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3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Automate HR (and Why You Should)

Human Resources

If you work in Human Resources for a school system, you know how rewarding the job can be. But you also know how unbelievably busy it can be, too. There’s so much to be done, and not enough time to get to everything.

That’s why a lot of school districts turn to technology to ease the burden. It makes sense — many of the more transactional HR processes that take up so much time can be automated with the right software. But the right choice, done for the wrong reasons, can lead to disappointment. To get the greatest benefit, you need to be sure you’re implementing new technologies for the right reasons.

Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t automate your HR processes — and three reasons why you should.

1. Don’t take the “Human” out of “Human Resources.”

Instead, automate your processes to free up time to build real relationships.

Ever feel like HR is really just a never-ending assembly line of paperwork?

The thing is, your job is about more than just paperwork — it’s about supporting the staff members making a difference in students’ lives every day. It’s about helping others and being human.

But it’s really difficult to connect with staff and build a strong rapport when you’re snowed under with administrative tasks, or constantly stressed about what needs to be done. Quality relationships aren’t forged through constant phone calls asking, “Have you received that form yet? Can you sign it and get it back to me ASAP?”

This is where human resource management software can help. When you take away all of the transactional administrative work that demands so much of your time, you can focus on connecting with district employees. You can (and should) automate repetitive tasks, but you can never automate the human element of HR.

After all, you’re helping people at the best parts of their lives — when they get married, or when they have a baby. You might not be physically there at that very moment, but you share in their excitement when they reach out to you with questions about adding a new dependent or taking time off to bond with their newborn. But you’re also there for the most difficult parts of their lives, when they’re dealing with a critical illness or a loss in the family. At those times, it’s more important than ever that they see you as a helpful resource, and don’t feel like they’re imposing on your time. They need to know that they can trust you with that information, and that your response is genuine.

And that’s really what HR is about: being fully present for those moments and focusing 100% of your energy on supporting employees when they need you. You can’t automate that support — but automation can make time for you to provide it.

1. Don’t automate based only on HR’s needs.

Instead, use technology to improve the experience for everyone.

The desire to save time in the central office is one of the main reasons why district leaders decide to look into school administrative software.

Of course, it’s important to choose a system that works effortlessly for the administrator who will be using it most, but be mindful of other users’ experiences, too. Applicants, employees, substitutes — these are people who will interact with the software, even if they don’t manage it. Their experience matters, too. So, when choosing a system, make sure to think of the big picture — how will this technology work for others? Will it help foster collaboration and transparency, or will it contribute to building walls?

For example, let’s say your team spends far too long collecting, reviewing, copying and sorting through resumes. When you start looking at applicant tracking software, you want to find a system that makes all of those manual processes much simpler — digital applications are received, automatically filed online and readily accessible for easy review. The HR team saves hours. That’s a success, right?

Not quite. What if applicants are frustrated when they try to upload the resume, or receive constant error messages throughout the process? What if a candidate applies for multiple positions in the district — are they forced to fill out the same basic information over and over? Do their contacts receive multiple reference requests? Or, what if principals can’t find or access candidate information in the system, and the HR team still has to manually send hiring managers the information they need?

When software only works for one person in the district, it can create even more work in the long run — the opposite of what you were trying to do in the first place. So, make sure that you’re thinking of how the system will work for everyone across the district.

2. Don’t focus only on making processes faster.

Instead, use automation as an opportunity to be more strategic.

You’re probably familiar with a famous quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” It turns out that Ford never said anything about faster horses, but it’s still a good lesson on innovation.

When you decide to automate repetitive work, be open to tweaking the process. The way it’s always been done in the district may not be the best way, and if you’re set on “building a faster horse” you could miss out on even more efficiency.

Look at automation as an opportunity to rethink the way things are done. An experienced implementation consultant is an invaluable asset here — especially if they focus exclusively in K-12 and can offer insight into what other districts like yours have done. Ask yourself if there are redundant or unnecessary steps in the process. Is there a way to ensure that records are more standardized or streamlined? And once the software is in place, what will you do with the data collected?

That last question is a good one to spend some time thinking over. It’s nearly impossible to report on paper records. But in an online system, where all the tedious work is done for you, you gain visibility into district trends — and the time to act on them more strategically. Plus, if the system has built-in dashboards and benchmarking, you gain the context you need to think bigger.

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So, there you have it: a guide to automating (or not automating) so you can successfully move toward more modern Human Resources. When it comes down to it, you should automate your HR processes if:

  • You want Human Resources to be more human.
  • You’re open to improving processes — for everyone.
  • You want insight into what you could be doing better.

Annie GrunwellAnnie Buttner

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the K-12 staffing shortage, and best practices in human capital management.