Technology is Driving Innovation in HR

September 21, 2016

Technology is Driving Innovation in HR

If you ask a human resources professional why they got into HR, most of them will tell you that they enjoy working with people and engaging with business operations, not how much they enjoy replying to emails and updating spreadsheets. However, as we spin cycles in an attempt to simply keep up with the demand from employees, too many of the reasons why we joined HR in the first place are easily lost.

A recent study, commissioned by Engage ESM and ServiceNow, reveals that many HR departments' days are ruled by emails and spreadsheets, with just 31 percent of the workweek being spent on strategic activities. That means that the majority of the workweek is spent on manual administrative tasks—email, spreadsheets and phone calls—to complete HR duties like answering routine questions, processing forms, and onboarding new employees.

Not only do these manual processes eat up a lot of time, they are also complex and prone to error. Some HR managers reported that getting ready for a new employee’s first day requires touch points with as many as 10 people, not to mention significant follow-up to ensure everything is in place for their new hire to have a successful start. A manual process likes this leaves a lot of room for delays, provides limited visibility, and leads to frustration for everyone involved.

Despite significant investment in HR technology in recent years, much of HR is still mired in administrative minutia. The study found that 74 percent of HR departments plan to restructure within the year, which will give them a chance to rethink these processes and incorporate service management, as well as invest in the right technology to help increase process efficiency so that HR can focus on high-touch interactions that add the most value.

Tasks like onboarding and fielding employee inquiries are critical within any organization; service management can automate these tasks, leaving more time for high-value initiatives such as counseling employees on career path and development. More than 90 percent of the HR managers in the study believed that they could make a greater contribution to high-touch and high-value initiatives such as career development if they could break free from these manual tasks.

Respondents were clear on the fact that technology investments are critical to growth. The study found that 74 percent of HR managers believe that processes could be streamlined through technology—for 63 percent of respondents, this is a priority. In addition, 83 percent believe that their department could add more value to their organization by employing a higher level of technology. Ninety-one percent said that technology is key to improving HR responsiveness, which keeps business moving and employees satisfied.

Many HR departments are already beginning this streamlining process. In the past year, nearly 70 percent of reporting organizations have made automation a priority.

Today, 35 percent of HR processes are completed using HR technology, which means that 65 percent of HR processes are done without HR technology. Thirty-two percent use email to complete HR processes, and as many as 22 percent use paper.

How can HR overcome these laborious methods? Making technology a priority is the first step. More than half of those interviewed said their organizations are spending most of 2016’s budget on technology. Although just 40 percent said that their HR processes are fully automated, progress is being made.

Largely, HR still lives in a world of emails, voicemails, and spreadsheets. It may be difficult for some HR professionals to imagine going to the office and working primarily on strategic, high-value tasks. By taking advantage of the right technology platform, many HR departments are focusing on the more important strategic contributions they can make to their organizations. And with HR budgets rising year over year, channeling those resources into improved, automated processes will only increase HR’s value.

The Authors: 

Jen Stroud is ServiceNow's HR evangelist, helping customers simplify and improve their HR services. Previously, she was the executive director of Human Capital Services at TeleTech. In that role, Jen led an enterprise HR transformation initiative for its more than 45,000 employees, transitioning the company from a decentralized HR support model to a shared services operating model. You can reach her on Twitter @Stroud_Jen