Automated HR: Is it really that scary?

Articles about the re-shaping, re-modelling and re-vamping of the workplace are a plenty. We even wrote about the cloud-based workforce here last month.

Trawling through pages of headlines studded with words like “digitisation”, “future” and “revolution” all translate to the same notion: change

Employees are humans (with an exception to Australia’s workforce of trusty office dogs (Hi, Abbie!)). Naturally, humans feel threatened by things that we don’t understand. The longer we spend in a role, the more entrenched we become in our methods and the more disinclined we are to accept something we perceive as a shiny new whizz-bang shake-up. When the introduction of new appears to directly threaten our role, the resistance; the fear, intensifies.

The workplace is shape-shifting due to myriad factors. The obvious ones are: globalisation, new technologies, an adjustment in expectations of working conditions/requirements and the increased importance on workplace culture. Each of these factors is either made possible by, or as a result of, the digital transformation.

The digital transformation impacts most industries in some way, even contract labourers are now getting their timesheets signed off through specially designed apps. The queue of dusty boots by the door of the Accounts office seems like a scene cut from a pre-colour film.

The body of Human Resources managers are not untouched by the increased digitisation of the workplace. On the contrary, HR automation is coming in thick and fast.

HR specialists are passionate about people. They’re masters of empathy and they’re diplomacy pros. They can read situations. They’re organically responsive. They understand emotion, complicated situations and context in a way that is intrinsically human. They understand that the way someone reads on paper can be vastly different to the person sitting in front of them. It’s the humanity that makes the HR department (it’s even in the title).

We know that employees aren’t just numbers. Hiring people based on their unique talents and individual contributions is an integral part of any successful business.

Automating HR doesn’t mean shipping out our people-persons to be replaced by bots. Rather, cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) can streamline the back-office processes so that HR professionals can better flex their human-facing talents. As reported by Forbes, global Head of Marketing for SAP SuccessFactors, Kirsten Allegri Williams, discusses how the changing nature of work has called for the HR industry to change with it.

“Today, everything has changed. The workforce is no longer a narrowly defined group of people. For most organisations they are a diverse, globally dispersed, mobile collection of individuals who are often dis-engaged from the organisations they work for. In response to this, the role of HR has transformed. They are no longer ‘back-office’ staff. HR is now on the front lines and in the front-office — working to ensure the workforce is aligned, motivated and engaged to deliver on the organisation’s mission and purpose. Leading human capital management (HCM) technology has evolved to support them in their new, digitally transformed role,” she says.[1]

It’s important to remember that HCM has been developed specifically for HR specialists. It’s a tailored set of tools to allow the often stretched-thin HR department to contribute to their organisation more effectively.

HCM can offer the following functions:

  • Core HR tasks such as managing payroll, calculating benefits and managing employee data
  • Talent management including performance management, learning modules and in some cases, recruitment
  • Workforce management: assigning specific employees for specialised tasks, attendance and time management and scheduling
  • Employee/manager self-service and HR help desks

All those aforementioned articles prophesising change – they’re right. Those hot-off-the-press features exclaiming “the future is now!” – they’re right too. This is the nature of progression. Progression is to thank for all the things we love about the contemporary workplace; office dogs (Hi again, Abbie!), workplace culture that goes beyond the dreary office spaces of yesteryear and flexible working conditions that would have been considered a rarity two decades ago.

To feel comfortable about the changing landscape of HR work in Australia, it’s vital to fully understand what these transformations mean for you, and how to let them help you. For employers, communication is the key. Employees who hold doubts about their job security are unlikely to perform well. Open up the communication channels, invite questions and explore the endless potential for success that HCM can make possible.

Written by Amelia Fynes-Clinton for Globe Group


[1] A Bridgwater, ‘When Will Computers Replace Human Resources Managers?’, Forbes, 5 November 2018, available from https://www.forbes.com/sites/adrianbridgwater/2018/11/05/how-far-will-computers-replace-human-resources-managers/#64d9cdbc7284, viewed 11 November 2018.