Evaluating processes for automation while keeping the Human in HR

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Businesses around the world are facing an interesting challenge – they want to provide the latest engaging technology tools to their employees to improve productivity, but they need to ensure that they are using the right tools for their organization so they can automate repetitive tasks and create streamlined workflows without increasing their technical and administration costs. The HR technology market has been responding to those needs by providing a number of automation tools and options for leave approvals, recruitment, performance management, training, onboarding and benefits enrollment.

And there are also new technical advancements such as AI that HR is exploring. For example, AI driven chat bots can be used to provide quick answers to employees’ questions. This presents an opportunity for organizations to potentially eliminate the need for HR resources to answer routine questions through emails that employees send. But as newer technology is utilized, there is a wariness and skepticism as people fear replacement and loss of control over the process. Technology needs to be about enablement and making the job easier for the user, not about replacing the human elements of the job.

How to evaluate the need for automation in HR processes

The most important question to ask before deciding on which processes to automate is will users feel a loss of control?1If technology will make a person’s job redundant it will create resentment and encounter resistance. We have seen this play out in the manufacturing and fast food industries. However, if technology is being used to help make a person’s job better and more productive, then it will be accepted with much less resistance. There is balance that needs to be respected.

While automating, it is sometimes easy to forget that HR software has various kinds of users. There are core HR, Payroll, and benefit users, as well as employees who use it for adhoc requests like punching in time, submitting leave requests, or checking on benefits. HR software can touch everyone in an organization. Some process automation might impact just internal employees like the time clock system whereas others like recruiting automation will impact candidates from outside of the organization. Visibility and impact must be taken into account when changing and automating processes. For example, recruitment automation can have a direct impact on the brand of the organization. Good candidates have choices and if the process is too cumbersome and complicated, the organization may miss out on great talent.

There is also a need to think about the downstream impact of the HR area that is being chosen for automation. While every business process automation project might start with a strong business case, the areas they impact will not always be the same or the benefits as pronounced. It is important to measure results and make sure that processes have not become overly complicated or impersonal.

Top HR processes for automation and considerations to make before IT project implementation

HR Process

Will users feel a loss of control


Downstream process impacted

Timesheets and Leave Approvals


All employees

Resources time, satisfaction with processes



External talent and internal employees

Ability to attract best talent and stay competitive

Performance Management


All employees

Ability to retain talent



All employees

Stay updated with latest skills and remain competitive



New employees

Utilize resources well, new employee experience


The perils of too much automation – losing the human factor

Judging a failed HR automation project is relatively straightforward, adoption will suffer. Besides the expense and time put in to implementation, employee morale can suffer as well. If the tool continues to be used, resentment towards that tool can build over time. There is need to design HR automation processes with the users in mind and measure the impacts on the business and its customers and employees. This may require a mix of tools aligned with appropriate touch points for people to interact with and make the process more human.

The time savings that automation can provide is very valuable and can be ‘given’ back to HR resources to spend on strategic activities. For example, the organization could benefit from more personal touch points during recruitment and on-boarding leading to more quickly engaged employees. Automation should ultimately be about making the jobs of HR professionals better, not less personal or even redundant. Careful design and implementation is the first step to making automations a success and positively impacting employees’ work lives.

Thinking about HR automation for your organization? Read about the 10 MUST have HR workflows for automation

Top HR Workflows for Automation

About the Author:

Marnie Larson is the CEO of StarGarden Corporation and oversees its operations in Canada, US and New Zealand. She has over 20 years’ experience in the software industry and specializes in HCM, Business process automation and Workflow technology.

Follow Marnie on Twitter: @mblarson


  1. https://www.hrdive.com/news/let-onboarding-tech-do-the-heavy-lifting-but-dont-over-automate-the-pro/522880/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/04/06/how-much-automation-is-too-much/#952af192f969
  3. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/careers/leadership/article-how-machines-are-putting-the-human-back-in-human-resources/
  4. https://www.hrdive.com/news/where-to-start-with-automation-tools-in-hr/446364/