What is HR Automation? Examples, Benefits and Challenges

May 22, 2024

Automation allows HR pros to streamline responsibilities and focus on strategy. Let’s examine how it works, along with the advantages and challenges.

Just when you cross one job off your list, there are two (or 12) more waiting. 

Managing payroll and benefits, recruitment, onboarding and offboarding, training and development, vacations and sick leave. . . It’s no surprise human resources teams get overwhelmed by the continuous cycle of administrative tasks required to keep a business running.  

Especially if you’re using manual processes. 

But that’s where HR automation comes in to save the day. It enables HR departments to streamline these core responsibilities and focus on strategic-level concerns like employee wellbeing.  

But how easy is it to implement an automated system — and is it worthwhile? 

Let’s look at the benefits and challenges of HR automation to help you decide. 

Key Takeaways

  • HR automation involves using digital systems to streamline HR processes, making tasks like payroll, benefits enrollment, recruitment, and performance management more efficient.
  • Automated HR systems enhance the employee experience by reducing tedious tasks and improving engagement through timely communication and updates.
  • To successfully implement HR automation, organizations should choose scalable and flexible tools, provide comprehensive training, and continuously gather feedback to optimize workflows.

What Is HR Automation?

Human resources automation is a method of using digital systems to fulfill HR processes and requirements. HR professionals can leverage software tools to streamline repetitive or time-consuming tasks, making the department operate more efficiently.

Just about every aspect of HR can be optimized with automation, including payroll, benefits enrollment, recruitment, training, and performance management. HR automation software also helps you manage essential administrative tasks like organizing employee records, handling tax forms and contracts, and maintaining compliance with government regulations.

Many modern software suites also allow you to set up automated workflows that trigger when a specific event happens. For example, when a new recruit is hired, the system automatically sends them an onboarding packet and registers them with a company device and login details.

Automation in HR is typically facilitated through an integrated technology platform on the cloud, sometimes referred to as software-as-a-service (SaaS). Companies license the functions they want to manage and automate and can customize workflows to meet their specific needs.

What Are the Benefits of HR Automation?

HR automation is a boon for business productivity and quality of life — not just for the HR team but for everyone in the company.

1. Boosts Efficiency

HR process automation increases efficiency and makes everyone more productive. An automated system handles basic tasks far more quickly than a human — for example, retrieving employee records or checking leave requests — and also reduces the risk of human error.

Automation can shorten your time to hire by posting multiple job ads, screening resumes, and tracking the interview process. Onboarding begins as soon as the offer letter is signed.

With more time, HR teams focus on tasks that only humans can handle, such as conflict management or building a positive workplace culture.

Keeping HR data online also minimizes the need for storage space and is more environmentally sustainable.

All this efficiency has a real impact on your business’ bottom line. HMC Hospitality, for example, saved 1,120 hours per year after implementing Paylocity’s automated HR platform — which added up to $100,000 in cost savings.

2. Enhances Employee Experience

Automation means less stress for HR teams and employees. Again, it’s about saving time on tedious processes.

For example, instead of filling out expense forms, workers simply photograph their receipts in an app. The system does the rest (which means they don’t have to wait weeks for reimbursement).

An employee self-service portal enables employees to view their salary information, keep track of benefits, and request time off — often from any of their devices — without needing to involve HR. This empowerment is great for employee satisfaction and engagement.

Prospective talent is more engaged as well when HR automation is integrated into the recruiting process via scheduled check-ins and application updates. In a competitive job market, it’s important to keep candidates’ interest and let them know their time is valued.

3. Enables Data-Driven Decisions

An automated HR system quickly collects and analyzes a vast amount of data, which you may use to make smarter business decisions. Most platforms include robust reporting so you can easily track expense claims, see which employee benefits are most used, and identify issues with punctuality and attendance.

Analytics tools further evaluate the success of your hiring process, staff turnover rate, and feedback on the employee experience. A business uses these insights to see what’s working, and a talent strategy is then adapted as needed.

4. Improves Transparency

An increased level of transparency not only keeps employees informed, it keeps them engaged — another key reason to automate HR processes.

Automation makes it easier to create and communicate consistent HR practices throughout the business, which helps employees better understand your company’s policies and culture. When you give employees more visibility and autonomy, you build trust.

5. Ensures Security and Compliance

One of the most critical ways HR automation benefits organizations is by preventing security and compliance issues. From employment eligibility verification to tax withholdings to document collection and storage, automation helps protect employee privacy and keep regulatory details from slipping through the cracks.

Maintaining compliance is a company-wide responsibility. With an integrated HR software system, you can also automatically assign employee training to keep everyone up to date on policies and safety guidelines.

6. Reduces Waste

Traditional HR practices rely on reams of paper, which requires secure filing and storage. However, automating HR processes through digital solutions eliminates much of this paperwork.

With just a few clicks, you can access all HR functions and securely store data. This not only results in considerable cost savings but also supports a company’s reputation as environmentally responsible.

Challenges in Automating HR Processes

While automation streamlines an array of HR processes saving both time and costs, it may take some additional convincing to get buy-in across the organization. Change is often challenging, and you can expect a few bumps along the automation journey.

1. Computers Aren’t Personal

That’s true. Human resource management will always need human input. No matter how proactive and predictive the technology is, it lacks empathy and interpersonal communication skills.

Nevertheless, your staff might still fear for their jobs when “the robots” take over, while others may resist switching to automation because they’re familiar with manual processes.

2. “How Do We Use It?”

Automation is only effective if everyone knows how to use the tools, so you’ll need to invest time in staff training.

Good HR automation software is intuitive and usually includes a variety of customizable features which require specific configuration for your business.

Your IT team should participate in the early planning stages to ensure the system works with your existing infrastructure and meets all technical requirements.

3. ROI Is Hard to Calculate

HR teams who want to introduce automated tools might also face resistance from the C-suite, especially if the budget is tight. You can demonstrate the business need for automation in numbers, but it's difficult to quantify things like employee experience.

Looking at case studies from similar companies can give you an idea about how much time automation has saved other HR teams. Similarly, you can quantify anticipated cost-savings from reduced turnover rates, an indication of improved employee engagement.

4. Is It Safe?

Automated HR systems collect a lot of data, and documentation must be retained for compliance auditing and reporting. Since much of this data is confidential, your employees might have concerns about how it’s stored and used. You must show that your data governance policy (and the technology supporting it) is ethical, secure, and compliant.

When deciding on automation software, vet the service provider’s data security protocols. For example, Paylocity’s security framework relies on role-based access controls, with additional security measures such as IP restrictions and multi-factor authentication available. Read more about how we protect our client’s data here.

HR Automation Examples

Automated HR software comes with plenty of features for streamlining your essential processes. Although the functionality will differ depending on the solution you choose, here are some of the ways you can use HR automation tools to your advantage.


With automated payroll software and benefits administration, you can improve paycheck accuracy by eliminating manual entry. The software will pull in relevant employee information and calculate everything automatically, including taxes. Solutions like Paylocity even add reimbursements directly to paychecks.

Employee Self-Service

As we mentioned, an employee self-service portal allows workers to clock in and out, submit time-off requests, view upcoming pay schedules, and access their own records. Everyone can use pay and benefits calculators to understand what they’re entitled to, keep track of pending requests, and update personal data.

Workforce Management

For the HR team, time and labor software is incredibly useful. Instead of handling manual timesheets, you can instantly see who’s working and when, calculate and approve vacation days, and respond to requests. Shift scheduling and overtime management become simpler.

Talent Management

HR automation solutions may also include a talent management system to track, measure, and analyze employee performance. You can automatically schedule annual reviews, set goals, and track progress toward them. And you’ll have the necessary data to determine raises, bonuses, or disciplinary action.

Performance tools help you track skills, see who needs extra training, and monitor learning. Plus, you can easily monitor workforce satisfaction and identify problems like lack of engagement—giving you chance to address the issue before an employee quits.

Recruiting, Onboarding, and Offboarding

Your HR automation system should also include recruitment tools, which can streamline repetitive tasks from posting job ads to running background checks.

An applicant tracking system collects data and automates communication during the hiring process to help keep promising candidates warm.

Onboarding tools can deliver training and make sure new hires have the logins and equipment they need to get started. Automating the offboarding process will schedule exit interviews, collect feedback, and remove system access.

Data Insights

Automated HR systems usually incorporate analytics and reporting software for easy data collection and visualization. The software can automatically capture pertinent information related to your workforce, including demographic data, headcount, labor costs and more.

You can then use these HR metrics to build data-driven strategies and track the impact of your initiatives.

Document Collection

Automation software can set up workflows that automatically request, collect, and organize essential documents from employees, like driver’s licenses, certifications, and signed employee handbook policies. 

These systems can send automated reminders for missing or expiring documents, ensuring compliance and reducing manual follow-ups. This is particularly beneficial for regulatory requirements, as automated systems can easily generate reports and audit trails.  

Benefit Updates

HR teams can set up automated workflows that update employee benefits based on predefined triggers, such as life events (e.g., marriage, birth of a child) or changes in employment status (e.g., promotion, termination). 

Automated notifications can inform employees of any changes to their benefits, while the system simultaneously updates payroll deductions and compliance records. 

This automation reduces the administrative burden on HR, minimizes the risk of errors, and ensures that benefit information is always current and accurate. 

Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement is a dynamic metric that can be challenging to measure, making regular check-ins and surveys essential for maintaining an up-to-date view of your workforce's engagement levels. Fortunately, HR pros can automate these frequent touchpoints.

Sophisticated HCM solutions can put pulse surveys on auto-pilot and time them to crucial points in the employee journey, such as right after new-hire orientation, upon completing required training, or on a hiring anniversary.  

The best software takes it a step further, automatically compiling and presenting insights in a dashboard format. This ensures HR always has a real-time understanding of employee sentiment.

4 HR Automation Best Practices

Ready to take the leap and swap manual processes for HR automation? Before you get started, here are a few tips on how to get it right.

1. Figure Out What Needs Fixing

It might be tempting to implement new software immediately, but you need a plan first. What do you want to achieve with automation? Which processes would benefit most? 

Make a list of HR workflows that are particularly tedious or error-prone and prioritize them based on their impact on business outcomes.

Adopting automation tools is a big change for your organization! It makes sense to roll it out in bite-sized stages (which you can do easily with a modular solution like Paylocity).

2. Choose the Best Tools

There are plenty of HR automation tools on the market, so do some research and find a solution that suits your business. Check that it has all the features you need right now and that it’s scalable enough to meet future demands. Flexibility is also important, such as the ability to create custom HRIS integrations with existing tools.

Look for software that allows employees and HR teams to access data from anywhere. Pay attention to security and customer support offerings.

Of course, your budget is a big consideration. An all-in-one platform like Paylocity gives you custom pricing plans and the option to add as many features as you need.

3. Provide Full Training

Once you’ve decided to go for HR automation, ensure everyone knows the upcoming changes and when they’ll happen. Assess the abilities of your workforce — some may already be comfortable with digital tools and automation, while others will need more intensive training.

Everyone must be confident in using the new tools. Otherwise, you won’t see the improved time efficiency you were expecting. Keep the lines of communication open to explain and support employees at all comfort and experience levels during the transition so that they may leverage the tools to their advantage.

4. Get Feedback on How It’s Going

Choosing a client-first solution like Paylocity makes the transition easier, but you’ll still need to check that newly automated processes are running smoothly. 

Monitor how your employees respond to the tech. Are they using the automated expense claim tool, for instance, or still submitting paper receipts?

Measure key HR metrics like time to hire or 401(k) enrollment to see if automation is having the desired effect. Make sure you collect plenty of feedback and tweak the workflows if necessary.

Reinforce Your HR Automation Process with Paylocity

With more and more companies recognizing the benefits of automation, the global HR technology market is expected to hit $76.5 billion by 2031.

Don’t get left behind — make the transition now to ensure your HR team keeps up to date (and doesn’t get buried in a ton of paperwork).

Paylocity’s HR & Payroll solution can help you streamline and automate at every stage of the employee lifecycle.

  • Use templates or create customized Workflows for common tasks, like offboarding, position changes, rate changes, skill and certification collection, life event change tasks, and more.
  • Use the Learning Management System to set training to recur at a certain frequency, and bulk assign state-required compliance courses, Paylocity product trainings, or your own custom courses.
  • Employee Voice automates sending pulse and engagement surveys based on the key employee journey milestones that are already in Paylocity.

Learn more about how Paylocity helps you automate your HR tasks. Request a demo today! 


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