How Technology Helps HR Spend Less Time on Paper and More Time on People

There are very few career paths as multifaceted as human resources. HR professionals need insight into human behavior, legal acumen and a proficiency for numbers and data. They need to be strategists, consultants and people developers. They need to be visionaries while at the same time rolling up their sleeves and being doers. How can HR do it all?

Perhaps “doing it all” shouldn’t be the goal. Maybe the goal should be “doing what matters most.” Of course, that’s easier said than done. According to a study by G&A Partners, HR spends 73 percent of its time on administrative activities. While HR may want to focus its energy on programs that power the performance and productivity of the workforce, there’s still paperwork that needs to be done. Processes to follow. Forms to fill out and then file. And then fill out and file again. And there’s still missing documents, outdated documents. You get the picture.

So how can HR shift from focusing on these manual, repetitive administrative tasks so it can free up its time to focus on what really matters — people? Although HR technology tools play a role, they’re not a silver bullet. Here are five things HR can do for greater productivity, and how technology can help reduce the “busywork.”

Hunker Down and Do a Process Audit

It’s all too easy to stick with long-held processes because “that’s the way it’s always been done” and “hey, for now, it gets the job done.” Carving out time to re-evaluate processes can seem impossible when there’s an ever-growing pile of tasks that need to be done. In the moment, it feels easier to trudge through familiar processes, no matter how clunky they may be.

The problem with this cycle? It will always hold HR back from being strategic, staying ahead of change and empowering the workforce for business success. To break this cycle, HR will need to commit to a process audit, knowing it will have huge productivity payoffs down the line. This means gathering stakeholders in a room and taking a step back to look at what’s duplicative, what’s unnecessary, where roadblocks occur and what can be improved.

Doing this lays the groundwork for introducing process automation technology, or robotic process automation, which can take over certain routine tasks, such as filling in forms, filing documents and triggering workflows.

Part with All That Paper

Paper is the ultimate productivity killer. If an HR department is still using paper forms and documents, a process audit will likely reveal how much smoother certain tasks could be once scanning, copying, filing and faxing are eliminated. And when files are digital and stored in a single, central repository, it makes it easy for HR staff in other locations to access needed files. No more waiting around for that one person who holds the coveted key to the filing cabinet.

Not only are electronic files more efficient, they’re more secure. Digital employee files are safe from natural disaster and theft. And if they’re housed in an employee file management system, HR can control which roles or individuals have access to which documents.

Practical reasons aside, going digital can also enhance the perception of HR, internally and externally. Nothing reinforces the idea of an HR “paper pusher” more than, well, paper.

Spend Less Time on Compliance

It was Zuri Baker’s first week on the job as HR operations director at GoDaddy when she got an I-9 audit — and it was a mess. “We had I-9s everywhere. They were scattered across several different systems,” Baker says. As was the case for her, responding to an audit can be time-consuming and stressful for the entire HR team if there isn’t a system in place to proactively manage compliance.

The good news is today’s technology makes it easy for HR to pull employee files for an audit and quickly spot documents that are missing or about to expire. Once Baker’s team got a single repository for employee documents, they felt more prepared for any future audits. For HR to spend less time on compliance and more time on other projects, the first step is to centralize all employee data and documents in an employee file management system.

Help Employees Help Themselves

Responding to employee requests can eat up a lot of HR’s time, especially when the questions are routine, such as “How many vacation days to do I get?” or “What’s the sick-leave policy?” The solution here is to help employees help themselves by giving them the ability to find answers to these questions on their own, whether they’re on their computer at the office or on a mobile device, at home on the weekend. An employee knowledge portal with personalization features makes this possible.

“But isn’t the point of HR to be accessible and provide a human touch?” To an extent. We live in a service world where employees value ease and expediency. They want to avoid picking up the phone, and expect to find work-related information as easily as they find answers on Google. However, they still need the option to pick up the phone or to submit a request for bigger issues, and this is where HR can make a real impact. Instead of spending time responding to the “easy” questions, the combination of an employee knowledge portal and case management technology means HR spends more time guiding employees through events such as taking maternity leave or relocating to a different office.

Get Comfortable with Data

Making the case for technology that will relieve HR of its administrative burden will likely require a solid business case grounded in data. “[I]f you can’t put data behind your work, business leaders just will not pay attention,” writes Josh Bersin, founder and principal at Bersin by Deloitte. Even as HR frees up its time to focus on programs or changes that will affect employee productivity and well-being, those initiatives will require data and analytics for buy-in as well. The need to possess analytics skills “has now become the new world of HR,” Bersin writes.

Thankfully, HR doesn’t need a statistics background for this. Most HR technology today provides analytics that are easy to interpret and that let you track KPIs and drill down for more nuanced data. The more comfortable HR becomes with using data to optimize processes and programs, the more likely it is to spend resources on projects that will actually make a difference for the business.

Although it may seem that technology dehumanizes the workplace, when applied the right way, it actually helps HR be more human. Instead of HR worrying about doing everything, technology makes it possible for them do the people things.

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This post is sponsored by PeopleDoc.