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5 essential HR Automation tips for your small business or startup

As an HR professional, I’m often asked if I have any tips on how to elevate your HR function to make sure you build a successful business where people are striving to do their best work.

It might be counterintuitive, but before you start diving into the policies you want to put into place and the many changes you have in mind, the first part of any HR strategy is automation.

The benefits of HR automation are something you might not think about in the first place, but between time off management and onboarding, a lot of the daily tasks you have to accomplish can get super time-consuming.

In this blog post, I’ll give you some of my best HR automation tips so you can lead the way towards a successful venture. Have a read!

HR automation tip 1: prioritise, prioritise, prioritise

"You need to figure out in detail what will make the most difference for your small business before you start automating processes, or you might end up with more problems than solutions." Alisa Mistry, HR Manager at CharlieHR

As a small business or startup, you don’t necessarily have the time to dwell on the way you do HR – mainly because you’re already very busy, but you still need a solution to be more efficient in your day-to-day.

When it comes to improving your HR processes, you might want to start automating everything all at once to make sure you don’t have anything blocking your way.

However, the first tip I’d like to give is to identify three of the most time-consuming and difficult aspects of your HR processes and focus on automating these.

It can be as simple as making a list of all your responsibilities, rating them by complexity and the time it takes to complete them one by one as you go along until you find these three processes.

Once that’s done, the work can start. Generally speaking for me, here’s what I often see as the three main pain points for small businesses and startups:

  • Getting all your HR documents in one place – collecting and storing employee information can be a headache when it’s in lots of different places and it’s often far from secure.
  • Managing your team’s time off – as your team grows, a simple process that could be done in minutes easily transforms into a heavy workload, filled with spreadsheets prone to a lot of wrong formulas and human error.
  • Onboarding new team members – between sorting out all the admin and making sure the team member feels welcome, it's difficult to keep track of it all. Giving a good first impression and getting the support you need to scale is crucial.

Depending on the type of business you’re running, perhaps there are other elements that come to mind, but in my experience, these three are definitely a good starting point.

And if you want more information on the matter, you can have a look at our guide to reducing your HR admin.

HR automation tip 2: choose the right solution for your small business or startup

"Choosing the right solution is critical for the future of your small business. Making the wrong decision could lead to an increase in cash burn rate by getting software that’s not fit for purpose and that’s not able to support you as you scale. " Alisa Mistry, HR Manager at CharlieHR

Choosing a solution that responds to your current problems at an acceptable cost means you can continue to afford it over the years and as you grow – so how do you go about choosing the right software for your business?

You’ll first need to make a decision on how much you can invest in it – that will allow you to remove some of the options you’d perhaps considered and come up with a shortlist that makes sense according to your means.

You’ll also want to pick software that’s simple enough to set up straight away and that you and your team members can use with no need for training – an instinctive platform is key as you won’t necessarily have the time or resources to plan for training.

That’s why you should avoid complicated solutions that automate your business from top to bottom, as it will be too costly and too difficult for everyone to get a grasp of.

Let’s have a look at what it can look like in practice. If time off management means updating time off allowance or requests manually into a spreadsheet and calendar, software gives you the opportunity to automate all of it.  

Get team members to send requests through the platform and approve or deny requests in one click – time off overlaps are flagged automatically and allowances reset themselves as you go.

HR automation tip for time off

Another way of getting the hassle of manual tasks out of the way is to get an automated onboarding process. Instead of communicating via email and constantly chasing your new starter for documents, send them a one-click invite onto the platform where they can complete their own admin.

HR automation tip onboarding team members

On top of that, you get a nice way of showing them around your company with the possibility to personalise your onboarding flow.

Within the software, they can also access your company handbook and get familiar with your HR policies – avoiding a lot of questions coming your way.

Screenshot of company handbook and information in CharlieHR

These are, of course, just some of the many HR automation examples CharlieHR can offer for your team.

HR automation tip 3: keep your team in the loop

"Change can be a scary thing when it comes to work. That’s why you should set the right pace to inform your team every step of the way." Alisa Mistry, HR Manager at CharlieHR

From the point where you start to think about implementing changes to the date you roll them out, there are a few instances where you should ensure your team knows what’s going on.

Change, in general, can be very difficult for some people and I’d recommend being as transparent as possible so everyone can respond to it in the best way.  

Here’s an example of a communication plan to send to your team:

  1. Whether in a meeting or via email, clearly mention that you’re looking at changing your HR processes and mention which ones – hint that there will be a follow-up on this when you’ve got more details to share
  2. Once you know more about it and you have selected the right software, let your team know about your choice and that you'll be sharing more information about the rollout soon.
  3. When you’re completely familiar with the new system and processes, communicate date and plan for when the changes will be live – that can be a company-wide meeting if it’s a massive change (changing HR software for example). You can offer a live demo or for smaller changes, it can be a recording or an email. Whatever means of communication you prefer as long as it’s clear to everyone.
  4. Finally, when everything is live, remind your team members that you’ll be on hand for any question and that they can give you feedback on how the new process is going.

This is not a communication plan you should follow every time, but an example of what your team could expect from you.

HR automation tip 4: change more HR processes as you go along

"Automation doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. In fact, the more you can automate, the more positive impact you’ll have on your business as a whole." Alisa Mistry, HR Manager at CharlieHR

I’ve already mentioned that automation doesn’t stop at time-off management or onboarding – it can do a lot more than that.

Once you’ve streamlined these vital HR processes, it’s time to focus on ways to further automate your HR workflows.  

As an HR professional, I’d say that growth and development are key to expanding your small business or startup as they will help you attract and retain the best talent.

Of course, that’s not achieved without having a proper performance review process in place. The problem is that this kind of process takes a lot of time to put together, but who says you have to carve time out of your day and do it yourself?

With automation, all you have to do is set up the review questions as well as the dates where you want the review process to launch – once that’s done it’s all up to managers and team members to complete it on time.

HR automation tip performance reviews

No chasing is needed as automatic reminders come straight into their inbox while you overview the process from afar.

And if you would like to go further and refine your review process, you can activate peer reviews where your own team members share feedback about working with their coworkers – all in the same place.

HR automation tip peer feedback

That’s just one example of what can be done to automate your HR processes, but maybe you’d like to join one of our group demos to find out more about how to do that with Charlie.

Click here to join one of our group demos

HR automation tip 5: use automation for more than just HR processes

"Once you’ve hit that sweet spot and you have all of your HR processes smoothly running through automation, it’s time to elevate your HR by using it to make sensible decisions for your small business." Alisa Mistry, HR Manager at CharlieHR

Although it may seem like HR automation is just here to save the day and give you back some time, it can do much more than that.

For me, HR automation should be deeply rooted in your overall HR strategy so you can take data-led decisions and set strong foundations to build a happy and engaged workplace.

With HR software, you get all the answers you need in one place:

  • Engagement surveys: uncover hidden insights from your business with a built-in polls function
  • Reports: track, measure and report on different aspects of your business such as attendance and performance
  • Diversity reporting: follow your progress towards DE&I and the steps you’re taking to improve it

Once you’ve followed all of these HR automation tips, you’re ready to set up your business for success – and perhaps you can even have a look at this complete guide to understand more about digital transformation in HR.