‘Artificial intelligence’ and ‘machine learning’ are buzzwords you might find in any given publication centered around technology, but there’s another popular phrase that HR professionals might want to be aware of: robotic process automation.

So, what is it exactly?

Robotic process automation, or RPA for short, can be defined as the deployment of robotic technology by companies to automate various repetitive tasks. These aren’t your typical metal robots or androids you might see in the movies. Think of them instead as a digital workforce that can complete many of the monotonous duties that can bog down HR efficiency.

Why is there a need for automation?

Today’s workforce is more demanding than ever. Jobseekers expect quick answers to questions and application submissions. If a company is too slow to deliver them, they risk having their competitors steal away top talent from right under their noses. In addition to this, HR professionals are expected to manage the needs of their current workforce, onboard new employees, mitigate disputes, uphold company culture, among other responsibilities. The list of what is required from HR departments continues to grow, and in order to survive and compete in their niche, companies should make an effort to identify tasks they can leave to automated tools.

What do some of these tasks include?

Talent acquisition. Sorting through mountains of applicant data in order to find the best match for a particular position takes time. A single applicant might require an examination of their applicant profile, resume, cover letter, and social media channels to find qualities that are indicative of their competency for a role. With help from RPA technology, HR professionals can expedite this process by scanning applicant data for specified criteria that the company deems as required for a role. The resulting list of candidates should be similar to one that an HR professional would have produced had the process been performed manually.

Onboarding New Hires. Every new employee that enters a company possesses different skills and experiences, but the process of onboarding them is mostly the same. During this process, there are many steps—like setting up new hires with the company’s payroll and benefits systems—that can be performed by RPA bots. “RPA bots are particularly good at performing ‘swivel chair’ tasks requiring the ability to access multiple applications to get work done,” claims Greg Vert, a senior manager at Deloitte. This might include retrieving data from one HR system and uploading it into another, scanning data for completeness, and compiling reports from various data sources.

Payroll Administration. Among the many duties that HR professionals perform, payroll can be viewed as perhaps the most repetitive. That’s because it typically involves large amounts of data entry. The repetitive and monotonous nature of this work is also what makes it more susceptible to errors. By deploying RPA technology to automate payroll procedures, HR professionals can reduce this risk of inaccuracies to near zero, correct any mistakes that occurred during manual insertion, and significantly reduce the amount of time it takes for the process to be completed correctly. Automating payroll procedures can also help ensure that employees are paid on time, improving employee satisfaction.

Is RPA the answer to everything?

Although RPA can help an HR department make great strides towards efficiency, it’s important to acknowledge that human involvement is still essential for successful HR execution. RPA bots can indeed perform many of the duties with which they are tasked; however, in order to run most effectively, RPA bots need to be instructed on how to go about performing these tasks. Additionally, a qualified individual should be assigned to oversee that each process is being done correctly and make any necessary modifications to the bot’s process. That said, combining the effectiveness of RPA technology with the guidance of qualified HR professionals can be the difference your organization needs to completely transform your department.

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In my home town, in a recent news story, we were told of a community protest against a chemical plant and its emissions. The local authorities moved quickly to at least temporarily close the plant. Little did they know that action would have repercussions beyond the local community. It turns out that the process being shut down may make it more difficult for surgeries to get done because of the impact on the sterilization of equipment. Thus, when I was offered this guest post I thought it might be relevant to a number of audiences. This post was written by Megan R. Nicols, STEM writer and blogger.

Chemical manufacturing and processing plants are inherently rife with potential dangers. Occupational hazards are always a concern with employees, such as slips or falls, but there’s so much more that can go wrong. When working with volatile chemicals or substances, for instance, there’s a risk for explosions and fires. Acidic or caustic chemicals might eat away at protective gear or machinery components. Poisonous vapors or fumes may pose a pulmonary threat.

It’s not a stretch to claim that maintaining safety within these facilities is a significant challenge, one that deserves adequate attention and resolve. Safety is such a vital component of operation that it requires much more than a single risk reduction strategy. It calls for adherence to a widespread cultural mindset.

Every level of an organization — which means everyone within the facility — must understand its role as it pertains to safety. A collective including organizational structure, modern technology, suitable management processes, and human collaboration are what make sustained safety a possibility. Altogether, it generates a culture of safety within an organization, holding every individual accountable not just for their safety but that of others around them too.

To achieve such a thing, or really to improve safety within a chemical plant, organizations must first assess the situation and then implement the much-needed cultural changes.

Assessing and Identifying Potential Hazards

OSHA describes a failure to identify and recognize present hazards in a workplace as a primary or “root cause” of injuries, illnesses and incidents. The key to anticipating and preventing problems is first to understand when, how and why they might occur in the first place.

That can be done using a conventional form of risk assessment, particularly one that looks at potential hazards and dangers throughout a facility. It’s more than just a one-and-done process, however, as it should be continually leveraged throughout the scope of an organization’s lifetime. It’s why a cultural shift is needed because when everyone on site is involved, it significantly improves the success rate and decreases the number of preventable risks.

Every risk assessment plan should consider the following:

  • Hazards present as a result of routine work
  • New or recurring hazards that appear as a result of process changes
  • Close calls or near misses to determine underlying dangers and how they may be prevented
  • Past injuries, accidents or illnesses that occurred and what could have been done to stop them
  • Areas or rooms of high risk
  • Dangers that may arise during an emergency or a provoked incident
  • Hazards that appear as a result of non-routine operations
  • Equipment failures and other machine-related events that may create hazards
  • Environmental conditions such as temperature, weather, and climate changes
  • Negligence on the part of active workers and how that affects the surrounding community
  • Additional security factors such as those related to the chemical facility anti-terrorism standards (CFATS)

Mainly, the proper parties should collect and compile extensive information about potential workplace hazards to help better understand where problems might occur. It should be done initially, of course, to get the lay of the land. But a dynamic team should conduct risk assessments regularly to identify potential changes and updates, as well.

How to Improve Workplace Safety

Only after the potential hazards have been appropriately identified and assessed — and continue to be — can you truly take action. Use the information gleaned to build a proactive or preventative system that works to reduce potential risks before something severe occurs.

Something as simple as a spill, for example, should be cleaned by the nearest party or upon its discovery. By taking action immediately, it prevents others from stumbling upon the area and having an accident. It simultaneously encourages workers to be more accountable for their actions, which may have been the cause of the spill in the first place.

Not all accidents are a result of poor housekeeping, however. That’s when it’s necessary to draw up and deploy the proper protocols, which requires a degree of training and education. Everyone should be suitably informed about the environment, potential hazards, and safety requirements. Furthermore, the only way to ensure procedures are being followed is to conduct regular safety audits of the workforce. Examinations should only ever be used to assess the ongoing performance and help educate workers and build awareness about their involvement. No punishment should occur unless there’s a clear or direct sign of negligence, or if there are repeated offenses.

To ingrain safety as part of the company’s ethos, senior management, executives and supervisors should all be willing to prioritize and provide ample attention to the issue.

New and modern technologies can also be incorporated to this end, to help improve the ongoing analysis and understanding of a facility’s safety.

To sum it up, the action plan for improvement should look something like this:

  1. Assess the current facility and all necessary elements to understand potential hazards and dangers
  2. Educate and train all workers, supervisors and personnel about workplace safety and their relevant responsibilities
  3. Take action to improve existing processes and procedures while also upgrading facility systems — this would be where you install new safety-monitoring technologies, for instance
  4. If you haven’t already, create a team that will be responsible for routinely assessing and auditing facility safety
  5. Require personnel to take action whenever possible like cleaning up spills, wearing safety gear, properly maintaining machinery and more
  6. Strive towards a persistent level of improvement, encouraging safety as a top concern for all

Safety Must Remain a Priority for All

Provided the organization can make the necessary changes at each level of an operation, then safety will automatically improve. It is vital, however, that it continues to remain a priority for the organization, and improvement must always be a focus. Barring that, a lapse in safety can and will occur, resulting in a hazardous environment for anyone present.

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Today’s guest post was written by Ashley Wilson.

Every business today is under immense pressure to improve efficiency, communication and ensure continuous improvement within the organization.

The HR department – Human Resources – is at the center of every organization, and connects with every person.

Source: Pixaby

For example, HR is the one to welcome a new employee, liaise with them during promotions in the company, and then conduct an exit interview right before a person leaves.

This centrality means that HR have the power to change the culture of an entire organization, simply by how they operate, because this naturally infiltrates into the entire company.

This is why many strong HR teams across the world started using Kaizen philosophy for all employees. Let’s explore what Kaizen philosophy is, and why it’s beneficial in a business setting in a little more detail.

What Is Kaizen Philosophy?

The Kaizen approach refers to the idea of creating continuous improvement when it comes to all tasks.

These seemingly small changes build up over time and will hopefully lead to major improvements in the long run.

The Origins of Kaizen

The word Kaizen is Japanese for “change for the better.” It refers to the approach of continually making small improvements over time. 

It originated as a philosophy and mindset but has since been applied to the world of business, and has been responsible for countless success stories.

Eiji Toyoda – founder of Toyota –  implemented the idea of continuous improvement while visiting a Ford production factory. He discovered a booklet by Ford which described the philosophy of always encouraging workers to share their improvement ideas. This philosophy became a cornerstone for the famous Toyota Production System.

The booklet suggested always encouraging employees to share their ideas for improvement.

What Makes Kaizen Special

Kaizen philosophy is a contrasting approach to implementing a radical change overnight or top-down strategies to improve results.

These old ways of working weren’t based on any concrete evidence that improvements would arise from the proposed change, which meant that more waste was often produced along with frustrated employees.

And no business owner wants that, right? If you care about your business and your employees, then you want to implement changes that increase profits while also benefiting all people.

Why HR Teams Benefit When Using Kaizen Philosophy For All Employees

Some of the drivers of using the Kaizen philosophy within HR units are:

  • The need to improve efficiency
  • The need for a performance evaluation system
  • The need to improve communication (internally and externally)
  • The need to improve the quality of resources for recruitment
  • The overall need to reduce costs and increase profit margins

The Kaizen approach – when implemented correctly – offers multiple benefits to HR teams.

Here are just a few of them.

Reduced Costs

Depending on the size of the organization, you’ll encounter varying levels and types of costs.

Some of the costs that can be minimized through a Kaizen approach include:

  • Staff costs – by improving productivity in people, implementing technology solutions where manpower isn’t necessary, and driving performance management systems.
  • Recruitment costs – through process mapping to eliminate wasted time and effort, and doubling down on the most efficient ways of recruiting.
  • Training costs – by implementing onboarding and training programs within the industry.
  • Admin costs – including travel, accommodation, cleaning, printing, and more.

Aircraft seating company DeCrean found the results of one Kaizen event in just one work cell created a 100% increase in work cell throughput, plus a reduction of a staggering $750,000 in inventory.

Better Leaders

The Kaizen approach empowers all employees to do their part and to pop on your leadership hat and cultivate positive change and improvements within your own team.

Everyone throws in their two cents on what they think can be improved, along with an action plan of how this can be implemented, and then measures it once in place to see if it’s working and if any further improvements can be made.

This helps everyone to develop valuable leadership skills, which are required to progress in most roles in an organization; creating effective leaders.

Improved Team Spirit

No team bonds lead to high staff turnover which costs an organization time and money – both of which are precious resources.

Research has shown that almost 70% of employees believe they don’t have enough hours to do their jobs properly each week.

This is often due to unclear role responsibilities or too big of a workload to handle.

Kaizen methods raise team morale by bringing cross-sections of the company together, solving current problems or stressors, creating new approaches to difficult challenges, providing feedback, opening up discussion channels, and empowering all employees.

These initiatives also help to create an emotional investment in the success of the organization and reduce turnover.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

The end customer will always directly or indirectly benefit from improvements in the way an organization is run day-to-day.

A direct example of this is after implementing Kaizen principles – including reduced admin processes, improved productivity, and smooth interfaces – Samaritano Hospital found a significant rise in customer satisfaction.

These changes not only make the entire process easier on customers but on all employees too.

It’s a win, win.

Is Your Organization Using Kaizen Philosophy?

Kaizen concepts of continuous improvement have been proven to be invaluable when implemented correctly into HR teams around the world.

This approach means that even the most dysfunctional organization can begin with one seemingly small change, and continue to gradually build on this day by day.

Like a snowball rolling down a mountain, this creates momentum within individuals as well as the collective organization. 

Employees will feel happier and more purposeful, while the business will become streamlined and run more efficiently.

Plus, the idea of continuous improvement encourages the organization to always be striving to improve, regardless of their current success, which is something we can all benefit from.

Ashley Wilson is working remotely as a content creator, writing mostly about business and tech. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.

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5 Essential Technologies for Your HR Department

by Michael Haberman on October 18, 2019 · 1 comment

Human Resources Department (HR) employees are in charge of multiple tasks on a daily basis, all of which are high-responsibility duties. Organizing interviews for new employees, checking the overall employees’ satisfaction levels, and managing everyone’s salaries are some of the many responsibilities on their shoulders. This is why it is necessary to aid them by providing them with different tools so that certain processes are sped up. Automating menial tasks will not only make things run faster but decrease the chances of an error occurring in any of the areas they are in charge of. This means they will be able to concentrate on the tasks of higher priority which will make them more efficient. With that in mind, here is a list of 5 essential technological tools for a productive HR department. 

Storing and organizing data

Employee-related data are the basis of any Human Resources Department’s operations so they must be treated with care. Gone are the days of endless dusty shelves of files containing crumbling papers with important information on the employees. If you have the latest software solutions at your disposal, why not use them? Storing and organizing numerous data, such as employee’ profiles, schedules, and attendance records can now be facilitated with the use of different comprehensive human resource management systems. They also allow quick accessing and revising and at the same time, the possibility of the appearance of human error is significantly decreased. 

Recruiting process aid

If you decided against recommendations and wanted to go expand the talent pool you are choosing employees from, then an online ad about an open position will most probably result in hundreds of applications regardless of the business’ size. Each of them has to go through the HR department which also has numerous other tasks on their hands so streamlining the recruitment process is essential for both an efficient search for the right candidate and proper HR operation. A practical recruitment software would offer the possibility to post job ads, sort and accept applications, as well as manage candidates without having to track anything manually which saves a lot of time. 

Communication with remote employees

If your small business’ goal is to expand the current talent pool, as mentioned, then you need to be open to hiring remote employees. However, it is sometimes challenging to make remote employees truly integrate into the team which means that HR has to be in regular contact with them so they are reminded that they are a part of that corporate culture. This is why a small business phone system which includes VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a perfect tool to stay in touch with the remote employees without worrying about the call costs. These systems often come with different options such as video chat, remote file sharing, interactive whiteboards and many other additions that facilitate communication and integration of remote employees. 

Payroll system organization

The payroll process is often a grey area between accounting and HR, so a strong structure is needed to avoid mistakes due to an unclear division of tasks. Another reason why a pristine payroll system is more than necessary is the importance of payroll itself – the employees might personally like or dislike the company they work for but the main reason they work for it is the salary. By applying automation tools to manage payroll, you will ensure that everything goes according to the payment schedule, regardless of whether some employees are meant to be paid on a monthly basis, while independent contractors might need a one-time payment. These tools are also essential when it comes to remote employees since their productivity and manner of payment might differ from the standardized office ones. 

Performance evaluation tools

Although your HR department might have an overall idea about the productivity of employees, it is impossible to know the details of every individual by heart. The best thing is that you don’t have to because, with the right solution, you can store previous performance evaluation results and access them when necessary. This would also prove useful because you would be able to track everyone’s progress, as well as to organize additional training if necessary or propose payroll upgrades and promotions. If all of that would have to be tracked manually, the risk of making a mistake or a wrong assessment increases drastically because the number of employees usually grows as the business expands. 

Conclusion 

Each business department has specific duties but it seems as though the HR department has the most versatile tasks of most departments which sometimes can be challenging to balance. With different technological solutions at the grasp of our hands, it would be impractical not to take advantage of them and apply them to facilitate many operations. 

Manually tracking employee performance progress can lead to unwanted complications in case of omissions, and not to mention the legal implications behind a serious error with the payroll process. These are just some of the processes that can be approached more systematically which would leave more space for HR department employees to concentrate on other tasks that need to be tended for personally or which are even more relevant.  

This post was written by Keith Coppersmith. Keith is a business and marketing expert who has experienced both the rise and fall of many businesses. He enjoys writing and providing insight of the marketing industry based on both practice and theory.

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3 Next-Level Management Tips to Create a Better Workplace in 2020

by Michael Haberman October 16, 2019

Tweet Today’s post is courtesy of SocialMonsters.org The only thing constant is change. Though some aspects of business success are built upon bedrock principles that were detailed decades ago, you can’t stop evolving. There are new business models. There is new technology. And there needs to be new management. No, we’re not talking about firing […]

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The USDOL finally gives us the updated Overtime Rule!

by Michael Haberman September 25, 2019

Tweet I am been saying it since 2016 that the US Department of Labor would be issuing new rules for who was to be paid overtime and who was not. Since the Obama administration’s attempt to update the overtime rules was killed in 2016 we have been waiting for the Trump Department of Labor to […]

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The Future of Payroll: 4 Trends to Watch: A Guest Post

by Michael Haberman September 24, 2019

Tweet Today’s blog post was written by Ashley Lipman. The way the world does business is constantly evolving. From production methods to administration procedures, technological advancements have changed the face of business exponentially in recent years. One of the areas that’s adapting to these changes is payroll. Payroll is a pain point for many business […]

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Cultural Fit be Damned! Hire the Whacko!: Revisited.

by Michael Haberman September 23, 2019

Tweet There is an article in the Wall Street Journal that says “employers should be aware of the dangers of hiring for cultural fit.” There are dangers of hiring everyone to fit into the culture. It makes the company homogeneous and that costs in creativity and innovation. Sometimes you have to ignore the fit and […]

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FAQ: Answers to HR’s Most Pressing Questions About Identity Theft Protection Benefits

by Michael Haberman September 20, 2019

Tweet This is reprinted with permission from AllClear ID. If you are thinking about adding employer-paid identity protection to your benefits package, you may have questions about the value such a benefit brings to both your employees and your business. As a benefits manager, you’re responsible for vetting an array of options to find benefits […]

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A Lesson in Safety Learned from Acts of Terror: Revisited

by Michael Haberman September 11, 2019

Tweet I am reposting this post which was originally posted on September 12 2011. Since today is another anniversary of the terror attack on New York I wanted to republish it. The safety lesson I learned  is still as relevant. Perhaps through this lesson learned you too will be able to save a life someday. […]

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