity to cannibalise processes with technology and automation.
Another HR shared services in a large bank realised its printers were over-used, breaking down and impacting productivity, paper consumption was excessive and accuracy of payroll details was far too low. With some basic six sigma process analysis it was found that consultants were printing every input they got for capture so they didn’t have to alt-tab on their computer between the spreadsheet they received and the payroll system on which the information needed to be captured. The simple solution was to give them all dual screens: read the data on one and capture it on the payroll system on the other. The queues at the printers disappeared, the accuracy went up, employee satisfaction improved and paper consumption more than halved overnight.
At the same time a new query management system was introduced, hands-free headsets were rolled out, desks and cupboards were cleared of old paper and consultants were challenged to retain only the physical paper at their desks that they needed every single day. Customer service improved, productivity improved and visitors consistently remarked about the new buzz in the office.
Technology is just the enabler – it has to be embraced and exploited by willing business people and operations managers. If this is done effectively the results can be impressive – reduced costs and extra time to focus on more value-adding tasks. This ultimately is how HR transformation can be achieved but we often forget it starts with getting the basics right.
Peter Alkema is the CIO of FNB HR Shared Services, www.fnb.co.za.