Automating HR functions can help drive productivity and retention

Panelists Rachel Lyubovitzky, co-founder and CEO of EverythingBenefits, Matthew Sydney, CEO of Picwell and Kara Schuff, HR manager at GE Health.

Technology is changing the benefits space rapidly, and implementing and choosing the right automation solutions can be a challenge for HR professionals.

The best place to start is understanding what employees need and want and how to deliver it to them, according to experts gathered at last Wednesday’s “How Automation Will Make HR More Humane” panel hosted by EverythingBenefits in New York City.

“It's very important to understand the voice of the consumer, whether you're trying to answer your questions or enrolling people and benefits,” said Tatiana Goldberg, change management lead at Unilever.

In the process of automating HR functions, companies should ask themselves questions like, “Would you like to talk to a machine? Or would you like to talk to a human?” Goldberg said.

“When I need advice, I want to talk to a human, but when I need an answer at 11 p.m. at night, I’d rather talk to the machine and not wait until tomorrow,” she said.

Providing employees with tools that will help them understand and choose benefits for retirement and healthcare is another crucial mission for HR, said Matthew Sydney, CEO of Picwell, adding that many employees, especially those coming out of college, don't understand the difference.

“They don't think about their 401(k) separately from their HSA, and while they know they’re different products, they're not sure how to make those decisions,” he said. “An automation tool can provide support to all aspects of the business, regardless of whether it’s about retirement or recruiting.”

See also: How employers can use automation, technology to boost engagement

By integrating automation into companies, HR organizations can be liberated from mundane, error-prone manual tasks and granted the opportunity to focus on more strategic initiatives, like helping employees engage in more meaningful ways.

"Anything you can do to simplify and automate tasks that are low value and repetitive, like filling out a piece of paper, will free up the power of HR to do something else," Goldberg said. “There's so much space for automation to play a bigger role in making the employee experience better.”

Technology can also help provide employers with data of which benefits employees use and don’t use. This data allows HR to analyze their workforce and discover information gaps they need to educate employees on.

“Automation can help HR understand the employees’ engagement with benefits, who's utilizing them and who's enrolling,” said Rachel Lyubovitzky, co-founder and CEO of EverythingBenefits. “Benefits are the biggest cost for companies after payroll, so you need to understand if it’s driving positive retention and engagement.”

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