Automation: Job Terminators? or How I Learned to Love Automation

In many corporations, human resources is a service that is shared across the organization, a true “shared service” in the literal sense.

This service model allows for reduced operational redundancy, increased efficiency and, ultimately, reduced costs. With the advent of offshore sourcing, it was a logical evolution for HR services and operations to transition to shared service centers offshore.

To facilitate the move to this new offshore model, many HR/HRO functions were first consolidated from a management and process perspective. Core sections of these combined functions were aligned to repeatable tasks. Initial efficiencies were gained from economies of scale by migrating large sections of a corporation’s HR’s commoditized workload to lower-cost shared service center locations.

Initial attempts at offshoring HR/HRO and IT services were often reactive rather than proactive as part of a long-term location strategy. Most significant decisions were still made onshore at the parent organization headquarters.

In this initial model, bespoke HR offices and their corresponding services were historically established in a shotgun or scattered approach by most organizations. These days, however, the HRO shared service offering is maturing beyond a scattered transactional approach based on labor arbitrage, to a more value-add automated self-service offering based on gamification, with a focus on improved customer experience. This has been facilitated in part by the co-location of both IT and HRO in shared services centers.

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Alongside HR/HRO, IT (e.g., development and production support teams) was another of the original shared services. With the advent of co-located HRO and IT teams, close proximity facilitated opportunities for both teams to collaborate and identify improvement and value-add initiatives. Leveraging HR operational business knowledge, combined with IT service models and service catalogs, both teams had the expertise and the core resources to automate IT and HR processes, thus reducing utilization of both teams, increasing capacity for additional work.

As a shared service center location matures, the value proposition will erode as labor costs increase and talent moves on to new roles as part of natural career development. Automation of HR operations, of IT services, and most other shared service teams, is key to increasing the value proposition; freeing up capacity to onboard more complex work. Thus enhancing career development opportunities for the resources that have developed new skills through working on automation projects.

In order for automation to be successful, both management and teams need to focus on Five Key Pillars of Automation:

Culture

  • The move toward automation requires a significant change in culture. Management needs to foster and reward a culture of innovation.
  • They need to dispel the belief that automation is a threat to job security and encourage their employees to innovate and actively seek out opportunities for automation.
  • Failing Fast is better than not trying at all. Reward success, but also acknowledge failed efforts as it demonstrates thought leadership and innovation.
  • Lessons learned from failure will only add to the overall technical and business knowledge needed for successful automation.

Business Knowledge

  • Understanding the business process workflow is vital in identifying opportunities for automation.
  • This knowledge is built up over time in the shared services center and should be leveraged to increase value proposition offered.

Risk Appetite

  • Understand both the risk and the benefits automation to your customer’s business.
  • Given the impact of HR operations and IT services to employees and external clients, to an organization’s reputation, as well as the regulatory environment in which the organization operates in, the risks of automating a process should not outweigh the benefits.

Tactical vs. Strategic Approach

  • Know when to invest in short-term wins and when to get support for projects that may cross organizational boundaries.
  • Secure buy-in from key stakeholders and customers for automation initiatives that require both cross-team collaboration and additional investment funds outside of operating budgets (e.g. IT Help Self Service Portal, Gamification Working Model for Managing Infrastructure Alerts, etc.)

Automation Enablers (IT and non-IT Enablers)

  • Business process automation
  • Challenge all existing processes.
  • Just because it’s been done in the past, does not mean it’s still relevant or needed.
  • Build credibility with business clients and stakeholders.
  • Key stakeholders will only consider innovative automation proposals (akin to Google’s Moon Shots Model), if they feel or HR truly understand and appreciate their core business drivers
  • DATA is KING
  • Automated tasks/workload facilitates a deeper understanding overall utilization of resources
  • Understanding the parameters for automation also helps the onboarding process by identifying candidates of work for suitable for automation, and those that aren’t
  • For example, X type amount of new work, is assigned to existing resources. Y type amount of new work, will only be on-boarded via Automation.
  • Quantify data and trends and publish success cases of improved consumer experience, through reduced human error and increased delivery speed

Summary

Change is a constant in today’s world. If you can adapt to change you not only survive but thrive.

Automation is not to be seen or feared as Job Terminators; akin to the robots from the Terminator and Matrix films.

Automation, Robotics, Article Intelligence are to be embraced in order to remain competitive and relevant in today’s digital and knowledge-based service economies. Resources from existing teams that embrace automation will only facilitate and enhance their career development as they will learn new skills. Their jobs may change, but they will remain in demand given their new skill sets and experience.

Automation is key for the customer experience. It reduces manual error, increases speed of delivery, and produces data sets to quantify and identify additional areas for automation and improvements to overall client experience.

MORE: Can automation drive efficiency gains without staffing losing the human touch?

Juan Madronero

Juan Madronero
Juan Madronero is Detroit market team leader for Strategic Staffing Solutions.

Juan Madronero
Juan Madronero is Detroit market team leader for Strategic Staffing Solutions.

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