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How to Automate HR Processes

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    HR automation is the process of enhancing the efficiency, accuracy and productivity of the HR department by automating the most repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Read HR Technology Conference Co-Chair Steve Boese’s best practices for automating HR processes and freeing HR to focus on the human side.

    I’ve spent over 20 years of my career helping HR departments implement technology to streamline and improve their processes.

    The increased capability of modern HR software astounds me, and I truly believe we’re in the tech’s golden age. The time to harness the power of automation is now. But what HR processes can be automated? And more importantly, how?

    Let’s take a journey through the world of HR process automation and explore exactly how to streamline — and even outright eliminate — tedious, error-prone manual processes. Along the way, we’ll uncover how automation frees HR to focus on objectives that truly add value and boost your organization’s ROI.

    What is HR automation?

    HR automation is the process of enhancing HR’s efficiency, accuracy and productivity by automating the department’s most repetitive, time-consuming tasks. This allows HR to focus on more important initiatives like:

    • strategic planning
    • recruiting top talent
    • developing and engaging employees
    • strengthening compliance
    • researching benefits and industry trends
    • and more

    HR automation takes care of certain manual HR activities so we can concentrate on the bigger picture.

    What HR processes can be automated?

    The world of automation is always evolving, but certain HR processes are primed for it. I’ve found that automating repetitive tasks or processes with some sort of established routine makes the most impact.

    Here are eight HR processes that can be simplified and streamlined through automation:

    1. Payroll

    Payroll is likely your organization’s largest expense and most time-consuming undertaking. And even with the help of sound data sets, payroll doesn’t just happen. In the absence of automated tech, HR pros must first import that data manually, opening the door to costly errors — and at the very least — hours of needless data reentry.

    HR automation simplifies the entire process by automatically pulling live data from employees’ hours worked, approved expenses, benefit selections and compensation changes. The ideal software will then take that data and use it to self-start payroll each period.

    Now instead of painstakingly building and running payroll, HR simply oversees it.

    2. Onboarding

    HR is typically tasked with building, maintaining and enhancing the entire employee onboarding process. This includes cumbersome processes like gathering employee info, assigning necessary trainings and ensuring all new hires complete and sign the correct documentation.

    Automation helps retain your hard-won hires with a streamlined process that empowers them to transition smoothly into their new roles. HR no longer has to nag employees for signatures or ensure they’ve completed required training, so new hires can start focusing on more meaningful aspects of their jobs by Day 1.

    3. Timekeeping

    Timekeeping usually goes something like this:

    1. An employee completes and submits a timecard.
    2. Their employer collects the timecard.
    3. HR then verifies the timecard.

    That’s a lot of manual data entry and a lot of time lost on both ends.

    When you automate the timekeeping process, accuracy and employee satisfaction improve and HR enjoys the fruits of a reduced administrative load.

    4. Position management

    Manually managing personnel, staffing needs and organizational structure? That means you’re continually exposing your business to preventable errors and inconsistencies, not to mention the massive time sink that goes into managing each individual change. Automation makes workforce planning easier by streamlining and standardizing the process to reduce manual data entry. This, in turn, creates companywide consistency and empowers HR to make more informed decisions.

    5. Performance management

    Effective performance management aligns employees with the greater organizational goal. But to get there, HR must first collect and analyze employee data. Then comes the task of ensuring the exchange of consistent, fair and ongoing feedback.

    Automation makes it simple to learn what matters most to employees by seamlessly distributing and collecting feedback. The right tech automatically houses and stores the documentation, resources and processes HR needs to make every evaluation consistent and painless.

    6. Time-off requests

    Time-off decisions are a hassle for everyone. They make employees wait, turn managers into the bad guy and require HR to step in and mediate disputes. Tech that automatically approves, denies or holds an employee’s time-off request builds trust by helping them better plan their lives. This helps HR focus less on tediously reconciling schedules and more on engaging and retaining employees.

    7. Tax forms

    To protect an organization’s tax responsibility, HR must understand and effectively manage a hefty load of responsibilities, including:

    • numerous tax forms
    • local tax requirements
    • employee address changes
    • updates to existing tax laws
    • any state(s) of operation

    One misstep could trigger costly compliance penalties. Automating these tedious aspects of tax management gives HR peace of mind and helps employers comply with confidence.

    8. Recruiting

    Hiring the right people at the right time and staying in compliance can be a challenge for any business. And in today’s competitive job market, one negative candidate experience can be costly. Automated recruitment processes make it easy for HR to source and qualify candidates, schedule interviews and maintain frequent communication so top talent doesn’t fall through the cracks.

    How to automate HR processes

    Now that we’ve identified which HR processes can be automated, let’s take a closer look at how to automate them with the right HR tech.


    Employees expect their pay to be on time and correct, and an automated payroll system helps ensure this by calculating the correct deductions. It automatically pulls live data from employees’ hours worked, approved expenses, benefit selections and compensation changes, eliminating any need for reentry.

    Paycom’s self-service software automatically identifies errors and guides employees to resolve them before submission, so HR doesn’t have to.

    Expense management

    HR can simplify the reimbursement process with a software that automatically allocates expenses imported into a general ledger. HR pros gain greater visibility into the process with on-demand analytics and customizable reports that show outstanding approvals, spending by department and more. At the same time, HR doesn’t have to worry about tracking employees down or wondering who hasn’t signed off yet.

    Tax management

    Manually calculating taxes risks costly noncompliance. HR pros can help mitigate their responsibilities with tax management tools that automatically debit payroll taxes, deposit them on their due dates and remit their filings. The right tech will even convert and balance your year-to-date payroll tax totals, reducing your risk of audits and freeing HR to focus their efforts elsewhere.

    Garnishment administration

    Garnishments are risky business. But you can lower your organization’s liability with a tool that automatically reconciles the payment amounts, calculations and third-party payees. Garnishment administration tools track and record deductions every pay period so HR doesn’t have to.

    General ledger automation

    Accounting teams are often tasked with the tedious chore of keying payroll general ledger information into their accounting software each pay period. You can streamline this process with a tool that automatically generates general ledger reports for direct import. Intuitive reporting, enriched audit trails, customizable file layouts and real-time alerts are all possible when you automate this cumbersome process with the right tech.

    Onboarding and offboarding

    Onboarding and offboarding is a time-consuming task. But this, too, can be automated with the right human resources information system (HRIS). This software empowers employers to collect, manage, store and process their employees’ information in one place. A truly single software automatically populates information across multiple systems like payroll and time and attendance, ensuring accuracy and eliminating the need for data reentry.

    Employees just enter their information once, freeing HR from piecing together information across multiple systems and making onboarding and offboarding a breeze.

    Position-specific workflows

    Position-specific workflows within an HRIS tie job attributes to a specific position within an organization, rather than an individual employee. HR can then create custom categories and let automation take care of the rest by assigning forms, checklists and trainings to a specific group of new hires. All data flows seamlessly systemwide, so it’s easy to create custom rules that automatically revoke an employee’s IT access when they leave the organization.

    New hire welcome announcements

    Now that you’ve got your new hire through the door, it’s time to share it widely. But it can be easy to overlook this step during an employee’s first day. Instead, HR can create and store an automated message that welcomes new team members and introduces them to your organization. This shows employees you care and takes the pressure off crafting a custom welcome message each time.

    Of course, it can still be beneficial to send a personalized email to certain people — like department heads — announcing new hires.

    30-, 60-, 90-day check-ins

    There’s more to onboarding than just paperwork and training. The right HR tech will help transition new hires to productive contributors, checking in with them along the way.

    Automated email messages at employees’ 30-, 60- and 90-day hire dates help keep them on track and accountable. Plus, it helps opens the door to more candid conversations about their development and what challenges may be standing in their way. Some software even gives you the ability to collect, measure and review employee feedback in real time. HR can schedule surveys at regular intervals and get ahead of issues that could potentially harm an employee’s experience.

    Performance management

    Monitoring the progress of an employee’s development is simplified with the right software. Performance review tools provide consistency and efficiency and ease the burden on both the administrative and user end. HR can assign goals by position, department or individual and establish specific sign-off tiers before final approvals. Plus, employees can easily see their evaluations and monitor their development.

    Time and attendance

    Time and attendance tracking tools accurately and efficiently manage when, where and how employees report their hours worked. A truly single software integrates time tracking with payroll, so HR never has to rekey a thing.

    Time-off approval decisions

    Software that includes automated decision-making with customizable policies ensures fair, consistent and immediate resolution of employee requests. Some tools even let HR set specific time-off decision-making criteria to help ensure operations keep moving. Once it’s set up, automated decisions flow seamlessly and accurately into payroll. HR is no longer stuck mediating time-off denial disputes, and accurate record-keeping reduces data errors and compliance risk.


    Scheduling tools enable HR to create and edit templates and then assign grouped employees to recurring shifts or customized schedules. Automating the processes in this time-consuming task helps managers avoid scheduling conflicts and easily meet operational demands.

    Labor allocation

    An HRIS removes the burden of manual calculations associated with labor allocation. Employees’ time can be categorized by a specific location, department or job and automatically allocated to the right compensation the moment they clock in and out. With the software maintaining proper category assignment upon clock-in, HR can better track where and how the company’s money is spent.

    Health and safety

    An organization’s success depends on the health and safety of its workforce, but HR shouldn’t have to shoulder this responsibility alone. The right tech helps HR spot potential violations on the horizon and navigate the ever-changing regulatory landscape with confidence.

    Automated license expiration alerts

    HR pros have a lot on their plate; keeping track of a laundry list of certification renewal dates only adds to it. Automated compliance reporting software alerts HR to expiring certifications to help mitigate their risk and give them peace of mind.

    Vaccination status tracking and reminders

    Employers need to be tuned in to their employees’ vaccination and testing status. And as we experienced during the pandemic, comprehensive insights are necessary to be informed and action ready. Employee vaccination status tracking software can help make this a reality. HR pros securely collect, track and manage employee data in one place, and a comprehensive dashboard can give them unparalleled insight into their results to be audit ready.

    Incident reporting workflows

    Employee safety is paramount. And even with the right protocols in place, you can’t eliminate the possibility of an injury. Automated reporting workflows help HR track and monitor incident reports for effective workplace safety. It can also help HR establish and maintain a process that prevents threats and encourages workplace safety.

    Compliance and reporting

    Employment laws are numerous, complicated and ever-changing. Organizations can keep compliance in check with a human capital management software (HCM) that maintains a single system of record, generates real-time reports and automatically updates you with the most current legislative changes.

    Government compliance

    HR departments can meet their regulatory responsibilities with an automated tool that provides compliance updates and real-time monitoring of changes in:

    • unemployment claims
    • FLSA
    • FMLA
    • COBRA
    • OSHA 300/300A/301
    • EEOC
    • VETS 4212

    These tools can then generate the reports you need in the government-required format.


    To stay competitive, businesses must efficiently source, attract and recruit top talent. But developing a robust talent pipeline and identifying qualified candidates is no easy task. That’s what makes applicant tracking systems (ATS) vital. These software applications streamline the recruitment process by automating, collecting, sorting and reviewing job applications. This helps HR efficiently manage large volumes of resumes and quickly identify qualified candidates.

    Candidate disposition workflows

    One feature of an applicant tracking system is candidate disposition workflows. This streamlines the recruitment process by automatically advancing candidates to the next stage or sending them a rejection email. Timely responses are key to successfully attracting and retaining top talent, and the ideal ATS allows HR to create and store templates for each type of candidate communication. Some applicant tracking systems take it a step further by automatically recommending open positions to qualified candidates already in the system.

    Job board management

    Another feature of ATS software is the ability to instantly create and distribute job postings across a swath of job boards and social media platforms. This not only ensures consistency but also eliminates the need for recruiters to post each job manually. Plus, HR can cast a wider net and attract a diverse pool of qualified candidates.

    For more of my thoughts on HR automation, listen to this episode of the HR Break Room® podcast.


    Why is automation important?

    Automation pulls HR out of repetitive, tedious tasks so it can focus on strategic initiatives that truly add value. Organizations reap the rewards of greater efficiency, accuracy and productivity and gain a competitive edge in the business landscape.

    What tools can we use to automate payroll?

    You can automate the payroll process with a tool that identifies errors and guides employees to resolve them before submission. This results in improved accuracy, reduced employer liability and increased payroll oversight — all while giving employees greater paycheck confidence.

    How do you implement HR processes?

    You can implement HR processes with a sound strategy and the right HR tech. A single HR and payroll software automates routine tasks to help your business run more smoothly. HR is no longer stuck in the middle of these tedious transactions, opening a whole new world of efficiency and engagement.

    Are HR planning processes necessary?

    Yes, but that doesn’t mean HR needs to develop a plan of action for activities that companies can, and should, automate. HRIS software helps employers simplify and streamline tedious HR tasks, including payroll, onboarding, time tracking and more. This frees HR to focus on the human side of their work, like strategic planning.

    How does HR automation help HR employees?

    HR automation helps enhance the efficiency, accuracy and productivity of the HR department by automating the most repetitive, time-consuming tasks. This helps HR employees gain time back to focus on strategic initiatives that truly add value.

    Check out the other blog post I wrote on HR automation.

    DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.