The digital era has created a new technology cycle that is being called the fourth industrial revolution in terms of its likely impact on how we work and live. Within organisations, the sheer volume of data now available and the ever-increasing number of sources it comes from can be overwhelming and existing practices around streamlining business process are now being extended to automating data management.
As a data-rich business function, automation has the potential to revolutionise the day to day activities of HR teams. It has the ability to increase speed, accuracy and frequency, lower complexity, as well as improve the auditable nature of the data held. It also frees workers up to add greater value, although a tension remains as to what work they will do over time. The Robo Advice that comes from it and new emerging sources will also give HR Leaders a key strategic voice in the boardroom.
Benefits of automation for the HR function
There are various stages to data automation. These show a progression from collecting structured data via software robots as a Robotic Process Automation (RPA), to using it for analytical and even advisory work. RPA robots have historically been capable of following simple, fixed rules, but advances mean that Intelligent or Cognitive Automation can provide increasingly broad Robo Advice.
Robots deployed via RPA have been evolving over the past decade and can, for example, be set up to open emails, extract structured data, merge data from different sources, standardise it, perform lookups or extract it to create dashboards. They are often used to replace people manually inputting or transferring data between files or systems. Operational HR departments are often working with data in this manual way and therefore stand to benefit significantly from automation.
Automation opportunities abound
HR-held data sets are broad, from forecasting headcount requirements to on-boarding new employees to quantifying salary reviews, training plans, benefits packages or facilities requirements. Individual calculations are often made via email in response to day-to-day queries. It can also be time-consuming to build the different data sources up into a picture of the department’s overall contribution to an organisation. It is in the automation and collation of these disparate data sets where value can also be added.
Where automation has evolved into Intelligent Automation and even Robo Advice there are still further opportunities for HR. Natural language processing is an advanced capability of some robots and where HR runs a service centre for employees or potential
employees there will be lots of scope to automate. The pace of change could well be rapid. Gartner predicts for example that by 2022, 40% of customer-facing employees and government workers will consult an AI-powered virtual agent every day for decision-making or process related support.
Automation has a strategic voice in the boardroom
For HR Directors and leaders, the digital era presents a real opportunity to take a strategic lead in the boardroom. This not only comes from enhanced analytical abilities presented to their function via automation, but also from their ability to use Robo Advice to set out a clear picture of the Organisational Health (OH) of the organisation. There is Robo Advice emerging that will also use an RPA to track OH against quantitative performance metrics (sales, profit etc.), which has been the ambition of organisations for many years, allowing HR to lead this strategic conversation.
Why focus on quantifying OH using Robo Advice?
Consultants McKinsey say focusing on Organisational Health (OH) demonstrably brings performance advantage. They have been benchmarking companies in this area for 10 years and in a recent publication, they set out that the central idea underlying their organisational work has been that the best way to run a business is to balance short-term performance and long-term health.
They now see new, longitudinal evidence that redoubles their conviction that companies that work on their health, not only achieve measurable improvements in their organisational well-being but demonstrate tangible performance gains in as little as 6 to 12 months. This holds true for companies across sectors and regions, as well as in contexts ranging from turnarounds to good-to-great initiatives.
Robo advice is harnessing the power of Sensemaking
People are increasingly used to trusting Robo Advice. Many have Alexa in their homes and Siri on their phones and look to these tools to organise them. There is a growing appetite to know what such advisers can do for organisations. Often it is the Chief Information Officer or Chief Data Officer charged with exploring automation and robotics, but this needn’t be the case.
Robo Advice is now harnessing the power of Sensemaking, a recognised way that humans have always processed complex or ambiguous data to understand what is happening within a certain situation and, therefore, what to do next. Sensemaking became a recognised research field in the 1960s, but what is new and exciting is its development into software to offer Robo Advice on Organisational Sensemaking (and hence Health) to businesses and organisations.
Advice using Organisational Sensemaking, available under licence, is game-changing in its ability to help organisations understand critical areas of their health. Much more than a traditional employee engagement survey, it collects data on organisational culture, resilience, leadership capability, employee engagement & alignment and ability to bring about transformation change. This data can be gathered on a large scale across a whole organisation, for a senior leadership team or for a specific functional team. Not just a one-off, Robo Advice can then easily be sought ongoing to track the results of any interventions that result from the initial deployment.
This puts real strategic insight into the hands of HR Directors and leaders and gives them a low risk way, rapidly implementable way to be right at the heart of automation and robotics within their organisations.
Footdown is the first Robo Adviser for rapid, non-disruptive organisational health analysis, insight and action planning. Contact us today on 01225 465 640