As a vocational human resources (HR) practitioner — this is my calling, it’s not just a job — I am all about people. I was not about the technology side of things when I joined my company, a software solution provider, five years ago. Needless to say, I had a massive learning curve when I started. Over the years I've embraced tech and found ways to create a collaborative environment for our employees to engage with my department through the innovative use of technology.

Automation Helps HR Focus on the Human Side

The HR function in most small to medium enterprises (SMEs) is complex, usually with one or two people performing all the HR functions across the board. And as most SMEs who are focused on growing their company look at increasing service delivery first, the HR department as a support function is one of the last to get more personnel. This means HR has to provide the same efficient service that was delivered to 60 employees to 100, 150 or 300 employees. All with a smile and possibly a hug or two where necessary.

The HR function contains a myriad of requirements and dependencies on other people and departments. Almost all of the functions in HR requires data and processing, and more often than not this is done manually or with very basic Excel skills. As a result, HR people spend a lot of time administrating the "Resources" part of the HR function instead of focusing on the "H" … engaging with humans. This is where Digital Automation pays off.

When deciding to automate steps or processes in the HR Function there are three golden questions to ask:

  1. What do you want to achieve by automation?
  2. What are you going to focus on for automation?
  3. What is the actual impact of HR automation?
3 golden questions

Without a plan in place, your digital transformation will fail because you will not be prepared for the outcomes. Start small, and move slowly so you can ensure each newly automated component is efficient and complements the next step. Remember to include employees in the testing of any systems you implement so they can be involved in your digital transformation from the beginning, and not have it thrust upon them at the end of implementation.

Related Article: 7 Ways Artificial Intelligence Is Reinventing Human Resources

A 3-Step Automation Plan

Here at Mint, we identified three areas to start our digital transformation process with. They comprise our core HR functions — in other words, we chose to spread our digital transformation across the department rather than just focusing on one stream.

They also tied into three of the four HR strategy pillars for this financial year, so we can measure them against metrics laid out in our business plan. Having measurable outcomes for your digital transformation ensures you stick to your plan and deliver a successful system for employees to use.

HR Basics and Admin

For the HR basics we automated our ‘Joiners, Movers, Leavers’ process. This form is a workflow which previously was filled in by the HR manager, who then distributed it to managers, IT, project managers and reception so that all the right people know exactly who was starting in what role and when. The form was also used for when employees change departments, or when employees resign.

Automating this workflow immediately alleviated the human error component that saw new people starting without having the right hardware, being loaded onto the HR system, or just not having reception know about them — all of which cause unnecessary confusion and a bumpy start to a new employee’s first day at work. 

Employee Engagement

For employee engagement, we created an automated CV for employees to populate, which sales and marketing then use in client proposals and promoting the company's skills capabilities. The author-branding means that as each employee populates the CV, their details are automatically populated, giving employees a personalized document demonstrating their skills and capabilities.

Learning Opportunities

Training and Development

Finally, we automated our training request form so that training is approved in line with positional requirements and against what the individual has documented on their comprehensive development plan. This form also assists with data for reporting on training, as well as ensuring we remain within budget for training at all times.

Related Article: How We Work: 6 More Trends Shaping the Future of HR in 2017

How to ACE Employee Engagement

When creating and introducing these automated processes, it's important to check in with employees because they have to be engaged with your digital transformation at all times. The best way to do this is to remember the Ace of (People’s) Hearts.


Does your automation keep employees Active, or does it take up unnecessary time? Is your automation creating a Collaborative environment for your employees or is it distancing them from the HR department? And most importantly, is your automated process Empowering your employees within both the mobile or traditional workplace?

When I started the digital transformation process in my department, I used the following guidelines (many of which were covered above) to improve my chances of having a successful outcome: Keep It Simple Stupid, have a long-term plan, communicate to non-HR roles, two steps forward (and two steps back), focus on people-centric relationships, don't reinvent the wheel, always embrace the Ace of Hearts and finally, be patient.

digital transformation guidelines
For a successful digital transformation journey, you also need to select a technology partner who understands your department’s strategy and goals and is prepared to work with you to improve your processes. We chose to partner with Nintex because their workflows are easy to use, they have built their tools with the user (employee) in mind, and they are a people-centric technology company. 

Related Article: Digital Employee Experience Bridges the Gap Between HR and IT

HR Professionals: Embrace Digital Transformation

All HR people should embrace the digital transformation process within their department and function. So many tools are available to integrate into your current systems that will make your life infinitely easier and ensure HR is as efficient and effective as possible. If a people-only person like me can become a people-technology person, you can too! And believe me, you will truly enjoy the enhancements technology brings to your department as well as your function.

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