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Applying Robotic Process Automation to Human Resources

The concept of using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a tool to unlock additional value in your organization is a common topic of conferences, technology presentations, and HR publications. However, HR leaders are often left with more questions than answers around how HR departments can benefit from this technology. Can bots be used to execute people processes? Is the work in HR too sensitive for automation? How does human judgment come into play? The answer is that RPA can be used in HR, but processes should be carefully evaluated, and the focus should be on paper-oriented, repetitive tasks, allowing HR professionals to spend more time on people-facing strategic initiatives.

Key Details

  • RPA uses software to apply business rules to highly repetitive tasks. Think of it as a virtual worker that can eliminate or speed up manual processes by automating steps and working around the clock to accomplish the work. Many global companies benefit from a “follow-the-sun” strategy leveraging RPA tools to continuously execute transactions.
  • Business rules applied to the RPA bots ensure compliance, improve quality, and reduce errors as the work is consistently performed. If carefully planned and implemented, RPA can provide significant cost savings through optimizing process efficiencies. For high-volume processes, the addition of bots may allow for the elimination of some roles and provides scalability to replace expensive temporary/peak labor. The upfront investment in RPA is relatively low, providing an attractive option for many companies.
  • RPA can be applied to most any task that is rules-based. Good choices for automation include high-volume, error-prone tasks. Consider highly routine and time-consuming tasks across your HR functions, like data entry, applicant sourcing, resume screening, report generation, data audit and validation, and training activity management. RPA is frequently used in a shared services environment where transactional tasks are centralized.
  • Process improvement is an essential first step. Reviewing, simplifying, and updating processes for maximum efficiency should be performed before RPA implementation.
  • RPA systems, or bots, sit on top of existing HRIS and allow various systems to communicate with each other. RPA can be developed in-house or via an RPA vendor. Regardless of which route is chosen, organizations should ease into RPA by starting with small, well-defined processes.


RPA can result in significant labor savings, decreased processing time, and improved accuracy, leading to increased employee and customer satisfaction. HR employees can spend more time on value-added activities and building relationships, and their internal customers can benefit from quicker turnarounds with higher accuracy rates—a “win-win” for all. The use of RPA in HR is expected to increase as RPA capabilities become more sophisticated and the labor market becomes more competitive. Finally, understanding and utilizing RPA, while leveraging the benefits of quality and efficiency, will allow HR to better adjust its talent acquisition and talent management strategies.

Additional Resources

Society for Human Resource Management:

Digital Workforce:

This report is part of the Human Capital Management Minute series. To view all featured Minutes, please click here.

Additional Contributing Author: Stacie Sparks

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