Over time, companies must evolve to stay viable, and the various departments within an organization respond to these changes in different ways. The role of human resources (HR) has changed a great deal in recent years. By and large, an HR department’s purpose and functions depend on the culture of the company. At some companies, the HR department’s role is to constantly seek ways to cut both pay and benefits, thereby sacrificing long-term profits for short-term boosts. This approach to HR creates an unsupportive, even hostile, work environment that is untenable. It should be obvious that people do not want to be treated like replaceable cogs in a machine. To attract the best employees, companies need to humanize their HR operations to recognize the uniqueness of each employee and connect with them on a personal level.
However, we also live in a time when business processes are becoming increasingly automated. While this automation can save time and money, it places more barriers between the employee and the company and can make HR processes seem impersonal. As a result, employees may feel less connected to the company, which can affect their performance. HR professionals should understand the real benefit of technology: its ability to streamline routine tasks and leave more time for personal interactions with employees. These personal interactions make people feel a deeper connection to the company and have a greater stake in its success.
Below are some of the HR processes that are becoming more automated, and a look at how to balance this automation with a human touch.
One of the primary roles of a HR department is recruiting talented new employees to the company. In some companies, the task of reviewing job applicants is handled by applicant tracking systems, which scan resumes and help HR representatives sort through large pools of candidates by searching for keywords and performing other culling processes. The primary goal of applicant tracking software is to create a manageable pool of applicants that HR departments can then review in more depth.
When companies use this software to narrow a pool of 30 people down to five, they may miss those high quality candidates who have slightly different backgrounds but are able to contribute something unique to the organization. The software works great when recruiters need to sort through hundreds of applications by looking for the most basic keywords. Once the pool is small enough, or if it is already small to begin with, nothing can replace human attention and a holistic review of each candidate’s work experience and potential.
Many HR professionals take advantage of advances in communications technologies to improve the interview process. Videoconferencing can make long-distance interviews much easier, but it is still no replacement for an in-person interview. Recruiters are better off using video calls as a way of screening applicants to figure out whom they want to invite for a final in-person interview.
The other major function of an HR department is talent management. HR departments must ensure that their employees are engaged and happy and that they are meeting their managers’ expectations. Last year, Deloitte spoke with 3,300 organizations for its Global Human Capital Trends report and found that 89 percent claimed that they had recently changed their performance management process, or were planning to change it within the next 18 months. Technology can help streamline many aspects of talent management. For example, computerized systems that offer automated feedback or set and track performance goals are becoming increasingly popular.
These technologies can certainly help, but they should be viewed as complements to traditional processes rather than replacements. Automated feedback is no replacement for one-on-one conversations with managers and mentors, which play a key role in talent development. Technology can eliminate some of the more tedious elements of performance reviews, but the informal and formal meetings of employees with their managers are critical for examining where projects went wrong, how both parties feel about the performance, and how approaches can be changed in the future. A talented leader is much better than a machine when it comes to directing an employee toward better performance based on his or her strengths and weaknesses.
When new hires need to be brought on board, it makes sense to automate a number of the menial tasks that are associated with this process, such as filling out forms with basic information and making benefits selections. The large amount of paperwork involved with onboarding can be easily tracked and stored virtually, which significantly reduces the time and effort involved. However, the human aspects of HR can become lost when new hires get formulaic welcome emails and only receive training by watching videos.
One of the best ways to humanize the onboarding process is to assign mentors to new hires for their first few weeks on the job. This mentor can show the new employee the ropes around the office and can help with some of the subtleties that are lost in training videos. If companies decide to institute this policy, they must recognize that it is still important for HR representatives to build relationships with new hires. Employees should feel comfortable coming to HR for everything from simple questions about benefits to concerns about relationships with co-workers, and the foundation for this trust is built during the onboarding process.