SHRM Webinar Rewind: Taking Your New Normal to a Higher Standard
On June 30, we hosted a SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) webinar entitled “Taking Your New Normal to a Higher Standard” that explored ways that automation can help human resource departments stay connected in a post-COVID world. Learn some of the most important insights from this exclusive webinar and explore answers to industry experts’ questions in our Q&A.
We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work, which has created unique challenges for HR departments. One thing is clear: Remote work is here to stay.
As far as a new normal goes, most companies are easing into a combination of remote work and in-office work. Without employees in the office full-time, this leaves less time for walking around to other’s offices for signatures on paperwork. That means it’s easy for these processes to get stalled and that tends to be when HR frustration happens. These frustrations present an opportunity to use workflow automation to keep teams connected.
So, what exactly is workflow automation? Simply put, workflow automation is a way of taking a company’s processes, defining the steps that are involved, and setting up automated actions to make them structured and repeatable. Structured and repeatable are the key terms to remember here.
To be structured means to map a process with business rules built-in to ensure things are always routed where they need to be and exceptions are handled properly. This keeps the train on the tracks by streamlining the process, also making it repeatable. Repeatable means that every employee and instance of the process is followed in the same manner each time.
With how quickly businesses had to adapt due to the pandemic, most companies had to think fast and transition quickly; leading to broken, make-shift processes. Due to the rush, many companies were left using various tools across their departments, causing more harm than good because the element of consistency was lost. This is why taking a holistic approach becomes imperative.
In essence, a holistic solution considers your organization or department as a whole, connecting all necessary components to ensure no gaps exist. Taking a holistic approach to automating your HR department can help in the following areas.
- Security risks
- Duplicate efforts
- Employee frustration
- Long-term business trends
- Barriers and bottlenecks within processes
Enhancing Employee Experience
Creating a positive employee experience throughout your organization is essential, but with remote work it can be hard for HR members to keep their finger on the pulse. Disjointed processes create less time for HR departments to bring the human element that is so important into their job function.
Additionally, with remote work on the rise, job seekers have even more options to choose from when searching for an employer. Employee experience starts with a good impression at hiring time and continues by continually looking for ways to reduce friction in an employee’s responsibilities so that they can feel productive.
HR automation creates the right first impression for companies by giving new employees a great recruiting and onboarding experience. Automating applications shows your company cares about technology and makes it easy to collect information. The same solution can make it easy in an employee’s day-to-day life as well.
Instead of following up on paperwork or searching for documents, automation allows employees to be productive. A common misconception is that automation eliminates employees’ jobs, but that’s not the case. Instead, it allows employees to have more time for the essential job functions. In the case of an HR member, it enhances employee experience in your organization through better hiring practices and development of retention strategies.
Benefits of Automation
HR automation has a number of unique advantages for HR employees, including:
- Policy and procedure management – Instead of sifting through numerous documents located in various places, employees can use a link and just walk through the processes with the right workflow.
- Compliance and risk management – Automatically provides secure storage of data and documents, with the ability to lock down access. Having a repeatable process like we mentioned earlier ensures nothing is missed in regards to compliance.
- Employee lifecycle management – With the right tool, you can easily add team members or take them off of processes at any time. Time is also freed up to focus on recruitment, and applications can be made simple.
- Improved employee engagement – HR members are free to focus on important tasks and ensure new hires have a good first day.
The major takeaway is that automation allows HR employees to focus on people, not paperwork. From onboarding to development and separation, the entire employee lifecycle can benefit from automation.
Implementing a new solution is not always easy, and growing pains may happen. Getting people onboard with the idea is essential, and it begins by showing them how beneficial this will be for them in the long run.
Garnering buy-in from stakeholders will be the most important thing you do. When implementation is rocky, it’s often because someone in the organization knows there is an easier way to do something, but they haven’t convinced everyone along the way yet. Presenting the idea to higher ups, such as the Chief of Human Resources, is a good starting point. Showing them what processes can be improved, and more importantly how it will affect employees and the company’s bottom line should be your main focus.
After you’ve gotten buy-in from leaders, take it to the end-users at your company such as managers and employees. Speak to them about what processes they struggle with and work to discover what their pain points are.
Finally, after you get buy-in, it’s time to identify and document existing processes. Make sure you’re asking the right questions:
- How long does this process take?
- How many people are involved?
- How often do you have to check in on the status?
- How often is data entered incorrectly?
Creating a simple outline of a few procedures will quickly help you target the right candidates for automation while ensuring the solution you choose can be used holistically for everything it needs to accomplish.
Finding the Right Features
Some of the most common features that businesses seek include:
- Secure eSignatures
- HIPAA, SOC 2 compliance
- Easy customization
- No-code editors
- Ready-made templates
- Integration capabilities
- Conditional and parallel branching
- Reporting dashboards
- Automated email capabilities
- Role-based access
- Easy share options
- Fillable digital forms
- Required/customizable fields
- Document storage
- Reusable templates
- Built-in task reminders
- Comprehensive support
A holistic workflow automation platform will check a lot of these boxes. It is up to you to determine which are the most important for your organization.
Finally, remember that this platform is going to automate more and more of your processes in your company. As such, make sure you understand cost as you scale up in usage. Are you going to have to pay for additional users just to get their job done? Are you going to be charged for storage over time? What about transactions and overages if you use more workflows than allotted in a given month?
The right partner will be transparent when providing these answers to set you up for success on your automation journey.
- Q: We have an HR system that doesn’t automate all that we want to do. Does a solution like this work with our system or does it have to be used as a replacement?
- A: In many cases, we are able to work with those systems as long as they have publicly available APIs for us to work with. Everything in OnTask is built to work with these systems. We also use a back-end integration called Zapier that connects to a lot of those different systems and we can leverage those. Typically, we can work with other vendor’s IT teams to gain access and integrate.
- Q: Does an automated system like the one you described take away the need for paper personnel files?
- A: Not in all cases. It can, but you’d need to digitize all that paperwork to completely get rid of the paper process. Typically, customers will start with onboarding or other processes that have to be done on a frequent day-to-day basis, but you could slowly digitize the rest of those records if you continued to automate.
- Q: How big does a company need to be to make automation worthwhile?
- A: No matter the size, automation can help your company. For example, we work with companies with less than a 100 employees all the way up to universities. When you look at our pricing page, you can see that we have smaller packages for smaller teams that are more self-service. We also have resources to work with the larger companies too.
- Q: How long does implementation of an automation system typically take?
- A: For us, we usually have the first process up and running within the first hour of training, which is included in all of our subscriptions. Companies with multiple processes can be fully automated within 10 hours. It’s a quick process most of the time. During our one-hour training, we train you how to lay it out and build the first one for you to help you get started.
- Q: Can an automated system take the place of automating a payroll system entirely and eliminate the need to outsource?
- A: No, that would not be the goal.
- Q: How do automated systems handle things like I-9s and W-4s that change every year? Would that be something we implement or we would have to bring in the implementer?
- A: This is something you could do on your own, but we could show you how first. With I-9s for example, they feature various fields, which our system can detect and replace with fillable fields on the document to collect data. If the document changes next year, you can delete and upload a new version to your existing workflows. The system will retain those fields from last time, but you’ll be able to go in and make edits to the fields as needed. We also have services to do that for you, but most customers wanna do that on their own. Our weekly office hours are also in place so that you can ask questions if you get stuck with something like this.
- Q: Our goal is to implement a paperless personnel file, we’ve already automated onboarding. Does your service offer automation for the other files in a personnel file?
- A: Yes, any document that has to go into a personnel file can be saved as a template that we can digitize.
- Q: One of the downsides to remote work is a lack of personal connections. I’m concerned automating HR elements, particularly onboarding, will make this even worse. How do you introduce automation while keeping the human part of human resources?
- A: Our customers will tend to tell you that it actually makes that interaction better, because now instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts of what paperwork needs to be done with that employee in an onboarding situation, that recruiter or HR member is freed up to really talk to them and get to know them. This helps establish more support, and isn’t just an HR member reaching out to them when they need something because the process is going to take care of that themselves.Instead, they can spend that time they would have been following up on the paperwork on going through company culture and getting to know them better. The real goal here is to free up the HR reps so they can have more of that human interaction by automating the stuff they would have to do on a day-to-day basis.
- Q: In your PTO case study, what kind of documentation is being produced for denials of time off. I’m concerned because we offer unlimited pto and denied leave is always a sticky situation.
- A: In most of our cases companies have a form where they can enter the denial reason. This can be saved in the form of a document or PDF, or that data can be exported as documents or a spreadsheet with the various denial reasons.
- Q: Do you offer in-person training?
- A: We did one the other day to a local prospect.
- Q: Is pricing based on the number of users on the system or something else?
- A: No, our pricing is based on the features included as well as number of workflows launched for an organization. We don’t charge by user so that more of your departments can use it without additional costs. Our starter plans have as few as 25 transactions a month, which gives you a good starting point to scale up from. We strive to be very transparent about how much it’ll cost you for what you need to accomplish. Most companies use between 100-200 workflows per month.
- Q: Does your automation include Spanish?
- A: Yes. For example, one of the ways we support multiple languages is by using a form where users can select which language they speak from a drop-down menu, and then the workflow branches accordingly. If they choose spanish it would follow that branch, and if they chose english it would follow that. OnTask supports special characters too.
- Q: Can the automated forms be stored for retrieval in later dates? My organization still stores forms in manual files for fear they might get lost. How can storage be managed so they may be retained if challenged in court?
- A: By default, our system retains documents for 6 years. We always retain documents until you tell us not to. If it’s beyond 6 years we have those on our cold storage we are able to retrieve, dashboard lets you search for past workflows, see the documents, download and view. These can be recalled at any time through the dashboard. Even if you cancel a subscription for a period of time, you can still login and access the documents you’ve collected.
- Q: What are your thoughts on chatbots? I’ve seen both good and bad, do you think this can work for HR processes?
- A: Yes and no. For example, we have one on our OnTask site for off-hours. Some people get angry. I haven’t seen chatbots work naturally enough to where people aren’t irritated at the experience. I do think it could work well, but people are cynical and in our experience we always let them know that there’s a real person to answer their questions.
- Q: On projects you’ve worked on, what’s the biggest mistake you’ve seen hr departments make when automating?
- A: Not getting all of the stakeholders involved from the start. Often when this happens, tons of time is spent automating a specific process but when the end-user goes to use it, it doesn’t follow company procedure. Instead, socializing the process and having an idea is the way to go. Using a white board and walking through it with end-users is important to make sure it produces the results and efficiency you want it to.
- Q: What case would you make to stakeholders for this technology, particularly to company executives who are hesitant to invest in this tech?
- A: This tool can work across the whole organization, it is not just for PTO or onboarding. We use OnTask a lot for HR, but our CEO loves it because he can send out personalized NDAs using a simple form. It’s a good idea to do something with leadership first so they can see what we’re doing to make their lives easier too.