How to Reduce Time Spent on Low-Value HR Activities to Zero
Low-value work is not an option.
The average worker is busier than ever. Recessions, job cuts, and pandemics have not helped. Those of us who have the incredible chance of working during these difficult times are taking on the workload of two, three, sometimes more, colleagues who have not had that chance.
In HR, low-value activities are bringing businesses to a grinding halt. They achieve only two things: waste time and make you a low-value worker.
You have better things to do.
The impact of low-value activities in HR
On your HR staff
Throughout our work, we found that HR professionals spend about 40% of their time on repetitive, automatable tasks (learn more).
Menial tasks can range from interruptive tasks (*ding*, another email from Steven about his pension) to unengaging and unchallenging tasks (clicking the same seven buttons when someone requests time off).
Research shows that it takes, on average, more than 23 minutes to fully recover your concentration after an interruption. The impact is self-evident. Menial, unengaging, unchallenging tasks keep your HR staff from achieving valuable work.
What's the impact on the business? Glad you asked.
On your business
There are strategic, tactical, and operational costs of letting low-value activities fly around the office.
Operational -- low-value activities are inefficient by nature. They're repetitive, resource-wasting, life-sucking tasks. That has both an actual cost and an opportunity cost.
Tactical -- low-value activities impact employee performance. It disengages them and encourages churn. This tactical cost worms its way from the bottom up, affecting individuals, then teams, then departments.
Strategic -- low-value activities slow the business down and keep it from achieving its long term goals. By simply combining the operational and tactical costs presented below, we understand the impact they have on a business as a whole.
The solution: ramping up HR productivity with automation
In 2016, Priscilla Claman wrote a short but insightful piece on solving the burden of low-value activities in the workplace. I encourage you to read her piece.
One of the points she made is particularly relevant for us: 'automate it'.
If it’s low value, it’s easy to automate. - Priscilla Claman
As an artificial intelligence company, we've helped our fair share of HR departments automate low-value activities. Here's a primer on getting this done.
Step 1. Spot (obviously) low-value activities
It shouldn't come as a surprise that you should first find out the tasks you should automate. There are a few ways to do so:
- Use your judgment. You should know what you do that is wasting time (yours and your company's).
- Stop doing it for a week and see what happens. No one pipes up? You’ve got your answer.
- Ask your manager to prioritise for you. Sometimes you don't get the full picture and what you think matters a lot only accounts for 0.1% of your manager's worries.
More tips on identifying low-value tasks by Julian Birkinshaw at HBR.
Step 2. Understand automation capabilities
Though a good place to start, the previous step is a fair bit obvious.
To the untrained eyes, many HR activities seem impossible to automate. To us professionals, there are many opportunities out there in your organisation to claim time back.
With the help of artificial intelligence, conversational software (aka 'chatbots') and robotic process automation (RPA), nothing is impossible.
The list below should be helpful in two ways. It should first give you an indication of what is possible. It should then inspire you to dig deeper. Can this crazy process your team is manually running be automated? Chances are the answer is yes -- come chat with us.
Activities you can automate through chatbots and RPA:
Front-line HR -- inbound questions from your employees, outbound questions from your HR staff, running a shared inbox, and more. Learn about front-line HR chatbots.
Learning & development -- live training assistant, monitoring employee performances to suggest gap training, and more.
Admin -- anything that requires your team to click the same buttons in the same sequence.
Recruitment -- collecting applications, vetting applicants (based on strict rules, not interviewing), organising appointments, and more.
We've only just scratched the surface. When you take third-party integrations into account (e.g. integrating your chatbot with SAP), the sky truly is the limit.
Step 3. Prioritise
Without a clear plan, moving forward could, ironically, become a low-value activity fest.
Spend time prioritising the low-value activities you'd like to get rid off first. In our experience, front-line HR is a fantastic place to start.
To help you through this step, talk to chatbot professionals. Chatbot experts will help you make sense of the list of activities you'd like to streamline. With the work you've done so far, you have a great starting point; they'll be the people to take you through the next steps.
This is also the part of the process where the business at large needs to get involved. I'm talking business cases, cross-department conversations, budget meetings, etc.
We recently put together a business chatbot course that I highly recommend you go through. It takes you through seven key steps on bringing an efficient chatbot into your business.
Time well spent
When everyone is overwhelmed, overworked, overstressed; HR needs to be there for the workforce and drive the business forward.
This is impossible when close to 40% of your day is spent on tasks not worth your time (or expertise). Look beyond the way things have 'always been done'. There are incredible opportunities within your business to get your precious time back.