Technology the only way forward for strategic HR

e-hr:
Profession is transforming the way it carries out its function, survey
discovers

HR
directors are unlikely to fulfil a strategic role unless they implement some
form of e-HR, according to the findings of a report by the independent
research-based organisation Business Intelligence.

Ninety-two
companies were surveyed as part of e-HR: Transforming the HR Function and 76
per cent of these had either redesigned or introduced new HR technologies or
systems in the past year. Of those that had not, 90 per cent are planning to do
so in the next 12 months.

“We
did the report because we knew that e-HR is becoming more widespread and that
it is an enabler of HR transformation,” says Simon Lancaster, publishing
director of Business Intelligence.

“The
report shows that HR directors need to be clued up on the technology – now and
in the future.”

Four
main driving forces of e-HR emerge from the survey with respondents saying it
offers:


Improved HR function productivity and performance (82 per cent)

-More
effective HR service delivery (79 per cent)


Greater availability of technologies, software and systems (73 per cent)


More strategic HR services (78 per cent).

Among
the more surprising findings, said Lancaster, are that only 56 per cent of
respondents cited HR cost control and savings as a driver for e-HR.

The
main trend uncovered is to replace about 60 per cent of transactional HR work
with some form of electronic means to enable HR managers and directors to be
involved in a more “business-oriented and consultancy-type support”.

The
primary decision-makers for developing and implementing e-HR are, as expected,
HR directors or managers in 84 per cent of organisations.

However,
the report found that 73 per cent of respondents stated that executive team
members or a level above take part in decisions, with CEOs and a board member
involved in over a third of those cases.

The
report features a number of case studies of companies which have implemented
e-HR systems to varying degrees, including IBM, Nokia, Getty Images, Smithkline
Beecham and Cisco Systems.

“What
we are trying to convey is that HR will have even more important and valuable
roles to play beyond the purely administrative one that some professionals have
positioned themselves for in the past,” says Lynn Rutter, director of HR
communications at Nokia, in the report.

But
the findings also show the road to e-HR can be a rocky one with the impact on
the HR function often underestimated, and line managers are reported to dislike
HR “dumping work on them”.

The
report concludes that e-HR is a blend of both the “visionary” and the
“pragmatic”. Melvin Brandman, head of the e-HR unit at Watson Wyatt Worldwide,
a contributor to the report, talks about the importance of having an e-HR
vision and says companies should “think big, start small and scale up”.

He
adds, “It makes perfect sense to pick the low-hanging fruit first which will
encourage stronger buy-in from others when they see early results. In these
circumstances, HR will also be able to provoke beneficial change.”

John
Ryder, director of HR technology at Dynegy in Houston, also stresses the
importance of having the right vision. “Not having an HR technology vision is
an abdication of HR’s responsibilities and will lessen the leverage that can be
achieved using technology,” he says.

Ivan
Hickmott, director of Hickmott Consulting, places importance on HR leaders to
understand e-business applications and their implications so they can
anticipate potential impact on their function. “They must get up to speed with
technology and not rely simply on receiving guidance from IT colleagues,” he
says.

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