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Document automation: Facilitating evolution of HR and transition to hybrid working

Glyn King, Managing Director - Datagraphic

Working in HR and payroll is complex and demanding, and as technology and employee expectations evolve, so too does the task list. The automation of manual tasks – such and the production and distribution of payslips and other employee documents – can help HR and payroll professionals to work more efficiently, and can be implemented without disruption to current processes.

And as workforces become more dispersed, with many employees no longer based in a central office full-time, organisations face the new challenge of engaging with their staff and ensuring they’re able to access their pay information wherever they are, in a safe and secure way.

Historically, pay-related documents have been manually produced, printed and distributed via internal or external mail. But as the adoption of digital technology increases, organisations have started to move away from the more traditional paper-based model and towards one of digital transformation and document automation.

Glyn King, Managing Director of leading UK provider of secure end-to-end document automation solutions, Datagraphic, explains the reasons behind the shift which is helping the profession to evolve and adapt to the growing trend of hybrid working and offers advice to organisations who are planning to digitally transform.

What is document automation?
Document automation is the process whereby technology is used to automate document production and distribution. Robotic process automation (RPA) software is programmed to use structured data and rules to complete routine tasks.  It is most suitable for processes that are repetitive, time-critical, prone to human error and rules-based, and so is ideal for the production and distribution of HR and payroll documents.

There are third-party suppliers who provide Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) document automation solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing HR and payroll systems and can be live in weeks without expensive, disruptive and lengthy change projects, delivering return on investment in months rather than years.

Benefits of document automation
The benefits of document automation to the HR departments of private and public sector organisations are diverse and significant.

According to Datagraphic’s analysis of Epay, its secure online portal for the automation of payroll and wider HR document production and distribution, RPA can reduce the amount of time that staff need to spend on repetitive administrative tasks by up to 98%, allowing them to focus on more strategic and rewarding aspects of their roles.

By allowing HR and in particular payroll personnel to concentrate on higher value tasks – such as analysing employee data to provide insight into other areas of the organisation such as finance and improving employee wellbeing experience – document automation is helping the profession to evolve.

Along with the need to digitally transform, the quest for an increasing level of environmental sustainability is another major trend that is guiding the development of HR departments. While document automation providers such as Datagraphic do not limit clients to digital documents, they allow them to make the transition to online delivery at their own pace, reducing not only the quantity of paper they use, but also the carbon footprint incurred in the production and distribution of hard-copy documents. In this way, costs are reduced too.

Last year, the University of Salford automated the production and distribution of payslips and other pay documents using Epay, and the payroll department now provides a 100% paperless service. All their processes and output are managed digitally and their reliance on office equipment has disappeared, allowing the team to complete all their work from home if needed.

Employers are duty-bound to securely provide employees with payroll documents, but according to a recent Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP) Payslip Statistics Comparison Report, 32% of its respondents still email payslips, arguably the most confidential of documents; as even password-protected emails have their limitations, this is a surprising figure. The right document automation provider can mitigate the risk of these documents falling into the wrong hands, and securely deliver them online.

Furthermore, document automation precludes the risk of human error, so ensures that documents are always correct.

Document automation aids hybrid working
While the trend towards document automation has been growing for several years, industry insiders believe it has accelerated by as much as three years as a result of the pandemic, as millions of staff were instructed to work from home. Suddenly, it became difficult to safely produce HR and payroll documents from a central office, and they had to be easily and securely accessed remotely.

A September 2020 British Council for Offices survey suggested that, once the pandemic is over, hybrid working will become the norm, with over 60% of office workers planning to split their working week between home and office long-term.

Document automation is necessary to facilitate the efficient operation of HR departments as they rise to the challenge of supporting this new way of working. Hybrid working requires agility and flexibility, and document automation technology can help teams to access systems and securely communicate with employees, whether they or their staff are working in the office or from home.

Implementing document automation
During the early stages of the pandemic, organisations had to automate their payroll operations extremely quickly, and even as Covid recedes, speed of transformation will always be a priority for employers requiring a swift transition with little disruption and a rapid return on investment. While an experienced SaaS provider will be able to deliver this, the speed of digital transformation for many government and public sector organisations has, nevertheless, traditionally been hampered by the time-consuming and expensive process of competitive tendering.  And throughout the pandemic, the importance of transparency and proven capability in the procurement process have been highlighted, with the government facing criticism for making opaque awards to inexperienced suppliers.

To speed up the process of transformation, Datagraphic has recently become a Crown Commercial Services (CCS) supplier, enabling public sector clients to source, research and buy Epay without having to go out to tender.  And by using CCS’ G-Cloud 12 Digital Marketplace catalogue to procure services, organisations can be sure that their new suppliers have demonstrated exceptionally high levels of reliability and security.  The procurement process is entirely transparent.

As demand for automated documentation grows, so too does the number of public and private sector organisations offering this service, and the process of sourcing a supplier can initially seem daunting. However, there are a number of key criteria to look out for:

1. Is their service totally secure? Look for a provider that is ISO 27001 and C&CCC Standard 55 accredited.

2. Can their document automation solutions easily and quickly integrate with your existing HR and payroll software?

3. Do they charge licence fees?  Look for a supplier with a cost-effective pricing model based on documents uploaded and printed rather than the number of employees receiving them.

4. Is their solution intuitive, offering employees quick and easy access from any device, in any location and at any time?  In 2021, this is the user experience that we all expect from every organisation with which we deal, from retailers to GPs.

5. Is their approach “digital first” or “digitally exclusive”?  Look for the former in order to meet the preferences of all employees.

6. Do they both develop software and have a secure in-house print facility?  Clients benefit from using a single supplier for digital and print communications, as this helps to streamline the production process and minimise cost.

7. Public sector organisations in particular should also ask if the supplier is:

a. Listed on CCS’ G-Cloud 12 Digital Marketplace.

b. A small-to-medium enterprise (SME):  by working with one of these companies, public sector clients can help meet the government’s target of spending £1 in every £3 with SMEs by 2022.

Datagraphic was established in 1986, and clients include public sector organisations such as Network Rail, Leeds City Council, East Sussex Council and Surrey County Council, and private sector clients including Specsavers, Airbus, Sodexo and H&M.  It is certified Climate Aware company and ISO 14001 accredited.  The company is also a Living Wage Foundation Living Hours employer, providing staff with security of hours as well as a living wage.

For further details about Datagraphic’s Epay, or to arrange a demonstration, please visit datagraphic.co.uk or call 01246 543000.

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