Technology and HR leverage for each other: “Technology and HR make business possible. Integration of the two would not only mean harmonious coexistence, but also leverage the other. Using technology for HR would mean digitizing everyday HR activities and automating the back office and transactional activities related to recruitment, performance management, career planning and succession planning, training and knowledge management. Deploying HR for technology implies managing changes related to technology through communication, training, recruitment, retraining, stakeholder analysis and awareness, so they can play complementary roles. “
Technology and HR both have one thing in common, i.e. both are possible.
In recent times, technology has become synonymous with information technology, as hardly any other past technological development would have had an impact on the entire spectrum of business, such as information technology. Regardless of the type of business you are in, i.e. services or goods, goods or brands, trade or production, contemporary or traditional use of information technology in one form or another is a done deal. To effectively manage and deploy technology, all business organizations would require knowledge workers. Managing these knowledge workers is the responsibility of the HR function. That is why the integration of technology and HR is an absolute must.
Now that we have understood technology and HR in the current context, we need to understand integration in this context. Integration would not only mean harmonious coexistence, but would also mean that one strengthens and complements the other, ie technology is used to increase the effectiveness of HR and HR functions, helps to adopt and manage changes that affect implies implementation of technology.
Using technology for HR
HR management as a function is responsible for performance such as the implementation of business strategies, administrative efficiency, employee contribution and ability to change. All of this is accomplished through what HR people do i.e. staff, development, rewards, benefits, communicating organizational design, high-performing teams, and so on. Technology is used in most of these areas.
Recruitment is an area where all companies worthy of their name use IT. There are two different e-recruiting models that are in vogue. One is recruitment through the company’s own sites and the other hosts your requirement on the other sites, for example monster .com, jobsdb.com, jobsahead.com, naukri.com and jobstreet.com and so on and so on. The first models are more popular with the larger companies that have a brand draw for potential employees, for example G.E., IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, HCL, ICICI, Reliance, Mindtree consulting etc. Other companies prefer to visit the job boards. Some use both.
E-recruitment has come a long way since the start. Now these sites have become worldwide. Sites like jobsahead.com and monster.com have set up a global network, which includes separate sites for jobs in Australia, Denmark, Belgium and Canada etc. Jobseekers can search jobs by region or country and employers target potential employees in specific countries. For example, 3 Com recently posted a company profile on the Irish site highlighting the contributions of the 3 Com Irish design team to its global projects.
In the early days, e-recruitment was plagued by flooding employers with low-quality bio-data. Once again technology has come as a savior. Pre-employment tests, such as those introduced by Capital One, a US-based financial company, help filter applicants. These tools test online, for example call center applicants. Profile International, a Texas-based provider of employment assessments, has developed tools to translate evaluation tests directly between languages. Further developments such as specialized video conferencing sites, online executive recruitment and the combination of online and offline methods are driving more and more companies to use e-recruitment at least as a secondary recruitment method. Arena Knights Bridge, a US-based IT company, conducts a video-based interview with its prospective employees and only shortlisted employees are met in person. Even Cisco would launch the same.
Self-service for employees
Employee self-service is perhaps an IT tool that has taken the burden off HR from most everyday tasks and has helped improve employee satisfaction. Employee self-service is a plethora of small activities previously performed by the employee through HR’s administrative department. These are travel bookings, information about travel rules, travel accounts, leave rules, leave administration, extra administration, etc. All these rules and information were previously held by HR. Every user employee was expected to contact HR and get it done. Now that ESS has been implemented at most companies, the employee can request a travel-related booking online, his / her T.E. to fill in. request invoices, leave, register time sheets and see the value of its benefits, paid out etc. In Ballarpur Industries Ltd. for example, the leave administration is fully digitized at the head office. It works to digitize travel-related activities, benefits and even fee management and performance management. ‘Digitize or outsource all everyday and routine focus only on core and added value’ – Vineet Chhabra V.P. -PDC BILT.
Communication most talked about management tool has always been a gray area in HR management. In large companies with a wide geographical spread, communication with all employees was a huge challenge for HR professionals. Technology has come again to the rescue. Starting with telephones, faxes, e-mails and growing into video conferences, netcast, webcast etc. communication is an area of HR, from which technology benefits enormously. Mouse and click companies such as Oracle, IBM have an intranet that meets most of the information needs of its employees. Brick & Morter companies such as BILT have also made an effort to leverage the intranet for internal communications, with a bulletin board, media coverage and knowledge corners.
Another area of HR that uses technology is employee development. Programmed learning (PL), i.e. learning at your own pace, is one of the most effective ways to teach adults. The use of technology for this purpose cannot be overemphasized. Aptech Online University and ‘The Manage mentor’ are some of the Indian sites, which are in this business knowledge management, which is an integral part of any learning organization, which cannot become reality without technology. Companies can use the knowledge of their employees by cataloging and hosting them on the intranet. Talk to ‘Big-5’ or not so ‘big’ consulting companies, you will find that the knowledge store is their main residence. Technology has enabled them to find it quickly. In the competitive environment where speed is the name of game technology driven, Knowledge Management constantly offers a strategic advantage.
If you look at the HR module of ERP solutions such as people soft, SAP, Oracle and Ramco, they offer you a comprehensive package that helps with manpower planning, recruitment, performance management, training and development, career planning, succession planning, separation and complaint handling. A transaction that takes place in all these areas is digitized and forms a closed loop, always updating the employee database. E.g. a connection letter from a new employee is generated by the system. It will only be printed if all mandatory information fields have been entered. Likewise, a transfer order or bill of lading is issued from the system only if that transaction has been executed in the system.
For career planning, success planning, skills and competences, matrix methods are used by most of these systems. They first look for an employee with the necessary skills in their own database of employees. Once put into practice in letter & spirit, this system not only improves business results by matching the right candidate for the right job, but also improves employee retention.
Processing payroll, generating time office reports, providing HR-MIS are some of HR’s other routine activities that have been transferred to technology.
Using HR for technology
All HR professionals, who preach or practice, learn or experiment, teach or study, have experience using technology for HR. But most of us face a situation where we have to use HR for technology. Let’s understand what we mean by this.
Every time technology is redeployed or upgraded, it brings a change. The change can take place at the activity level, for example applying for leave via the intranet or at the level of the mental model, for example digitizing the planning of the process follow-up that HR professionals were. People have always signed up for change. This is an area where HR professionals need to deliver i.e. become change agents and lead the process of technology and adoption. The resistance to change is directly proportional to the rate of change. The rate of change has now increased and with it the resistance.
To give just one example, most ERP implementation in the world has not been able to meet all expectations. Some of these have failed at all. When analyzing the cause of the failure, it was found that 96% of the failure is due to people-related problems and only 4% of the technology.
It is the people who make the difference; Therefore, HR should use its expertise to facilitate the adoption of technology. I would like to bring together some thoughts on what HR should do for this.
At the time of recruiting, stop hiring posture and learning mind skills. Skills of today will no longer be valid tomorrow. Managing ever-changing changes is the only criterion for success.
Functional or technical skills can be acquired during work. Therefore, technology era recruitment must undergo a paradigm shift, i.e. from a skill / competence orientation it must be an attitude and a mind / skill based interview. That would translate into hiring skills for the future. At IBM, each employee must complete his / her individual development plan, with the employee learning one or two new skills each year and thus remaining competitive each time.
If we look at the chemistry of resistance to change, it is a skill problem or a will problem. To address the will issue, we must work towards a comprehensive solution, starting with recruitment (as discussed earlier), reward, reward and leading to organizational culture that fosters change. A living example is 3M, a US-based company, where innovation is a way of life, where 10% of sales must come annually from new products. For them, change becomes a way of life.
To address the will issue, the organization must establish a communication strategy that creates a “pull” for the technology. For example, in Ranbaxy, when they went for SAP implementation, they anticipated resistance. To address this, they started a house diary, which was meant to inform employees about the benefits that will come from the introduction of ERP, SAP. This created a need, rather a potential need, or a latent need was put forward. The introduction of ERP did not become such a big problem.
Sometimes the acceptance of technologies by employees is seen as a threat, eg Automation leading to a reduction in the number of employees, office automation leading to employee cutbacks, etc. HR must be involved in technical adoption from start to finish. When selecting technical phase if HR is associated, it can map the required skills and create a pull during implementation and adoption. After adoption, it can release the redundant redundant employees.
To better understand this process, we can take an example of ERP implementation. ERP is taken as an example because it is a technology adoption that affects employees across the organization. regardless of function and position. Any other automation may have affected only one segment of the organization. ERP implementation in every organization goes through the following stages.
1. Selection of package
2. Business analysis
3. Solution design
4. Configuration and customization
5. Tasting rooms for conference rooms (CRP)
6. Go-live and production
HR should play a role at every stage, which will help mitigate resistance to change.
During the selection process, the change agent can understand what business advantage ERP would bring. This would help him to draw an extensive communication installation, aimed at creating a ‘pull’ for the change. The communication plan can use the various weapons from the arsenal. The obvious examples are Newsletters, Newsflash. In-house magazine, focused on top management, webcast, open days, formal and informal meetings.
During the business analysis phase, the implementation team is expected to analyze the existing business processes. Sometimes this leads to the emergence of certain data that are not very desirable for the process owners, which leads to resistance at this stage, HR needs to be proactive again and perform a detailed stakeholder analysis. Such an analysis should lead to potential problem areas and potential advocates of change.
Solution design includes defining ‘to be processes’, i.e. the way in which business will be conducted in the future. At this stage, HR must play the role of a catalyst to turn on the heating. The idea is to ensure that the potential of business transformation with packages is maximized. HR can play a role by ensuring that the right people are trained and trained in best business practices just before this stage.
During configuration and customization, HR has to keep beating, the customization of a standard package is a big no-no. Likewise, during plotting of the meeting room (CRP) it should help identify the right people to be involved in CRP. A thorough test at this stage would cause less pain when going live. Now is also the time to focus on training end users, the workers who will use the system once they are deployed. Training retraining training to ensure that all potential users are familiar with the use of software before the system goes live.
During the go-live phase, HR has to work over time to keep motivation high. This is when management begins to lose patience as one error after another continues to appear and the company virtually stops. At this stage, HR must be a ‘conscious keeper’ for top management, once in the product move, the surplus is a challenge for which it must be prepared.
This example makes it clear that HR involvement is valuable throughout the technology lifecycle. ERP does not stand alone. It’s true for any other technology adoption, only finer details can vary. Therefore, HR should play a proactive role rather than just being a silent spectator or merely executing the company’s wishes or chief technology officer in the event of technological change.
Now that the case has been put in a different perspective, it seems logical to use technology for HR and vice versa.