Computer systems have been managing data for us since their inception. These days we have sophisticated systems that do this at an incredible rate and with accuracy far exceeding human standards. Many organisations stop at the out-of-the-box functionality of their systems and make assumptions about what is and what is not possible. We are here to tell you that through the application of automation techniques, even more, is possible, and this is no less true for the domains of HR and payroll than for any other. In fact, many HR and payroll processes are highly automatable.
The primary reason that HR and payroll departments do not explore this is that they do not fully understand what investing in automation solutions could deliver. In this article, we will look at why it is worth exploring automation for HR and payroll.
The Attributes of Automation
Automation has several common attributes when it is implemented. These are represented by STAR – Speed, Timetable, Accuracy and Repeatability.
The thing most people expect when they think of automation is something being done quickly. Typically faster than a human could do, or at least faster than a human could do for an extended period.
Computer-based automation does not have to work to the same timetable as a person. People need to rest, whereas an automation could run all day. Being able to automate things to trigger in the middle of the night is something people might expect, but more than that, there is also a level of precision to such triggers.
If a computer is triggering a payroll automation at 3 AM, it will trigger at 03:00:00. A person, on the other hand doing something at 3 AM might do it slightly before or slightly after. By seconds or even minutes. Similarly, it may not be a specific time, but it might be after a particular event has occurred. A person needs time to register the event has occurred, whereas an automation can link the two together directly.
Sometimes, the precision of when an automation takes place can make as much difference as the more general time of day.
Accuracy could just as easily be termed as reliability or consistency. It is about the expectation that ‘what an automation does will be done the same way every time’. No deviation. The result will always be precisely the same if the inputs to the process are the same.
This attribute removes elements such as human error. It standardises baselining variations and interpretations on a single format, structure or style. Especially when dealing with critical data like payroll, taxes, legislation changes, accuracy is one of the top priorities for HR and finance teams.
When you automate something, you make it repeatable. Because it is codified on a computer, it can be copied and repeated without reliance on the knowledge or skill set of the individuals who created the process. In a broad sense, this also makes it quicker and easier to scale, at least compared to doing the same with people.
Tasks around monthly payrolls, benefits management, onboarding, digital document forms etc. are great candidates for automation considering their repeatability in work.
The Benefits of Automation for HR & payroll From those attributes, you probably have what feels like a reasonable idea of the sorts of benefits automation can bring. But the real benefits are more likely to be far more than you first realise.
Benefit 1: Cost
Cost reduction is the first thing that springs to mind for most people considering HR & payroll automation.
- Automation makes things quicker, so we don’t spend as long doing something, saving the cost associated with that time.
- Fewer errors occur when something is effectively automated, so we do not spend as much time (and money) fixing things.
- Where something takes an equally long time, a computer is usually operationally cheaper than a person in terms of delivery cost.
But there are other cost-related benefits too.
1. Automation costs are not necessarily fixed; they usually decrease as technology advances. But what they are is much more predictable than people-related costs. This predictability is something that HR, budget holders and finance appreciate.
2. The majority of HR & payroll automation has a relatively quick return on investment. This pace particularly holds true if having a person carry out an activity requires a period of training or onboarding.
Benefit 2: Opportunity
Automation can be used to create new opportunities for people and organisations.
- Automation can take less meaningful tasks off people, like HR mastedata management, payroll calculations, and allow them to focus on the more challenging tasks that require the insights and experience a person brings to the bear.
- For those whose workloads are excessive, automation can bring it back in line with what is more reasonable.
- Where things could not previously be done, automation can provide a way. It could be through speed, efficiency, or sometimes simply raw processing power that people typically could not apply to a task.
- Automation can mean better monitoring and analysis as everything can be captured and processed. This inclusion can produce improved HR analytics, bringing further efficiencies, improvements, and opportunities.
Benefit 3: Trust
With trust, we start to move on to the less tangible elements. Because we know that automation will do the same thing every time and is not prone to human error in the same way as a non-automated process, this can provide peace of mind. Where there are critical elements to a function, like taxes and government legislations, we often find it is easier to trust automation to carry out the operations. If necessary, checks can be incorporated to allow a human expert to validate sets of results and approve stages in a process. The accuracy and consistency can build trust in a process. That can then extend to other parts of the business whose incumbents then build greater trust in a team or department’s processes as a result of their automating these processes.
Benefit 4: Quality of Life
Automation can also impact how people whose tasks are automated feel. While automation in some domains leads to redundancy, computer-based automation does not tend to affect in the same way, particularly so in areas such as HR and payroll. Automation can take away colleagues’ monotonous, repetitive soul-destroying tasks and allow them to concentrate on more interesting areas or learn new skills that can take them and the organisation in new directions. Not having to do tedious tasks is something that everyone appreciates, and being able to learn new skills or do more interesting work; well, it is a rare individual who would not seek out such opportunities. As well as improving morale through improving the types of work people are doing, the efficiencies delivered through automation can also impact a team, department, or organisation’s culture. As people see change happening that directly affects them and they benefit at an individual level, they can continue to ride that efficiency train and seek other opportunities to improve productivity. Automation can inspire people to suggest process improvements to HR or other areas to be automated.
Automation is a powerful option to help your organisation achieve more. It carries a range of benefits, a range much more comprehensive than most people appreciate.
HR and payroll can benefit hugely from automation, and at Zalaris, we work with our customers to ensure they have solutions that leverage automation to reap those benefits. Do you want support to help you build your automation business case? Are you looking for a partner to help you get the most from your systems through the strategic application of automation technologies? If the answer is “Yes”, then we’re here for you.