What is workforce automation? A complete guide

April 9, 2024
Standard Bots robot visualizer

What is workforce automation?

Workforce automation refers to using technology to optimize and streamline HR, admin, and even manufacturing and logistics business processes. 

It’s about using software and hardware systems to handle repetitive, routine tasks like scheduling, timekeeping, and reporting

This is meant to free up employees to focus on more strategic work that requires human skills like critical thinking, creativity, and problem-solving.

  • Machine learning: If you’re still wondering, “Are we already at this stage?” you might not have heard about machine learning. This revolutionary AI technique is helping automated systems make rapid strides into what was human-only territory just 1-2 years ago. 
  • Integration with other systems: Workforce management automation systems often integrate with other enterprise software, such as accounting systems or customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, to streamline data flow.
  • Data-driven insights: Automated workforce management automation systems collect and analyze data related to employee performance, attendance, and productivity, offering valuable insights to inform decision-making.

Types of workforce automation

Let’s dive a bit deeper into some types of workforce automation: 

  • One of the most common types of workforce automation is automated scheduling. This includes things like employee scheduling software that can automatically create work schedules based on business needs, employee availability, and constraints.

    Automated scheduling saves HR managers countless hours of manual schedule creation and allows for optimization based on key metrics.
  • Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS): Centralized platforms for managing core HR functions like payroll, benefits, and talent management. Examples include Workday (comprehensive suite), BambooHR (user-friendly for smaller businesses), and Rippling (advanced automation and integrations).
  • Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS): Streamline the recruiting process, managing candidate applications and facilitating hiring workflows. Examples include Greenhouse (customizable workflows and analytics), Lever (candidate relationship management), and Workable (versatile for various industries).
  • Performance management software: Supports goal-setting, feedback, and performance reviews, fostering employee development. Examples include Lattice (continuous feedback tools), 15Five (regular employee check-ins), and Culture Amp (focus on engagement and data insights).
  • Time and attendance tracking: Automates employee timekeeping, simplifying payroll processes and ensuring accurate records. Examples include Namely (combined with payroll and HR functions), When I Work (easy scheduling and mobile clock-in/out), and Homebase (free plans for basic needs).
  • Learning and development platforms: Deliver online training and development resources, upskilling employees. Examples include Docebo (enterprise-level training and compliance), Lessonly (easy lesson creation), and 360Learning (collaborative learning features).
  • Robotics: Automate physical tasks in manufacturing, logistics, and other industries, increasing efficiency and reducing manual labor. Examples include assembly line robots, autonomous warehouse robots, and collaborative robots (cobots).
  • Email management: Simplifies email workflows by automating tasks like email routing, prioritization, using pre-written templates (canned responses), and sending automated reminders and follow-ups.

And we’ve only really scratched the surface here! Suffice to say, artificial intelligence is completely reshaping the business landscape as we know it — and bringing irrevocable changes to the way we engage with work. 

But we’ll get into that in a section below. 

Benefits of automated workforce management

Let’s take a look at some of the most important benefits of workforce automation: 

  • Boosting efficiency levels. Automating time-consuming administrative tasks like scheduling, reporting and compliance management frees up your employees to focus on high-value work. Employees can spend less time on repetitive tasks and more time on strategic initiatives, innovation and customer service. This makes your workforce more productive and impactful.

    And, you get huge productivity boosts with automated work too, which doesn’t hurt.
  • Increased capacity without proportional staffing. Automating time-consuming tasks means existing staff can take on more strategic work, boosting output without needing to hire more people immediately. This is especially valuable during periods of rapid growth.
  • Faster turnaround times. Automated processes often run significantly faster than manual ones. This leads to shorter lead times, quicker responses to customer inquiries, and a more agile business overall.
  • Saving the big bucks. Automation reduces the need for manual data entry and paperwork, lowering costs associated with human errors and inefficient processes. It also minimizes the need for additional headcount to handle administrative tasks. The time and cost savings can be substantial, especially for large organizations. McKinsey estimates that automation could reduce HR costs by up to 50% over the next 10 years.
  • Getting the kind of analytics you can trust. Workforce automation provides data and analytics that give you valuable insights into your business and employees. You gain visibility into key metrics like employee satisfaction, retention risks, productivity, compliance, overtime costs, and more.

    Armed with data, you can make evidence-based decisions to improve workforce management.
  • Making things better for employees. Yes, employees generally appreciate automation as it reduces the burden of repetitive, mundane (read: boring) tasks. It gives them more time to focus on meaningful work that plays to their strengths. Automated workflows and self-service options also provide flexibility and convenience.

    When employees feel empowered and engaged, it leads to higher satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty.
  • Clients will love it, too. Automation improves efficiency, accuracy, and consistency in processes that directly impact clients. This leads to a smoother, more streamlined customer experience, enhancing overall satisfaction.
  • Automation helps reduce risks associated with non-compliance to policies and regulations. It provides an auditable system of record for workforce data and automates compliance processes like verifying employment eligibility, tracking employee certifications, and enforcing pay rules.

    This gives you peace of mind that your workforce management meets all legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Increased scalability: Automation allows businesses to handle increased workloads and expansion without proportionally increasing headcount, driving growth.
Standard Bots routine editor

Challenges of implementing workforce automation

Once you’ve decided to automate certain tasks and processes in your organization, you’ll need to carefully navigate how to implement the changes successfully. 

As we’ve mentioned, there’s plenty to love about workforce automation. But here’s the part you’ll need to navigate with some grace and gentleness: 

  • Be careful with your budget. Automating workflows and systems requires an initial investment in technology and software. The costs to implement automation and train employees can be quite high.

    You’ll have to weigh the potential long-term benefits of increased efficiency and productivity against the upfront costs. And if you’re thinking “We’re small, this doesn’t make financial sense” think again. Picking that low-hanging automation fruit will make you more competitive. 
  • Resistance to change. Many employees are hesitant about automation and worry it will eliminate their jobs. It’s important to communicate that automation augments human work rather than replaces it. Provide adequate training and resources to help employees adapt to new automated systems and processes.

    Make sure to address any concerns openly and honestly. With time and experience, resistance tends to fade as the benefits of automation become clear.
  • Don’t let it cramp your style. Implementing automation changes the way people work and interact. It can temporarily disrupt established workflows, procedures, and habits. Proper planning and training are key to minimizing disruption.

    Give employees opportunities to provide feedback so you can make tweaks to improve the automation experience. It may take time for new automated workflows to become second nature.
  • Some jobs may go the way of the dodo. While automation typically enhances and transforms jobs rather than eliminates them, some positions may eventually become obsolete. This is often a long-term effect, but it’s important to consider and plan for. Explore how to retrain and redeploy affected employees.

    Try to focus on using technology to augment human capabilities rather than replace the human workforce. With the rapid pace of change, continuous learning is going to be the cornerstone.
  • Learn to be flexible (we don’t mean taking a yoga class). Once automated systems are in place, they can be difficult to adjust. It’s important to build in flexibility and the ability to refine processes over time. Choose technology solutions that can integrate with your existing infrastructure and adapt to changing needs.

    Keep lines of communication open so you can make improvements to the automation experience.

Tips for implementing automation in your workforce

Implementing automation in your workforce requires careful planning and execution. Done right, it can revolutionize how your business operates, but done wrong it can be disruptive. 

Here are some tips to increase the chances of a smooth transition:

  • Start small and build up gradually: Don't try to automate your entire workforce overnight. Pick a few repetitive tasks to start with, like scheduling or payroll processing. Get employees used to the new system and work out any kinks before expanding to other areas.

    Starting small allows you to prove the value to executives and staff before making a big investment.
  • Choose the right tools: With so many automation tools on the market, it's important to find options tailored to your needs. Cloud-based solutions are ideal for most businesses. Look for tools that integrate well with your existing software and have a simple, intuitive interface.

    Consider options like scheduling and attendance software, performance management platforms, and business intelligence tools.
  • Don’t forget about training: Your employees will need guidance on how to use new automation tools and systems. Offer initial and ongoing training to ensure they feel comfortable and are able to use the technology effectively.

    You should also train managers and executives on how to interpret and act on the data and insights provided by automation.
  • Start with the dull stuff and work your way up: The best tasks to target first for automation are repetitive, routine jobs like data entry, scheduling, timesheets, and expense reporting. These tedious tasks take up a lot of time but don't provide much value. Automating them will free up your employees to focus on more meaningful work.
  • Optimize, optimize, and optimize: After implementing automation, monitor how it's impacting your workforce productivity and make any necessary adjustments. Talk to employees to see what's working and what could be improved. Look for new opportunities to expand automation to other areas. Like any technology, workforce automation tools need to be continuously optimized to provide the most value.

Summing up

Workforce automation can look like a bit of a sci-fi concept, but it can streamline operations and boost productivity when implemented thoughtfully.

However, it requires careful planning to maximize benefits and minimize bad experiences for everyone concerned — especially those employees you may end up potentially displacing. 

Always approach automation as an opportunity to empower your staff, not replace them outright. 

To do that, carefully analyze your workflows, choose the right tools, and phase in changes gradually

With the right strategy, workforce automation can help your business work smarter, and not just harder.  

But always remember that your most valuable assets aren't machines —  they're the people who drive your success every day. So, invest in their growth, and automation will complement their efforts.

Next steps

Workforce automation just got accessible! RO1 by Standard Bots empowers shop floors of all sizes with advanced automation capabilities at an unprecedented price point.

  • Budget-friendly innovation: Get the features you need to streamline your shop floor operations without breaking the bank.
  • Best-in-class productivity: RO1's six-axis arm and robust payload capacity redefine speed and precision, maximizing your workflow's output.
  • Safety-focused collaboration: RO1's advanced safety features create a harmonious work environment where humans and robots collaborate seamlessly.
  • Continuous evolution: Powered by AI comparable to GPT-4, RO1 learns and adapts alongside your workforce, ensuring long-term efficiency and flexibility.
  • Tailored for shop floor success: Optimize key manufacturing tasks like parts assembly, machine tending, and packaging with RO1's specialized capabilities.

Our team partners with you throughout implementation, helping you maximize the potential of your RO1 automation investment. See the difference firsthand with our 30-day risk-free trial!

Standard Bots equipment manager
Standard Bots camera vision
Press contacts