Process-heavy departments like human resources (HR) will see a long-lasting and positive impact by implementing workflow automation. Advances in automation empower businesses of all sizes to move their work forward.

Automation simplifies complex processes and makes them less prone to errors, freeing time for employees to focus on their most important tasks. Understanding how to implement and optimize is the first step in HR process improvement. Learn the ins and outs of HR workflow, the advantages of each, and some challenges you may meet.

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What is HR Workflow Management?

Human resource professionals have challenging jobs that can be very time-consuming. The purpose of having an HR department in a company is to ensure that employees are productive while taking care of compensation and benefits, recruitment, policy updates, employee record maintenance, managing employees, and ensuring compliance with laws and regulations.

Many organizations use a manual (often paper-based) approach to managing their HR processes and tasks. This means any approval or request must go through several hands before completion.

HR workflow management is the process of identifying HR workflows and automating repetitive tasks to boost productivity and efficiency.

Each task has a place and sequence in which each item should be completed. Developing an HR workflow management system can identify opportunities to reduce unnecessary work and streamline the department’s daily responsibilities. Workflows connect tasks in repetitive processes, including anything related to employment, recordkeeping, and logistics.

What is HR Workflow Automation?

HR workflow automation takes the identified HR processes and leverages software to automate repetitive and time-intensive tasks. Once handled manually, data collection, approvals, and requests will be effortlessly executed through automated workflows. For instance, a PTO request system allows employees to submit requests and receive approvals. The software automatically triggers status changes and sends email approval requests and notifications to those involved, making the process much easier and less time-consuming.

Businesses of all sizes are adopting automated HR automation software, which is not surprising given the excellent statistics that support it. According to Workato, the growth of HR automations on their platform had increased by 235% throughout 2021, and a 2024 article from Kissflow note that 25% of organizations report using HR automation, mainly for recruitment and hiring tasks.

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What Are Some Use Cases for HR Workflow Automation?

While businesses may enhance many HR processes through automation, certain areas benefit more due to their repetitive nature, volume of data, or compliance requirements. Automation in these areas can substantially improve accuracy and employee satisfaction. Here are some HR workflow use cases that benefit the most from automation:

  • Recruitment and hiring: Automation tools can streamline recruitment, from posting job openings on various platforms to filtering applications based on predefined criteria. They can also automate communication with candidates, schedule interviews, and gather interviewer feedback, saving time and improving the candidate’s experience.

  • Onboarding and offboarding: Automating the onboarding process ensures that new hires enter the organization smoothly and efficiently, with tasks like document submission, scheduling training, and equipment allocation. Similarly, offboarding can be streamlined to ensure that exit procedures, such as retrieving company assets and finalizing paperwork, are completed systematically.

  • Leave management: Manually managing paid time off (PTO) requests can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Automation allows employees to submit requests online, with workflows for approval and automatic updates to leave balances. This improves transparency and reduces administrative workload.

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  • Payroll: Payroll is a complex process that involves repeating tasks. Automated systems can accurately calculate payments, deductions, and taxes, generate pay slips, and process prompt payments. Automation reduces errors and ensures compliance with tax laws and regulations.

  • Performance management: Automating the performance review process can help set regular check-ins, collect feedback, and evaluate employee performance against set goals. This ensures a fair and consistent process, helps find training needs, and contributes to career development plans.

  • Benefits administration: Automation simplifies the management of employee benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and wellness programs. Employees can select or change benefits through self-service portals, reducing paperwork and administrative tasks for HR.

  • Compliance: Automated HR systems can help check changes in employment law, generate required reports, and ensure that company policies follow local and federal regulations. This reduces the risk of non-compliance and the associated penalties.

By automating these processes, HR departments can increase their operational efficiency and focus more on strategic initiatives, such as talent development and employee engagement, that contribute to the organization’s success.

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What Are the Benefits of HR Workflow Automation?

Adopting automated HR workflows is becoming the norm across all industries.

Since HR is usually document-driven, it can take ages to complete and sort through paperwork when done manually. Humans aren’t robots, leading to issues in the long run. Moreover, HR processes usually require employees to physically come to the office to submit and sign paperwork, which is becoming redundant.

We live in an age of digital commodities, so why not take advantage of all the perks that come with it? HR automation is particularly advantageous in today’s world, where remote work is becoming more popular than ever. It helps to streamline onboarding and other processes. Here are just a few examples of the benefits associated with this technology:

  • Increased efficiency: Automation reduces the time spent on repetitive tasks, allowing HR professionals to focus on more strategic and social aspects of their role, such as talent management and employee engagement.

  • Improved accuracy: Automated workflows minimize human data entry and processing errors.

  • Standardized compliance: By incorporating changes in laws and regulations into HR processes, they also help ensure compliance with legal requirements.

  • Enhanced employee experience: Self-service options for employees to manage their personal information, benefits, and leave requests enhance the overall employee experience. Automated onboarding processes also help new hires feel welcomed and well-informed.

  • Scalability: Automated HR processes scale with the organization’s growth, supporting the management of a larger workforce without a proportional increase in HR staff.

  • Cost savings: HR workflow automation can lead to significant cost savings over time by reducing the need for manual processing and lowering the risk of compliance penalties.

What Are the Challenges of Implementing HR Workflow Automation?

Like any business adopting modern technology, you may face challenges when adopting HR workflow automation. Awareness of these challenges prepares you for the adoption process. Find software that meets your needs.

Some challenges you may run into include:

  • Implementation cost: The first cost of buying and implementing HR automation software can be high, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. Cloud tools will often mitigate these costs.

  • Data security and privacy: Automating HR processes involves handling sensitive employee data digitally, raising concerns about data security and privacy. Organizations must ensure their systems are secure and compliant with data protection laws.

  • Vendor lock-in: Over-reliance on automated systems can lead to vulnerabilities if they go down. Regular maintenance and contingency plans are crucial.

  • Training: Employees, including HR staff, may require training in effectively using new automation tools. The organization must invest in training and support to ensure smooth adaptation.

  • Integration with existing infrastructure: Integrating new automation solutions with existing HR and organizational systems can be complex. Seamless integration is critical to maximizing benefits and ensuring cohesive operations.

What Should You Look For in an HR Workflow Automation Solution?

Choosing the right HR workflow automation solution is critical for achieving efficiency, improving employee experiences, and ensuring compliance. Here are key factors businesses should consider when evaluating HR workflow automation solutions:

  • Integration capabilities: Look for a solution that seamlessly integrates with your existing HR systems (HRIS, payroll, and recruitment platforms) and other business tools (such as ERP systems). Integration ensures smooth data flow and minimizes errors by reducing the need for manual data entry.

  • Customization and flexibility: Customize workflows to match your specific HR processes and needs. The solution should offer flexibility to adapt to your organization’s changing requirements, allowing you to modify workflows as your business evolves.

  • Focus on user experience: A user-friendly interface for HR staff and employees ensures higher adoption rates and satisfaction. The solution should be intuitive and require minimal training for users to perform their tasks efficiently.

  • Scalability: Choose a solution that can scale your business. It should be able to handle an increasing number of employees and workflows without significant additional costs or performance decreases.

  • Compliance management: The solution should help maintain compliance with relevant HR laws and regulations, providing features like automated updates to compliance requirements, audit trails, and secure document management to protect sensitive employee data.

  • Data security and privacy: Given the sensitivity of HR data, robust security features are non-negotiable. To protect employee information, look for solutions that offer encryption, access controls, and data privacy measures.

  • Analytics and reporting: Effective HR workflow automation solutions should provide analytics and reporting capabilities. These capabilities enable you to gain insights into HR processes, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven decisions to improve efficiency and employee satisfaction.

  • Accessibility: Remote work is becoming more prevalent, and on-the-go access is essential. Employees and HR personnel should be able to access the system and complete tasks from anywhere, at any time.

  • Cost effectiveness: Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including setup, subscription fees, customization, and support costs. The solution should offer clear value for money and a positive return on investment.

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Form Automation Software: A Cornerstone of HR Workflows

Paper clogs otherwise efficient workflows and hinders digital modernization. Digital forms enhance employee experience and support powerful automation. Yet, many HR departments use paper forms for HR tasks (like the startling statistic from the Academy to Innovate HR showing that 38% of HR departments still use paper time tracking forms).

Online form solutions play a crucial role in HR workflow management by digitizing and streamlining the various daily forms and documents that HR departments handle.

Bringing paper forms online provides unique solutions for complex human resource problems:

  • Recruitment is no longer in the classified section of the newspaper. Recruiters need to show up where job hunters are–online. Online forms allow interested candidates to fill out applications without waiting for a paper to be mailed or a PDF to be emailed.

  • Remote or hybrid employees are commonplace. Regardless of their work location or hours, online forms allow employees to provide feedback or request benefits when convenient.

  • Looking to automate employee management more effectively? Forget losing essential emails or Slack messages! With automated workflows, requests are automatically assigned to managers for approval.

Automate Your HR Processes With Cognito Forms

With HR workflow automation, you can increase productivity and employee satisfaction while saving time and money. Cognito Forms is a no-code platform that empowers you to build HR automations for your unique workflows and data collection needs.

Getting started is easy with one of our customizable HR templates. Streamline your hiring workflows, automate employee onboarding, increase employee engagement, and simplify performance evaluations with Cognito Forms.

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Jamie T.

Jamie T.

Jamie is co-founder of Cognito Forms, an online form builder for organizations seeking to quickly and easily connect with their customers. In his free time, Jamie loves spending time with his wonderful wife and kids, training for triathlons, camping with boy scouts, singing in the choir, and trying out the latest gadgets.