HR departments must deliver more than ever. They must play a more strategic role within the organization, identifying ways to help their business differentiate and grow through employee onboarding, learning and development, company culture and so much more. At the same time, they must manage the endless stream of employee files, insurance claims, employee certifications and other documents flooding their desks. Innovation within HR can be a struggle.

It’s a lot for even the most seasoned HR executives to juggle and, as a result, they must evaluate what they can improve upon in order to be as innovative as they want—and need—to be.

To identify ways HR departments can attain their strategic goals, Access recently partnered with and surveyed more than 300 HR professionals across North America. Using findings and responses from the survey, we uncovered five ways HR departments can be more efficient and effective in their roles, and, ultimately, have more time to drive positive change for the business. 

Assess your technology stack 

Close to half of survey respondents (45%) cite a lack of technological integration as a significant problem hindering their work. These technological silos make connecting resources and people more complicated and time consuming, and subsequently, slows down processes and workflows. The end result: inefficiencies that leave less time for innovation.

If you’re looking to focus more of your day on innovation, now’s the time to review your current technology stack and related vendor agreements. Don’t forget to talk with stakeholders who use these tools to see where they experience gaps or weaknesses. There may be opportunities to try new vendors with new capabilities to address the weaknesses you and your stakeholders experience. 

Review your HR document management capabilities 

Filing, managing and retrieving documents takes a lot of time. In fact, 51% of the HR professionals surveyed said paperwork and claims issues were significant drains on their productivity.

Identify ways you can improve your document management processes. For example, are critical documents stored in an easy-to-navigate digital system? Or are they being stored and managed manually via paper? The less time you spend filing and managing paperwork, the more time you can dedicate to strategic thinking and problem solving.

Review both manual and automated processes 

The biggest obstacle preventing HR teams from achieving their strategic goals is a lack of process automation. Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (63%) say this is the top challenge they face, and it affects HR’s ability to innovate and thrive. 

Consider how much time you could win back through process changes and workflow automation. Updating your processes and workflows to easily connect and automate is crucial, because you’ll be able to minimize your organization’s reliance on paper and filing work that takes up valuable time and space. Identify potential processes and systems that could be automated and find opportunities to remove or re-engineer steps in your existing processes.

Remove one manual process at a time

Over half of those surveyed (59%) say the single biggest barrier to achieving key HR initiatives is too many inefficient manual processes. They say these processes stand in the way of HR’s initiatives and success in the organization—including innovation.

Rather than eliminating manual processes all together, find one to start with. This will give you an opportunity to see if its removal leads to positive change. By starting small, you will slowly build confidence in removing other manual processes and determining which are prime candidates for automation.

Eliminate what isn’t adding value 

Nearly one in four HR professionals say they spend over 60% of their time on administrative duties. This indicates an incredible amount of time and resources being spent on processes and workflows that may not actually be valuable to the overall business.

To truly get time back in your day, evaluate your day-to-day tasks and processes to determine what’s really adding value—and what’s simply done out of habit. Are you keeping any processes or workflows because that’s the way it’s always been done? Identify where you can make improvements and where you can completely eliminate tasks and processes. These changes will allow you and your colleagues to free up valuable time that can be spent on more strategic HR initiatives.

HR is playing a more critical role in helping organizations win and retain the best talent. They can no longer spend valuable time managing documents and filing paperwork. Instead, they must be able to focus on creating a corporate culture and accompanying policies that help the business thrive. To learn more about the five obstacles hindering HR innovation and how to overcome them, download this checklist.