The power of data-driven automation is transforming many industries, including HR. But is automation the hope of HR – or its demise?

For businesses looking to enhance their effectiveness and reduce cost, automation seems like a godsend. Automation has already advanced many other elements of business operations, such as customer service, finance, marketing, and IT.

It’s not surprising that it is now being adopted by HR.

The business world is more competitive than ever, and HR departments are looking for every advantage they can get. Automation offers the potential to dramatically improve their quality of hiring, reduce cost per hire (and in turn reduce time-to-hire), and improve overall performance.

However, will an increase in automation mean that companies lose touch with the human element of their HR practices?

To make this decision, we have to look at the benefits and disadvantages of each option. The question is: can companies achieve these goals without losing touch with the people side of business?

What is Automation?

First, let’s take a closer look at what automation is.

In an HR context, automation can be defined as using technological processes that replace or enhance human performance to complete a task.

The actual technology used can vary from simple software solutions to more complex machines and artificial intelligence. This could include anything from applicant tracking software (to help with the interview process) to a virtual assistant analyzing data and responding accordingly.

In an HR context, automation will most likely take the form of software solutions – at least for now. But as technology advances, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that companies could start using augmented reality or even robotics in their hiring practices.

The goal of automation is always to make things faster, cheaper, and better.

Why Now?

So why are companies adopting automation now? There are several reasons for this leap.

For one thing, technology has advanced tremendously over the past few decades. It’s easier to find quality software solutions that can help businesses manage their HR processes more effectively.

Secondly, the cost of technology has dropped – making it more accessible for companies to purchase and implement at scale.

Another reason is that businesses are becoming increasingly globalized, creating challenges in their HR practices that need to be solved. For example, maybe they want to hire someone who can speak multiple languages or understand different cultures.

Finally, we can’t underestimate the power of increasing competition. Businesses are feeling more and more pressure to improve their processes in order to find and keep the best talent.

Benefits of Automation?

The benefits of automation seem pretty straightforward: faster hiring with higher quality hires.

Faster Hiring Process:

The average time-to-hire has been steadily increasing for years, and this trend does not seem to be slowing down. Automation gives companies the power to cut down on some of their hiring processes’ most time-consuming elements, which will ultimately increase their speed.

Quality Hires:

Many human resources experts believe that automation won’t just reduce time-to-hire but also raise the bar for quality. A well-designed automation system can help employers better understand what they’re looking for in a candidate and pinpoint those applicants who are the best fit.

Risk Reduction:

There’s also a risk factor to consider. To ensure that they find the best possible talent, many companies have started hiring outside consultants to deal with their applicant screening. These consultants find great candidates, but they come at a price – and can be more expensive than the new employee’s salary.

With an effective automation system in place, companies can screen candidates independently without hiring expensive consultants or other third parties. This will help them save money while still hiring top talent.

But while many experts agree that automation will eventually transform the HR process, some believe it’ll do more harm than good.

What Automation Can’t Offer HR

An essential aspect of human resources is humanity itself. It’s the human element that implements change, makes decisions, and builds consensus.

Automation can do what it’s programmed to achieve, but it cannot keep up with the flexibility of human thought. This is especially important when plans go awry, or business culture needs to adapt quickly for greater efficiency.

Many people who are wary of automation in HR fear it will take over the profession and automate humans out of a job. It’s true, many tasks that people previously did can be automated – but it doesn’t mean people should stop doing them.

Although specific functions in HR might be automated, human judgment is still required to integrate these technologies into an organization’s culture. They need to understand how the technology works and identify the processes that do not warrant automation.

10 Human HR Elements That Automation Can’t Match

1. Onboarding

While you can automate some aspects of new hire orientation, certain tasks need a human touch. This includes activities such as cultural integration and identifying learning opportunities.

New hires want to know that a living, breathing person is looking out for them. Even in the age of automation, this helps build company loyalty and teamwork.

2. Rewards & Benefits

While you can set up an online rewards portal, human interaction is needed when it comes to benefits education.

Education does not stop after orientation; employees still need guidance when selecting plans and navigating through deadlines. People value their benefits and require personalized service as they make choices throughout the year.

3. Performance Management

It’s true that you can set up automated performance reviews, but is this what employees want/need? A review is a time to discuss successes and opportunities for improvement – both of which require human empathy and attentiveness.

4. Training & Development

While technology makes it easier for employers to find training resources, employees still need guidance in learning new skills. Managers are best equipped to assess where they stand and provide the right tools for development. Technology is not a replacement for this kind of guidance.

5. Recruitment

Recruiters help screen candidates, looking for the best fit. Automated evaluation is often impersonal and does not take into account intangible human qualities that can’t be measured by technology. It also risks missing out on talented individuals whose skills do not perfectly align with the requirements of a position.

6. Collaboration

The most successful organizations are those that can work together with other teams and businesses to achieve a common objective. These “alliances” don’t happen by themselves – people spend time building relationships and formulating strategies that accommodate the needs of all parties.

7. Strategic Planning

If an automated process becomes too cumbersome or isn’t accomplishing its goals, company leadership has to step in and alter the plan accordingly. The team has to constantly monitor processes and implement changes as needed. While automation can help people perform their jobs, it doesn’t help them formulate strategies and goals.

8. Judgment

One of the biggest challenges for organizations is identifying whether or not to automate a given process or task – especially when it comes to organizational structure. People are good at making these kinds of decisions because they understand the culture and dynamics of their company.

9. Leadership

No matter how advanced our technology is, it will never be able to fill the void of human leadership. Businesses need people who can think creatively, take risks, and lead by example – not by an algorithm. The power of leaders to delegate, encourage, and affirm employees cannot be automated.

10. Change Management

This is one area where technology has a long way to go before it becomes as effective as people at implementing change. People know what motivates their team and how to utilize resources effectively – whereas automated processes are not always efficient in these areas.

The Need for Human-Centric HR

When it comes to the future of HR, organizations need leaders who can think critically and manage both people and technology. It is not about choosing one over the other; instead, they must work together in order to create a human-centric experience that employees will value.

Will automation continue to become a normalized part of our work culture? Absolutely. The benefits of automation and digital transformation simply cannot be ignored.

However, the need for people to interact with each other and provide value to the business will never change. With the proper balance of technology and human expertise, organizations can create efficient business models that improve people’s lives.

Balance Your HR with The Gift Club

So how can your business take advantage of the promise of automation while still retaining a human element? At The Gift Club, we are helping business leaders and entrepreneurs navigate the new HR landscape.

Through our network of experts, we are able to provide resources and solution providers to help companies looking to implement and enhance their operations to bring value and purpose to their most valuable asset – their people.

Do you have thoughts or experiences to share? Send us an email at to help us continue providing wisdom and guidance to the business community through this time of data-driven change!