Recently I had the opportunity to sit down for lunch with the Rickard Eriksson from Enkel HR. Rickard is best known from Pingdom where he built an HR organisation from scratch which is tricky as it is, but even more so in a fast-growing startup doubling the number of employees every year.
I sat down with Rickard to talk about a topic both he and I share a common passion and interest for, automation. Automation may seem like a scary thing, especially as we are living in a time where machines and robots are portrayed as either our future rulers or the ones that will put us out of work. But we see this a bit differently. Automation holds tremendous potential to free us from tedious tasks, especially in an occupation such as HR. But before we jump into it, let’s start from the beginning.
First of all, what is automation?
Automation is the idea of removing simple, time-consuming tasks and handing over those tasks to computers and machines. Here is a nice graph from Rickard that explains how one should think about automation.
So what opportunities does automation hold for HR?
1. Automation as a timesaver
With automation, you will be able to automate more straightforward tasks. Tasks that are repetitive, time-consuming and low in complexity, are especially well suited. But also, it is becoming easier to automate more complex tasks with the rise of technology such as artificial intelligence, deep and machine learning. A perfect candidate for automation within HR could be the most frequent questions or for example double checking salaries against reported time. Both examples are repetitive tasks that are low in complexity and simple to automate away.
Just imagine what you could do with all that time you will have on your hands if you weren’t forced to focus on tedious and repetitive administration. In most organisations, there are enormous time savings to be me made.
2. Automation has the potential to be an enabler
By removing or automating tasks that consume one’s time functions like HR will be able to focus on delivering services of higher value to the organisation. It will also enable people within the HR profession to free themselves from admin and spend more of their time within the organisation focusing on what they do best. In our minds that is assisting in the development of their leaders and employees.
3. Automation is a simplifier
To be able to automate certain things, you need to review them and break processes down into simpler pieces. The hidden benefit is that this will also force you to review the process and evaluate its’ efficiency. Since it’s easiest to automate simple tasks, it will also force you to simplify more complex processes, which in most cases is a good thing. Processes tend to grow, and they aren’t challenged as often as they should be to be, making them sometimes unnecessarily complicated, time-consuming and hard to learn for newcomers.
It is easy to get stuck in a system or habit and continue in the same old tracks but is extremely valuable to stop once in awhile and review existing structures.
Automation is not new in any way, but it’s interesting to see how it finds new ways to assist us and provide value. Simple automation is a necessary first step, it is exciting since we still have a lot to do but already around the corner, we can see how more and more intelligent systems are looking at our tasks and trying to learn them. Us humans are great at certain things, especially creative and complex tasks, but we often fail at less complex and more tedious tasks, which computers excel at. It is time for us to realise what we do well and ask for assistance with those things we aren’t as great at.
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