We present an interesting Q&A with our guest, Rajeev Menon, Advisory Board Member, Snehadhara Foundation. Rajeev comes with a diverse set of proficiencies and has a rich experience spread across industries. From product development to assessments, Rajeev is a master and is an industry thought leader in his own right.

He talks to Pearson TalentLens on how HR Automation is impacting businesses of present day.

 

Q1. HR automation is the buzz word these days. Can you simplify it for us, please?

HR automation, at its simplest deployment, is using technology to automate clerical tasks in HR processes. It is also aimed at reducing documentation significantly.

But, on a broader and more impactful canvas, it can mean anything from implementing online forms during recruitment to online leave management to using chat-bots to handle basic interaction with employees. HR has traditionally been slow in adopting technology-based improvements in processes but that is changing rapidly. HR has also always been a resource intensive, document-heavy, time-consuming area. Today, every part of the function from recruitment to onboarding to employee benefit management is being subject to automation. It is no more a question of “if “but “when” automation is adopted by HR. And the slower you are off the blocks now, the more you will lag behind in the race to make business more efficient.
Along with this realization, companies’/service providers have raced to create solutions over the past few years. So much so, that there are a surfeit of solutions available from a simple plug and play modular and quickly implementable solutions to ERP based solutions that take time to operationalize. Some of the exciting solutions that are trending now involve automated traditional assessments, automated remote proctoring & virtual simulations of certain skills.

The key to having a successful implementation of automation is

a. Re-audit the entire set of HR processes to identify key bottlenecks and resource intensive areas. This could be resume screening, candidate evaluations, interview coordination, onboarding, training identification and allocation, leave management, workforce redeployment etc.,

b. Implement solutions that address these areas (the low hanging fruits) first. These are likely to show the biggest tangible improvements the fastest and hence pave the way for faster acceptance of more quality focused modules (that may take a bit more time to show results) like assessment accuracy, training quality measurement & outcome improvement etc.

Q2. If we were to ask you to give top five benefits of HR Automation, what would they be?

1. Process improvement and cycle time reduction (pretty generic to any automation)-freeing up of resources to focus on intellect based tasks.
2. Better audit trails – builds reliable processes
3. Better decision making – (e.g.: more data points of higher accuracy available for making hiring decisions)
4. Better employee engagement- happy employees
5. Saving time and money significantly

These are some of the top benefits that accrue from automation. Many downstream benefits like better retention of employees (due to a better job v/s employee match). Biases in hiring are also reduced significantly bringing in more objectivity. Training effectiveness can improve through automated measurements. Most importantly, automation leads to higher degrees of control with readily available data and geography independent standardized processes.

Q3. Is there any specific industry/sector that would benefit more from HR Automation? And why?

Automation can impact every aspect of HR and make it agile, efficient and central to achieving business results. But automation lends itself more to situations that are resource intensive and complex like ITES and BFSI, which apart from having complexities of size and variety also have an added dimension of multi-geography presence. To have control over HR processes in such environments with constraints of time and amount spent, there is no option but to deploy technology.

Having said that, it isn’t as if the smaller organizations cannot benefit from automation. Smaller organizations have smaller budgets and especially in the case of startups, it makes sense not spending much on non-core areas. This is where HR Tech and automation can help. However, the impact might be limited to a few areas like recruiting or payroll processing.

Q4. My organization is looking at enabling HR with technology. How much of retooling / re-skilling will my HR team have to go through?

The first & biggest change needed to adopt technology is of mindset. As with all changes, this too will need a good change management team in place that would seamlessly help move the processes from a manual to an automated process. Companies will need to designate interdisciplinary teams (however small) to help with the change. These teams need to be empathetic to ensure all employees are taken into confidence and the benefits of the technology are clearly explained. Upskilling will almost be a mandate for pretty much every HR resource but if one opts for an intuitive tech solution, this shouldn’t be difficult or time-consuming. The trick is in choosing solutions that are built keeping the employee at the center of it rather than tech alone. So, while it is inherently trendy to see solutions that market themselves as AI/ML/cutting edge tech-enabled, the selection of the solution should take the ease of transition and customization as an important consideration.

The amount of reskilling needed is purely a function of the type of solution used, the hand-holding provided by the service provider and the gap that is intended to be covered.

Q5. What are the key short-term pushbacks that we can expect while getting on the automation bandwagon?

The fear of getting redundant is the single biggest push that will be seen from employees. If this isn’t addressed at the start, you will have disinterested employees becoming a part of the change process. This can be very counterproductive.

The second is the clamour of stakeholders to see the RoI at the earliest. This is a fair ask but can become an unnecessary pressure for implementers if early successes aren’t forthcoming. The smart thing here would be to choose parts/processes in HR that can show impact quickly and visibly. Eg: Resume parsing, interview scheduling, leave management can be areas that allow a quick display of cost saving and time reduction.

Q6. When would we start seeing results of this technology refresh?

The results of HR automation can start accruing fairly early depending on what is picked as the area for automation and what stage it was at before the refresh. It also depends on how one sets about the metrics for measurement. Eg: The impact in terms of resources and cycle time could be seen much faster in the case of resume sorting or interview coordination as compared to hire quality improvement or increased retention which typically have a lag effect. Recruitment process automation, for instance, has provided a significant reduction in cost per hire within one hiring cycle but the impact of getting in better hires would take at least one appraisal cycle to be felt fully.