HR automation: what it is and how you can implement it

How HR automation works across the employee journey.

You’re likely familiar with the day-to-day manual tasks that come with managing your processes.

When recruiting, your team has to review individual resumes just to find candidates who are eligible for an open position; when onboarding, your team has to coordinate tasks across a variety of stakeholders just to get employees equipped with what they need; when reviewing PTO requests, your team needs to manually verify that each employee can take their requested days off. And the list goes on.

Not only are these repetitive tasks annoying to perform, but they also take your team away from more valuable and enjoyable work.

Fortunately, there’s a solution that helps them focus less on manually burdensome activities and more on strategic aims: HR automation (also known as HR process automation or HR workflow automation).

We’ll breakdown everything you need to know about HR automation. This includes what it is, why it’s important, its applications, and, perhaps most importantly, how you can implement it. 

After reading this guide, you’ll not only have a firm grasp on HR automation, but you’ll also be able to use it effectively at your organization!

Table of contents:
1. What it is
2. Its various applications
3. Why it’s important
4. Best practices for implementation

What is HR Automation?

In short, it’s the use of automation to streamline HR processes end-to-end. 

This involves a platform that can “listen” for business events (triggers). Once the criteria for a business event gets met, the platform can then deliver real-time outcomes (actions) for a given HR process. 

Take employee onboarding for example. An event can be marking an employee as hired in your human resource information system (HRIS), while the corresponding outcomes include giving them access to applications and scheduling their first-day meetings.

Note: As you’ll soon find out, HR automations often rely on bots that can communicate between your chat platform, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and the rest of your applications. This helps your colleagues use the automations without leaving the chat platform.

The Different Types of HR Automation

With this definition of HR automation in mind, let’s review some of the ways you can use it.

Recruiting Automation

Using recruiting automation, you can uncover better candidates, interview them more effectively, and bring them on faster. Here are just some examples:

  • Empower employees to refer candidates by instantly providing them with new job openings as they come in. You can use your organization’s internal chat platform, like Slack, to make sure your team sees these openings.
  • Automatically filter out candidates who don’t meet your hiring criteria, and devote more time towards evaluating those who are eligible.
  • Prevent no-shows from your interviewers by setting up automated reminders. They can be delivered at several points in time and can also include helpful resources from candidates, like their resumes.
  • Give recruiters transparency on who’s submitted their scorecards and how interviewers have evaluated a candidate by instantly sharing completed ones via chat.
  • Once a candidate gets selected by your interview panel, automatically generate their offer letter in a platform like DocuSign. You can then share it with the appropriate stakeholders before it goes out.

Learn more about these recruiting automations

Onboarding Automation

The process of bringing in new employees is likely highly repetitive at your organization. It might involve new hires attending the same in-person sessions, passing the same compliance-based tests, and receiving access to the same (or a similar) set of apps and hardware assets. 

Whatever makes up your onboarding process, you can automate it end-to-end with HR process automation. This allows new employees to be productive on day 1, and it shapes their early perception of your organization for the better.

Here’s how some of your onboarding automations can look:

  • Give employees access to the applications they need, along with the right permission levels, on their first day. There may be certain applications that everyone can access, while others might only be available to those in certain roles and departments.

Note: Employees will likely need access to additional applications over time. Whenever this is the case, you can use an HR automation that allows any employees to request access to an app. Their manager can then review the request and choose to accept or reject it.

  • Implement a variety of “First-Day” automations. This includes automatically inviting new hires to onboarding meetings, adding them to the appropriate channels in your chat platform, and sending out a company-wide email that introduces them to the broader team. 

Day-to-Day Automation

You shouldn’t stop automating your workflows once employees settle into their new role. Here’s how you can continue to use HR process automations to enhance employees’ experiences and to keep them informed:

  • Use a chat platform to handle the end-to-end process of PTO or expense requests. The image below shows how the message can look (for the employee’s manager) if you use Workday as your HRIS and Slack as your chat app.
Screenshot of a PTO request in Slack
  • Send employees a recurring survey directly in the chat platform and get notified when responses come in via chat messages.
  • Notify employees in a specific channel within your chat platform whenever you make changes to your HR processes.
  • Help employees manage their health by using a bot to send them tips around topics like nutrition, as well as daily reminders to do things like stretch. 

Offboarding Automation

When employees leave, you want to make sure that they don’t take important information with them. You also want to get their feedback to see if there are opportunities to improve the employee experience—either within their department or across the organization.

Here’s how HR workflow automation helps you do both, and more:

  • The moment someone is no longer an employee, you can instantly deprovision their access to applications.
  • Once an employee notifies their manager that they’re leaving, you can automatically schedule their exit interview, send the employee a survey that asks about their experiences with the company, and create tickets that request them to return company-owned assets (e.g. laptop).
  • Allow the employee’s manager and HR to stay on top of the employee’s offboarding tasks by providing updates via chat. For example, they can get notified once the employee completes your survey.
  • Keep your company directory up-to-date by instantly removing the employee from it after their last day. 

Related: How to implement any offboarding automation

Why is HR Automation Important?

Based on all of its applications, you probably already have a solid grasp on its many benefits. But just to make it all the more clear, here are a few worth singling out:

It improves your organization’s time-to-hire.

You might not have the luxury of casually sifting through applicants until you find one that knocks your socks off. There’s a reason you need to fill a position, and delaying that for whatever reason can come at a cost to your business. 

With HR automation, you can fast-track the entire recruitment process, whether it’s screening resumes, coordinating interviews, or sending offer letters. This gives you an easy, scalable way to find the best candidates and bring them on-board quickly.

Jessalyn Klein, our Head of People and Culture, explained why it’s so important to recruit quickly during one of our unexpected automations webinars:

“Every minute you lose in the recruitment and referral process only increases the chances that you miss out on a potentially great candidate.”

It empowers employees to be productive right from the start.

Your new colleagues want to make a strong first impression. You can help them do just that by providing the equipment and applications they need on their first day! This should also leave a positive first-impression on these new teammates, as they likely aren’t used to working for a company that’s so organized and proactive with its new hires.

It provides employees with delightful experiences.

When employees can do little to get what they need—from getting approval on their PTO request to receiving access to any app—they’re more likely to be content with their employer. 

Employees across lines of business made this clear in our State of Business Technology Report. Through the study, we found that employees desire approval workflows slightly more than other automations.

The automations that lines of business want the most.

Learn more about what lines of business want to automate by reading the full report

It allows your HR department to allocate more time towards high-value tasks.

By giving your colleagues a significant amount of time back, they’re able to focus more on business-critical activities. These include:

  • Speaking to target candidates and persuading them to join the team
  • Resolving conflicts between employees 
  • Planning headcount 
  • Evaluating employee satisfaction and making decisions off of their findings
  • Planning company-wide events

Enabling your colleagues to dedicate more of their time and energy towards these strategic, thoughtful tasks should also go a long way in improving their satisfaction at work.

Best Practices for Implementing HR Automations

Now that you know what HR automation is, the different forms it can take, and why, at a high-level, it’s important, you’re ready to dig into our guidance on implementing any.

Here are 4 tips worth considering:

1. Make it easy on your colleagues in IT.

You can make their lives easier and help them build valuable automations for your team by giving them concrete asks. For example, tell them which applications you want to integrate, and how you want the data to flow between those systems. 

At the same time, it’s worth keeping an open mind to their ideas. Their rich experience in building automations across the organization can be enormously valuable to your team. For instance, they might identify ways to automate a given process further, or automate something else that you hadn’t even thought of!

2. Leverage a diverse set of automations and keep an out for new opportunities.

You can get the most out of HR automations by leveraging several across the candidate and employee journey. 

This might involve prioritizing a few automations first, like onboarding and recruiting. But once you showcase their value with your executives and IT, they’ll likely provide the resourcing you need to build more.

It’s also worth noting that your candidates’ and employees’ experiences are fluid. Certain bottlenecks or unpleasant experiences might arise for each group over time, and when they do, don’t shy away from using automations to address them. 

3. See what others have done.

You shouldn’t feel alone while ideating your automations. 

If other teams in your organization use automations, ask them about it. If your peers at other organizations automate certain workflows, try to understand how they’ve built them. And if you use a platform that shares other automations users have built, take the time to explore them.

You may not copy the automations you learn about, but simply exploring them should help you brainstorm powerful ones faster.

You can browse through our community library to see the thousands of workflows our users have built!

4. Use an enterprise automation platform. 

An enterprise automation (EA) platform enables you to use triggers and actions by “listening” to business events in your applications. This ability allows you to transform workflows end-to-end, make use of bots, and largely avoid coding.

Enterprise Automation Example

Say you decide to use an EA platform to increase employee referrals.

You set the trigger for when a new job is created in Greenhouse. Once that condition is met, you use a bot to post that job to a platform like Slack. 

Your employees can then easily find the job postings, and they can submit referrals without leaving the chat platform (once they submit a referral in Slack, the bot automatically adds it to Greenhouse).

Related: 5 HR automation examples that can help transform your employee experience

Workato is the Only EA Platform in the Market

Workato is a low-to-no code enterprise automation platform that lets you take your automations to market in just days. Workato also offers a built-in bot framework with Workbot (its enterprise platform bot), allowing you to use bots effectively when building any HR workflow.

Beyond the platform, Workato’s leadership team differentiates the company from its peers. The leadership group includes individuals who helped kickstart the integration revolution at companies like TIBCO, Oracle Fusion Middleware, and Salesforce. This puts the company in a unique position to address the current and future integration and automation needs of the enterprise.

Learn more about how Workato can automate your HR processes by speaking with one of our automation experts!

About the author
Jon Gitlin Content Strategist @ Workato
Jon Gitlin is the Managing Editor of The Connector, where you can get the latest news on Workato and uncover tips, examples, and frameworks for implementing powerful integrations and automations. In his free time, he loves to run outside, watch soccer ( matches, and explore local restaurants.