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Clever HR process automation requires smart thinking

PA Consulting Group 
Shared Services & Outsourcing Network, HR Services Delivery
20 August 2008


There's little doubt that automating activities traditionally performed by administrators and professionals enables organizations to speed up processing times, improve outcomes and lower overall costs. However, automation itself is only half the story. To maximize the effectiveness of any new approach, organizations must not only implement appropriate technologies in the right business areas, but also redesign their processes, structure and governance arrangements.

Recruitment: a decent business case for piloting process automation

Of all the HR activities that can be automated, many companies start with recruitment. This is for several reasons:

  • It is a relatively standalone activity that can be changed without significant impact or risk to the rest of HR
  • Both Enterprise Resource Planning ( ERP) and specialized software tools are available to enable this one-off approach to work
  • The investment in new recruitment capabilities that facilitate progression while maintaining control can be relatively easy to justify

Automating 30 percent to 60 percent of the recruitment team's time

The transactional elements of recruitment activity - e.g., processing online applications, permitting authorizations and controls, capturing and sharing interview information, archiving records for compliance purposes, and transferring data onto HR systems - are well suited to automation.

In addition, activities previously considered the preserve of specialists, such as screening and ranking candidates, selecting interview teams, searching for talent internally and externally, and providing remote access to third-party agencies, can also be automated.

Clever automation strategies and tactics

There are plenty of examples where organizations have failed to generate the expected automation benefits. Organizations need to examine a variety of factors that will influence the success of implementing a tool:

  • Welcome standardization. Feedback from outsourcing arrangements is that organizations which adopt service provider preferred approaches and maintain a standard across their business receive better services at a better price
  • Redesign the roles and responsibilities. Does frontline HR need a role in recruitment? Some of our clients have gone as far as removing HR from the process altogether. This must be handled carefully, however, as taking away this contact in the recruitment process can reduce HR's overall effectiveness later
  • Adjust and clarify the governance. Traditional recruitment governance places HR in a policing role, with the business often left circumventing procedures in order to be nimble. Turning this around, making HR a facilitator in the business hiring process can result in better and timelier hiring decisions
  • Find value in the resulting data. As with most HR transformation activities, true innovation comes from how improved data is used. By automating elements of its recruitment process, one client was able to quantify how many candidates it took to successfully fill a vacancy, and then targeted its recruitment activity accordingly. For each job posting on a public job board, it monitored how many candidates applied, how many of these CVs were short-listed and subsequently how many candidates were interviewed to fill the position. From this, it was able to distinguish what made for an attractive job posting and which job boards sourced the right quantity and quality of candidates.

Considering process automation within your HR outsourced or shared services environment? The relative ease of automating the recruitment process, with its high priority in getting it right, makes for a great signpost of what is possible in HR transformation and process automation.  

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