Best Practices for Implementing Intelligent Automation Within HR

Automation is everywhere, writes Chris Pope, VP of Innovation at ServiceNow

It’s the hot topic within the IT industry and it’s behind the scenes enhancing services and making our everyday lives easier. With less effort required from humans to complete mundane tasks, it is no surprise that intelligent automation is quickly becoming the preferred method of operation. Nevertheless, although automation is already having a positive impact in many areas of business, some departments are still hesitant to adapt and the HR function is a good example.

ServiceNow’s recent State of Work research revealed HR to be the department “most in need of a reboot”, with only 37 percent of services being automated. These findings show that many HR organisations still rely on manual and unstructured work processes, making it harder for those who work in the department to do their jobs effectively.

Fortunately though, the penny seems to be dropping with many HR professionals realising that they cannot spend the majority of their time sending emails and filling in spreadsheets if they are to remain efficient. The desire to provide a good service to employees is there, but the problem is that many HR professionals are often shackled by routine requests and repetitive tasks. It is high time that HR professionals evaluate their situation and the associated challenges and make a plan of action to move towards automation to make their day-to-day lives easier.

ServiceNow State of Work Report

The situation

It is interesting to see that the two industries with the lowest intelligent automation adoption rate – HR and customer service – are the ones having the biggest impact on the service experience, as well as on employee and customer relations. This presents a huge problem for businesses particularly as the pace of work is set to rise each year. In fact, the ServiceNow study found that by 2020, almost 9 out of 10 executives believe their companies will hit breaking point when it comes to workload. This could have severe implications for the businesses that resist automation.

Another telling insight that the survey revealed is that 91 percent of respondents agree that skilled professionals spend too much time on administrative tasks. Essentially, HR teams are drowning in unanswered emails and phone calls, mountains of spreadsheets and stacks of admin.

Further areas of concern for HR professionals include managing employee relocations, leaves of absence, and onboarding, all of which remain the least efficient processes today.

All of these factors combined have resulted in HR professionals feeling drained with little resource, energy and motivation to do their jobs well and leaving businesses with one option – to automate HR processes.

The benefits

Naturally, cost is a key consideration for any business before implementing new technologies. However, ServiceNow’s research shows that highly automated companies are six times more likely to experience revenue growth than companies with low automation. The main reasons for this include reduced costs, increased customer satisfaction, faster work completion, and more time for strategic initiatives. In short, the more automated resources in place, the more time HR teams can dedicate to the tasks that require a human touch.

Another benefit of automating HR processes is that it dramatically improves the working environment for both HR professionals and employees. Let’s take the onboarding process as an example. What was once was a very slow-moving task for everyone involved, can today be managed on a single, self-service delivery platform. This mimics the seamless consumer services that we have become accustomed to in our personal lives and makes life easier and more enjoyable for employees.

By freeing HR teams from repetitive tasks that can be automated, they have the opportunity and resource to develop new skills, be more creative and deepen workplace relationships all of which can add real value to the business and provide a competitive edge in a noisy market.

Plan of action

The benefits of automation are clear so the next step is for HR departments to create a clear plan to help them to achieve full HR process automation. Some key steps to consider include:

  1. Recognise your weakest areas. Identify the HR services that could benefit from automation, particularly those with repetitive tasks such as employment verification, employee abscences and the onboarding and offboarding processes.
  1. Communication is key. Not everyone likes change and employees will need reassurance throughout the process. Support must come from the top but active participation between both HR professionals and employees is essential. Make a conscious effort to proactively communicate with staff, seek their input, answer their questions, address their concerns, and incorporate their ideas into the automation roadmap. By communicating regularly, companies can break down barriers, establish clear ownership, and ensure that every part of the business is engaged.
  2. Build the foundation for HR professionals to thrive in an automated world.  94 percent of business leaders believe automation will increase the demand for skills such as collaboration, creative problem-solving and communication. Ensure that meaningful training is arranged to help HR professionals through the transition period so they feel better equipped to be successful in their roles.

By following these best practices, HR departments will start to see immediate benefits not just in terms of cost and efficiency, but also overall employee satisfaction and productivity.

About the author

This article was written by Chris Pope, VP of Innovation at ServiceNow. With the ServiceNow System of Action you can replace these unstructured work patterns of the past with intelligent workflows of the future. Now every employee, customer and machine can make requests on a single cloud platform. Every department working on these requests can assign and prioritize, collaborate, get down to root cause issues, gain real‑time insights and drive to action. Your employees are energized, your service levels improve and you realize game‑changing economics. Work at Lightspeed. To find out how, visit