Last month, the US labor market stunned experts by revealing that 467,000 jobs were added to payroll, beating all estimates.
The results underline just how quickly the global economy is recovering from the pandemic, but also hints at how under pressure HR departments must be to keep up with this growth in hiring and onboarding of new employees.
Not only are HR teams dealing with all these new recruits, but they are also grappling with a changing work environment.
Pandemic-induced lockdowns necessitated the switch to working from home, and many companies accelerated investments in digital solutions so that their staff could work safely and productively while remote.
Today, most firms are continuing to allow at least some employees to work from wherever they choose, leading to a hybrid work environment that presents new challenges.
These challenges emphasize the need for companies to leverage the power of automation, not only to help the HR department but to benefit the wider organization.
For instance, automation can streamline and improve the experience for new hires, help employees be more productive or boost efficiency by identifying licenses or services that are underutilized or redundant.
It’s easy to assume that automation will only benefit more technical functions like IT, but it can benefit a much wider range of departments, including the work of HR professionals. In fact, our latest W*rk Automation Index report explored which departments are automating their processes.
The Index found that since the start of the pandemic, recruitment saw the highest automation growth of any single process with an increase of 547%.
With much of the world in lockdown during that time, the process of hiring, onboarding, and offboarding employees shifted almost entirely online.
As a result, more companies recognized the opportunity to implement automated recruitment processes throughout 2020. But automation can also be applied to other HR functions, such as automating payroll or ensuring compliance on matters like vaccine checks.
Automating these traditionally manual processes can save an organization time and money by redirecting staff towards activities that generate more revenue.
But it also frees workers from performing boring, repetitive tasks day after day. This prevents burnout and improves employees’ wellbeing, leading to lower employee turnover and again saving the business money.
Building or buying?
The biggest challenge that companies face in truly adopting automation, is choosing to build vs buy. Who will build these automations in the first place?
Some companies will choose to build these solutions internally, arguing that they have already invested in their IT professionals and want to put them to good use. However, this is not always the best approach.
It involves a huge time sink as the IT team may take months to build an automation from scratch, and the solution will incur a significant maintenance cost, especially if the process itself needs to be changed or updated.
Whether you hire a professional or use your existing team, your business now runs the risk of becoming reliant on the individual who engineered the code, due to the risk that if they leave the company, their replacement will be unable to manage or maintain it.
In contrast, using an automation tool can be much more efficient and scalable. The work needed to maintain or update the automation if the process changes is also much easier, as modern automation platform tools are more accessible and usable by the average worker.
Given adequate training, most employees can learn to automate a process without prior knowledge in coding.
In addition, using an automation tool frees up engineers to focus on building products or providing better services to customers. They can also provide oversight to ensure the smooth adoption of automation or provide training and upskilling to their colleagues so they can automate processes for themselves.
The rise of software-as-a-service means that companies no longer need to build their own CRM or accounting software — they use Salesforce or NetSuite instead. The same approach should apply to automation.
Of course, employees often fear that automating tasks will make them redundant — but in my experience, this is rarely what happens. Automation is about removing tedious and repetitive work and freeing staff to focus on more productive challenges.
Low-value tasks such as sorting paperwork, administration, and uploading documents are exactly the kind of work that ought to be automated in order to save time.
Even tasks that at first glance seem to require lots of manual work have the potential to be automated. For instance, quote-to-cash processes that require a lot of data entry and emailing out contracts can be automated freeing resources that can be reallocated on more important tasks.
In 2022, companies need to assess their options and find the best way to support their employees through an exceptionally busy period in a rapidly changing work environment.
Rather than adopting more and more new processes to handle all these changes and use cases, simplifying and reducing workloads through automation gives staff the freedom and opportunity to focus on the work they find more fulfilling and where they can add the most value.
Director of Commercial Sales EMEA
Based in Spain, Maria is Director of Commercial Sales EMEA at Workato. Workato is the only enterprise automation platform that enables both business and IT to integrate their apps and automate even the most mission-critical workflows without compromising security and governance. Workato is trusted by over 11,000 of the world's top brands and fastest growing innovators.