HR must embrace e-business to respond to changing times

The public sector is gearing up to fully use e-procurement by April 2005. Yvonne Skingle, HR organisational development manager at Essex County Council and e-HR leader for the Society of Personnel Officers in Local Government (Socpo), looks at the issues organisations face

As the use of workplace technology, or e-business, continues to revolutionise the world of business, it’s essential that HR is able to not only respond to the changes, but also adds value. Some HR services already use e-options such as e-recruitment and e-learning, but the public sector is aiming to fully engage in e-procurement by April 2005.

E-HR offers benefits such as cost-cutting and aiding operational efficiency. But it also gives the public sector the chance to completely transform HR into a truly customer-focused and responsive function – as called for in Peter Gershon’s review of public sector efficiency.

No major change is totally risk-free, and e-HR is no exception. Resistance to change is likely to be a major hurdle, as is the risk of information overload.

Redesigning the HR function will hugely impact on the roles and competencies of HR staff, and there will be many areas of upskilling required, not just in technical ability, but also in customer and relationship skills.

Advice on how to best navigate such issues was given at the recent Socpo event, ‘Plotting a course through the e-HR’ in London.

Consultancy Cap Gemini’s Philip Lewis stressed the importance of cultural change to keep pace with technological developments. The key, he said, was to overcome the “It won’t work for us – we’re unique” attitude.

Martin Reddington, from the Roffey Park Management Institute, said that, within five years, employee and line managers at organisations using e-HR would be reasonably comfortable with self-service and other developments.

But, he said, people are more important than the technology itself. “E-HR must underpin the transformation of HR to create value through people,” he said.

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