HR Blog

The “H” Stands for Human

By Dee Yingst

Let’s not lose sight of the Human part of Human Resources

I’m a big fan of automating processes where appropriate. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

I recently read an article about a very large company who has automated virtually every function of human resources.

Virtually. Every. Function.

I read the article over and over with a growing sense of sadness. The company very proudly shares that “98% of everything’s going great” and I’m sure they’re very proud. However, isn’t the whole point of being in Human Resources is to deal with the human part of your business?

Chances are pretty good if an employee is coming to HR, it’s because something’s wrong. Maybe it’s minor and they just need to know where to find something like a paystub, or maybe it’s major and they need help understanding your benefits and leave policy. It’s rarely just stopping by to say hello (which is an occupational hazard and a conversation for another day). Should you automate stuff like needing a copy of paystub? Absolutely. How about collecting benefits enrollment information? Sure. But that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a human that the employee can talk to about those processes. Maybe the employee needs that paystub because their spouse just lost his/her job and they are applying for assistance. Maybe the employee has an illness that makes their health plan selection and leave timing critical to their financial situation. An online portal can provide the information, but only a person can look for the cues that maybe that employee needs a little more help than they’re asking for.

I’m not saying automation is bad, just that it should supplement or complement human interaction – not replace it.

As a matter of fact, I enjoy self-service and automation in many different areas of work and life, and readily acknowledge the importance of automating certain HR/benefits processes. Just not when it comes at the cost of dehumanizing Human Resources and the people we serve. Regardless of the skill or the will of the programmer, an automated system simply cannot respond in a way that not only demonstrates humanity, but acknowledges the other individual’s humanity.

An HRIS system or a chat bot can be programmed to ask “how are you?” but it can’t be programmed to listen to the answer.