Tech Talk: What is Robotic Process Automation in HR and How Can it Make Your Job Easier? 


The administrative tasks of onboarding an employee is tedious. The new hire has numerous forms to fill out, and the HR employee must upload or enter that information into the HR system. The appropriate information must be directed to the right location, such as the payroll, benefits, and scheduling systems. While the new hire only encounters the onboarding process once, the HR employee must go through the repetition with each new employee. However, HR departments are starting to use robotic process automation (RPA) to minimize those mind-numbing tasks.


RPA 101: What it is and why it’s good

If you're not familiar with RPA, you're not alone. The technology has been used more widely in the banking and financial services industries and is making its way into other organizations' back offices. Walmart, for example, uses it to process more than 200 million accounts receivables. 


RPA automates repetitive tasks that don't require high-level decision making, such as generating automatic email responses or automating jobs in an ERP system. Think of RPA as the hardworking cousin of the flashier AI. Unlike AI, RPA doesn't try to "think," but instead replaces the actual "doing." RPA is also different from its talkative other cousin, chatbot. Instead of talking, RPA "bots" are given rules and business logic needed to complete a task.


CIO.com says: "using RPA tools, a company can configure software, or a "robot," to capture and interpret applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses, and communicating with other digital systems."


RPA use is growing. In 2018, tech analyst Gartner said RPA software was the fastest-growing segment of the enterprise software market, with a 63% increase in revenue. 


Benefits of RPA

It's easy to see why businesses like robotic process automation. By automating tasks, RPA tools increase accuracy, consistency, and speed. And, because they take away the mundane portions of the job, they free the person up to handle higher-level tasks. That change can cascade into a variety of benefits for both the employee and the company, including increased productivity, engagement, and retention.


Slow but increased use of RPA in HR

Human resources professionals perform many tasks that are repetitive but necessary. As the financial services institutions before them, HR departments are beginning to consider RPA a useful tool, but progress is still slow. The Sierra-Cedar 2019-2020 HR Systems Survey of nearly 2000 organizations found RPA is still emerging, with 4% of small companies, 6% of medium companies, and 24% of large companies using the technology--but noted that adoption of RPA tools in HR increased 50% in the last year.


RPA can relieve HR of some labor-intensive tasks, freeing that time so they can focus on delivering strategic value. Tech Target outlines numerous ways HR can use RPA tools:


  • Candidate sourcing and screening: matching candidates resumes against job requirements, creating a list, contacting candidates to schedule interviews

  • Recruitment offers: creating a personalized job offer from available information

  • Onboarding and offboarding: creating and sending onboarding documents, arranging office space, booking training, and inputting employee data into the HRIS. For offboarding, RPA technology can cancel the employee's system access and update compensation and benefits systems.

  • Compensation and payroll: making payroll changes, print checks, manage direct deposits and perform tax and compliance reporting

  • Expense processing: checking expense reports to see if they are complete and comply with company policy and then sending them for the appropriate approval

  • Data entry: making changes, ensuring the information is compliant, and automatically sharing data between systems. 


Within HR, RPA can improve accuracy and quality, provide better analytics and reporting, and reconcile information from multiple systems. All of these aspects help HR be more accurate, productive, and useful.


RPA: part of the bigger picture

Whenever technology replaces manual tasks, the valid question is whether a tool like RPA will take jobs away from people. Although implementing RPA software means specific responsibilities may be reassigned, HR--and any  other department, should look for opportunities for employees to develop in new areas. For example, instead of spending 30 minutes processing paperwork during the onboarding process, the HR employee can improve the onboarding process so that the new hire feels connected quickly, feels part of the culture, is assigned a mentor, and joins the company's Employee Resource Group.  


As with all technologies, RPA is more than a digital tool-- it is a lever that helps HR, or any department, get more work done, and give employees the time and opportunity to learn and grow. 


Contact us to learn more about using RPA powered HCM tools to improve your business. 

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Pamela DeLoatch

Pamela DeLoatch

Pamela is a freelance marketing writer who specializes in Human Resources and HR technology. With 16 years of HR and writing experience, combined with a journalism degree and an MBA, Pamela delivers compelling content that engages the audience and effectively conveys the marketing message.

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