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HR on autopilot: Can you feasibly automate all your human resource functions?


Cloud-based tech solutions for human resources offer the promise of easy installation and implementation, but does such software really eliminate the need for HR staff?  The short answer is no.

While new technical offerings can improve the efficiency and speed of many HR processes, the human touch is still needed to get the most out of the software.

For example, you’ll still need someone to “operate the machinery,” so to speak, or administer the software. In a smaller company, that may be one combination payroll and HR person. In a larger company, you may need one employee to do nothing but maintain, update and run the software so that your company gets the most from its capabilities.

When HR software works best

Technology is your friend when it comes to the tactical aspects of human resources. For instance, an online time tracking system that ties to your payroll and government reporting systems can save significant time and improve accuracy over manual tracking and handwritten reports.

Cloud-based HR software can automate formerly complex, time-consuming activities including:

  • New hire paperwork, such as the I-9 authentication and reporting of right to work in the United States
  • Storing of data for compliance
  • Tracking of critical HR data related to hours worked by project or department, turnover and more
  • Garnishments, reporting and mandatory requirements that vary by state

For example, a company operating in a big state like Texas may not be accustomed to the HR complexities of hiring across state lines. But open an office in New York, and you could have employees who work in that state but live in Connecticut or New Jersey.

HR software can help ensure your compliance with multiple states’ payroll tax requirements, and prevent you from having to learn and implement such widely disparate laws on the fly. The best-case scenario is when you have the right software in place to facilitate efficiency and compliance, with access to experienced HR professionals to guide you.

What to look for in HR software

Once you’ve decided whether an HR software package delivers the basic functions your business needs and will help drive company goals, it’s time to take a deeper dive into its functionality.

Some questions to consider:

  • What purpose will this software serve? Will it eliminate, add to or integrate with your existing systems?
  • Who will administer the software? Will they require extra training? If yes, how much? How much training is included in the price?
  • Is this software backed by HR on demand? For example, even with the best software, you’ll still have the occasional compliance question. Look for a software solution with human support.
  • Will this software integrate with other existing software for payroll, time and attendance, or enterprise resource planning (ERP)?

As you talk to software vendors, it’s vital you involve frontline workers who operate existing systems to help you evaluate any new HR software and its integration requirements. Depending on your current set-up, this may mean you bring in the payroll administrator, ERP data manager, compliance officer or the HR specialist managing the current performance system.

These are the people who can help you avoid the costly mistake of buying software that ultimately will not “play nice” with your other systems, since they know the intricate details of how your existing systems really work.

Why leadership is still needed

While cloud-based software may streamline many HR processes, there’s no substitute for sound leadership. Think “strategic” versus “tactical.”

Yes, software can help a company align its objectives and drive engagement through performance management, employee feedback mechanisms, people analytics, training, and compensation and rewards systems. But no software will ever replace a leader who communicates, inspires and motivates employees to achieve the organization’s goals.

As a business grows, it becomes harder to keep employees aligned with the company’s goals and strategies. Software can help keep your ship on the right course, but at the end of the day, any technology solution is only as good as the people behind it.

Interested in learning how to effectively evaluate HR technology vendors and software? Download our free e-book, HR technology: How to choose the best platform for your business.