Organisations must combine process automation with a human touch if they’re to achieve maximum operational efficiency, one HR expert has claimed.

Gary McFarlane, the head of HR at the University of Bradford, spoke to about his department’s recent decision to automate various functions with the help of a 24/7 web portal. Following this, he explained how quickly it emerged that it was important to retain a personal element throughout the process.

“When we first started to pilot process automation we held focus groups. The feedback was that we were in danger of becoming faceless,” he said.

In response, the university introduced a new system capable of handling more routine transactions, like holiday requests and the updating of personal details. Anything more complex than this is instead dealt with by a dedicated HR call centre.

The main objectives, according to Mr McFarlane, were to create more time for senior staff to work on bigger projects and improving response times for more basic requests.

Instead of having one single level of HR operations, the department works on a three-tier structure, and the results have been impressive. An internal survey revealed that 82 per cent of employees were either ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their tier one experience.