Human resources departments are indispensable in any organization. A well-oiled HR department helps organizations of all sizes run more smoothly by taking care of the most valuable part of any successful company: its employees. By managing the entire employee lifecycle from hire to retire and everything in between, HR departments ensure employee satisfaction and engagement and, as a result, increase business productivity.

However, managing every aspect of each employee’s needs is no simple task. Managing HR on a daily basis requires the completion of a variety of duties such as tracking attendance, employee performance and vacation as well as overseeing hiring, training and benefits enrollment.

See also: Employees demanding better pay, benefits

With such an exhaustive array of responsibilities, it’s not surprising that HR has often been viewed as burdensome and time-consuming. As a result, many organizations are embracing technology to orchestrate and streamline all types of HR administration processes. Replacing manual, paper-based processes with cloud-based software and mobile technology actually improves workflow, reduces costs and promotes employee productivity and engagement.

HR automation software is the next natural step in the evolution of human resources administration. By using a suite of applications that manage different HR processes, organizations can harness the power of automation to manage more efficiently and effectively.

See also: Tech tools vital for HR success

Implementing a centralized HR platform provides real-time information for executives to understand personnel trends and gives employees more control of the services offered to them, including self-service options. Additionally, automating HR tasks allows organizations to be more proactive; transforming a system of records into a platform of engagement that unifies human resources departments, employees and employers.

Of course, creating a fully automated HR department doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re looking into starting this process today, consider automating the following five priority tasks first to ensure a smooth transition:

· Applicant tracking and onboarding
· Time and attendance
· Records management and reporting
· Benefits enrollment
· Payroll

Applicant tracking and onboarding

Finding the right employees can be the difference between company failure and success. After all, without highly skilled and motivated employees, what do you have? On the flip side, hiring the wrong employees can actually cost you money to the tune of $25,000 to $50,000 per poorly-chosen employee. Though time-consuming, a thorough hiring process is necessary to find candidates with the appropriate skills, experience and organizational fit.

An automated applicant tracking system (ATS) can help organizations manage hiring more effectively. First, by providing a centralized platform to post jobs and then screen and score resumes, an automated system can help HR departments easily weed out unqualified candidates during the initial recruiting process. Once a short list of potential candidates is selected, an automated ATS can facilitate the interview process by generating and tracking interview requests and responses.

After the perfect candidate is chosen, ATS software can help during onboarding as well by allowing HR departments to electronically deliver forms and documents to new employees, making onboarding a more simple and efficient experience for HR departments and employees.

Time and attendance

Tracking time and attendance is much more than keeping track of punch cards. In fact, tracking time and attendance can be a difficult process, rife with regulations and strict compliance guidelines. In order to streamline these processes, companies of all sizes are turning to automated employee tracking software.

Automating time and attendance through cloud-based software offers a robust solution that also helps HR departments process payroll, monitor breaks, track time off, and measure employee performance. In addition to centralizing and simplifying these processes, time and attendance automation also helps HR departments to avoid the tracking errors and inaccuracies associated with paper-based, manual processes. Additionally, when linked with identification cards and key fobs, time and attendance automation software can help to keep the workplace more secure.

Records management and reporting

Understanding the myriad of different local, state and federal business regulations out there can be a job unto itself. However, even after understanding which regulations apply to your organization, implementing these regulations and maintaining the appropriate records can be a daunting task. Most organizations know that records and reports must be kept for a certain amount of time — the IRS mandates seven years — but many don’t know that recordkeeping regulations can actually vary widely depending on a company’s state of origin and industry.

Automated HR software takes the frustration out of compliance, reporting, and record keeping with a two-fold solution. First, instead of being buried under a mountain of paperwork, HR software provides a centralized database where companies can store company records; this keeps paperwork on hand for easy access and ensures the security of private information. As an important added benefit, automating records management and reporting gives companies access to information about compliance guidelines and regulations. This makes it easy to keep track of regulation changes and upcoming inspections to ensure compliance.

Benefits and enrollment

Benefits are an extremely important aspect of any job; employees rely on retirement and healthcare benefits greatly and sometimes even choose jobs based upon their benefits packages. However, as important as it is, it's still a confusing and arduous process for employers and employees alike.

Automating this process through a centralized web-based program makes administering benefits infinitely easier for HR departments and employees by facilitating the enrollment process. From an HR perspective, it reduces paperwork and data entry while giving companies the ability to integrate payroll into benefits administration; combining these two functions allows HR departments to accurately track withholdings and contributions.

By providing a central database of information about healthcare and retirement options, benefits automation eases the burden on employees too. Employees can review benefits options with their families from home and at their leisure, allowing them to make more informed decisions.

Payroll

Hopefully, your employees come to work for more than a paycheck. However, because monetary compensation improves employee morale and productivity, managing payroll is unquestionably an important component of HR administration for both employees and employers.

As HR departments know, payroll is much more than writing checks and involves a lot of moving parts that need to be considered, including managing pay rates, deductions and overtime for all different types of employees. Cloud-based HR software can help to automate these activities, making payroll administration more accurate and more efficient than manual processes.

Automating payroll also provides employees with self-services tools that allow them to request and make changes to their own information and manage their own direct deposit options. This feature serves an important dual purpose of creating a sense of control for employees and easing the burden on HR.

Taking care of a company’s personnel is a worthy and necessary venture. However, this process has a reputation as being complicated, confusing, and difficult. Automating some key HR functions with cloud-based software can transform HR administration into a simple and efficient system. HR automation has the power to put employees at ease and free up HR departments to handle more important matters, improving engagement, productivity and profitability.

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