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HR robots: cut cost or add value?

Yvonne van Duuren

The digitization and automation of HR processes are trending topics. Jan Brouwer – senior vice president Capgemini Consulting, painted a clear picture in his recent blog about the high speed at which companies are digitizing today and what HR needs in order to stay ahead of the game. Additionally, Peter Esseling states that robotic process automation (RPA) can speed up the most time-consuming and repetitive activities of the department. With the advancements in the digitization and automation of HR the questions that we need to answer are – which HR tasks and functions can be either digitized or automated in the future? And what will make it happen? In this blog, we focus on smart automation of HR.

Currently, there are three major trends in this area: RPA, chatbots and artificial intelligence. While chatbots have shown promising results in some areas, especially in customer services.  artificial intelligence for HR is still in its early stages. This makes RPA the smart automation solution with the most impact on HR organizations in the near future. Will RPA make HR processes more cost-effective? or whether smart automation will be applied to increase HR’s contribution to the company? These are the questions that we try to answer in this blog. We will also look at the effects of RPA on master data management, reporting, and division of roles within the HR department.

Cost reduction and master data management

The practical benefits of RPA have been widely discussed in several blogs, such as in Forbes and the Institute for Robotic Process Automation & Artificial Intelligence. It drives cost reduction: with fewer employees executing simple and repetitive tasks, error margins are reduced, and processes can be sped up. However, these advantages are not the only factors impacting the HR department. More than half of the organizations (52%) are planning to use RPA for data management in the next three to five years, as evident in a previous study by Capgemini.

The aim of master data management is to present all data in the organization in a uniform, precise, and consistent manner. It is very time-consuming to collate, tune, cleanse and maintain all available HR data in the organization. This data must then be integrated into the target system. These time-consuming activities can be executed more quickly, accurately, and with fewer errors with a well-designed and executed RPA. This also makes it relevant for the future when looking at the constantly evolving dynamics of organizations with mergers, takeovers, and globalization requiring a continuous need for alignment of data.

People analytics

In addition to master data management, RPA is also used to support HR reporting. It can refresh data continuously and consistently, ensuring reports are up-to-date, actionable, with cleaner data, and without additional effort. Thus, RPA is not only used to obtain a better overview of HR data but also to enable high-quality people analytics to drive better decision making. This is partly the reason why 44% of HR directors intend to use RPA for reporting in the next three to five years.

Time for strategic initiatives

The potential impacts of RPA on master data management and reporting are significant, yet perhaps more importantly through automation of repetitive and low value-add tasks, the HR function will free up time and resources.  This gives HR the opportunity to add real value to the organization and move up the value chain. It can now focus on more strategic initiatives such as workforce planning and alignment with the business instead of worrying about administrative activities such as time records, insurance claims and salary statements.

Expanding these strategic initiatives and coordinating automated processes requires new capabilities of HR employees. These employees must become digitally savvy and embrace changing technologies to be able to keep up with and drive these changes.

The application of RPA in the areas of reporting and data management will contribute to the development of initiatives based on data, making the HR manager more impactful in the boardroom and with the management of the business. The use of RPA will be embedded deeper in the HR department than just being a true aggregation of all, at first glance, simple solutions. This makes RPA not only a cost cutter but also the smart automation that adds real value to HR and the organization.

Curious how RPA works in practice? Stay tuned! In our next blog, we dive deeper into how Capgemini Consulting implements RPA at its customers.

About the co-author:

Koen Soeter (MSc) is Consultant Digital HR at Capgemini Consulting. His area of expertise is the influence of digitization on organizations, specifically on HR related themes, robotic process automation and future of work are areas of special interest.