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Study finds pandemic led to sharp increase in HR automation

Automation can save time and money.

Daniel Richardson

Technology and Automation in HR
Credit: @lira_n4 via Twenty20

Unleash Your PotentialBut how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the practice?

  • A study by Workato has shown the rising importance of automation during the pandemic.
  • The research found that data-pipeline automation surged by 152%, while recruitment saw the highest automation growth with an increase of 547%.
  • Is automation a solution to these uncertain times?

Automation delivers the promise of simplifying tasks and reducing the manpower behind a task. However, it’s not always clear what impact it has and how widely it has been adopted by HR teams/organizations.

Californian automation software company Workato has shown that companies are rapidly introducing automated elements into their practices and there are tangible benefits for adopters. The company has done this by collecting data from 698 medium to large enterprises, based around the globe, as part of the first-ever annual W*rk Automation Index 2021.

The index collected data from April 2019 to March 2020, and once again from April 2020 to March 2021. This was done in an effort to track changes in how software is used and show how the pandemic had impacted workflow.

Automation Growth

Workato’s study found that recruitment automation had the largest increase of use over the last year with it being used 547% more.

This was followed by greater automation in HR services and support as well as learning and development; these areas saw 257% and 242% growth respectively. Payroll processing saw the smallest growth in terms of automation with 111%.

Despite the growth in automated recruitment, it is worth noting that the practice only makes up 6% of automation in the HR area. The dominant area remains onboarding and offboarding, which make up 34.5% of all automated processes.

The index also found that the most popular applications for streamlining processes were Workday, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Okta, ServiceNow, and Active Directory.

On the back of these findings, the index noted: “We also found that chat products like Slack and Microsoft Teams are increasingly used for automated workflows that involve human activity (e.g., approvals, escalations, notifications).”

These findings illustrate the importance of automation in the modern workplace, particularly as employees have worked from home.

A solution to uncertain times

Carter Busse, CIO at Workato, concluded that this data shows that “enterprise automation experienced a rapid surge in adoption this past year — no surprise, as business leaders closely examined where they could be more efficient in their operations and support remote teams amid a global pandemic.”

Busse continued: “Automation was a key driver in departments we anticipated like IT and finance, but also provided increased capabilities in areas we didn’t expect, such as recruitment and customer success.

“From boosting employee productivity to creating better customer experiences, automation freed businesses and teams to focus on the priorities that mattered most at an incredibly uncertain time in the market.”

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