What’s in store for e-HR?

The potential for growth in e-HR remains enormous. Developing electronic
systems offers HR benefits in terms of day-to-day organisation, both
strategically and through streamlining administration. With routine tasks such
as holiday entitlements and corporate procedures available direct to employees
online, HR’s attention can be given to strategic issues of organisational
growth and development.

Such developments are timely. E-HR addresses a range of issues from skills
shortages – linking benefits to training, for example, which is tracked online
– to global communications. While most of the developments to date have been
focused in-house via sophisticated corporate intranets, future developments
will include opening up broader channels of communication and making that
information more widely available.

Michael Richards, managing director of Snowdrop Systems, says, "The
short-term trend and demand we are seeing is for web-based applications –
that’s far and away the most important issue at the moment. Of our projects, 75
per cent this year have involved some web element, which is a huge increase on
the previous year." He adds, "While these applications provide
similar sorts of functionality that have been around for years, using a web
interface means that anyone can access it from anywhere."

But it is also true that while technical developments offer considerable
advantages, corporate culture can often affect their take-up. As Alan Foley,
managing director at ICS Computing, points out, "While the technology is
there, it’s a question of whether companies can adapt their culture – and make
the necessary investment – to use it. Generally, e-HR is under-utilised."

One answer can be to outsource specific functions, says Erik Morse, managing
director of Peopleclick Europe. "There is a general move to outsourcing
systems in areas like management systems and recruitment. This is partly
because HR systems are generally low on the list of priorities in companies. By
outsourcing, HR can have a bit more control of its systems and get a quicker
response than through its in-house IT departments."

This can also provide a first step for HR departments wanting to convince
their companies of the strategic and financial benefits of developing online HR
resources.

Elizabeth Wilson
HR Strategy manager (UK), People Soft

e-HR
The trend towards e-recruitment and e-learning will expand into the area of
benefits. As benefits become more prevalent in compensation packets, e-HR will
help enormously because people will be able to self-serve and choose whether,
for example, they want to put more into pensions or to have the money direct.
They will also be able to get info direct from the providers by clicking onto
the providers’ sites. Also, more admin tasks will be handled online – we are
already seeing things like expenses and travel being done electronically and
tracked through the financial systems

Recruitment Tolls
We already have a lot being done electronically but that will expand
through things like web access via the television with people responding to
advertisements. Companies will also become more proactive in searching for CVs
on the web and that will become more prevalent when the skills shortage hits
the European market

Absence
There won’t be huge changes here, apart from the end user being able to put
in requests for things like holiday entitlements, and checking pay issues online

Payroll
The move to the web for payroll delivery will cut costs of administration
and post. Web-based payslip delivery will be the norm, as will the delivery of
statutory information to the Inland Revenue. That will help with the speed of
data transfer and in cutting costs

Training and development
There will be enormous changes. Aside from e-learning there is retention of
staff through career development and training. Skills-based compensation is
being adapted to retain staff, especially in organisations that have a flatter
structure. As training becomes more integrated with comps, it will have to be
monitored effectively throughout the whole organisation – you can’t have
different managers using different rating methods

System Capacities
The trend is to use HR data analytically to forecast budgets, analyse
business strategy, not just to store information. To do that properly, HR needs
business tools capable of handling volumes of data. Increasingly an
organisation’s competencies and skills gaps need to be handled globally so
systems have to be able to collect information from anywhere at any time, which
is where the web comes in

Alan Foley
Managing director, ICS Computing

e-HR
There are products available that enable companies to post rules, handbooks
and procedures online, and give employees access to systems on information such
as benefits. While the technology is there, in non-technological industries the
web culture has been much slower to take off. Even when e-HR systems are in
place, they remain under-utilised. We offer security-based access for line
managers to get employee information online, but not many corporates are going
down this route. If e-HR is fully developed, it should reach the point where HR
is only accessed for specialist knowledge

Recruitment Tools
Receiving CVs electronically can speed up recruitment, but there needs to
be changes in the process. Organisations need to improve their ability to
receive applications from their web site and take them straight into their own
system

Absence
This can be poorly controlled if it is paper-based and not process-driven.
Using a work-based system means you can register absences and they can be
processed through the organisation more efficiently. Probably the biggest
change we will see here is the analysis of absence information and the study of
trends, frequencies and patterns

Payroll
We see an increasing trend to outsource payroll, including large
organisations that are outsourcing for the first time. Companies want to keep
control of the benefits side, but payroll is otherwise seen as non-core.
Organisations are also keen to do less so the supplier handling the payroll
acts more as the payroll department, liaising with other departments in the
corporation to get the relevant information direct from them

Training and development
HR systems were, for a period, almost recording systems. Now they are used
more as management tools to help decide where people should be developed. The
software is much more capable of providing the tools for HR to develop
competencies within an organisation.

System capacities
There is a trend to seeking solutions rather than just systems. Often
companies are tight on IT resources so, rather than setting up systems
internally for functions such as payroll, they are willing to access a system
that is hosted by an external vendor who will handle the function for them. The
trend to outsourcing HR functions like these will continue.

Michael Richards
Managing director, Snowdrop Systems

e-HR
The major shift is that HR people have become comfortable with the fact
that data does not have to be locked away in a cupboard for use just by HR.
There’s an acceptance that you can devolve responsibility – employees can find
out for themselves how many days holiday they have left. Overall, you have
full-featured systems and a lot more data being collected and used. In three to
five years there will be a wholesale shift in who uses the data and how –
perhaps accessing it through hand-held devices and mobile phones

Recruitment tolls
There are systems available that enable companies to scan CVs for
particular qualifications and experience, but at the moment these can only
offer at best, 95 per cent accuracy, which isn’t good enough. What is needed is
a systematic structure that will make it easier for individuals to fire off a
CV from around the world, which all systems will be able to interpret

Absence
Today’s systems operate well. Different issues will need to be considered
with home working though. The technology for home working is already available
but once digital exchanges are up and running, it will become easier to do.
That will make monitoring who is and who isn’t in the office or at work more
complex, so absence will still need to be managed

Payroll
This is such a standard process that the technology doesn’t change very
much, although payroll systems are easier to integrate. What companies need to
do with payroll is to outsource it. They want to be able to extract the
information they need and have access to limited amounts of data to analyse,
but not to have to manage or run payroll

Training and development
This is one area that will have the biggest impact for e-HR. It is also
highly visible. Training and development centres on online working, which is
most effective when used to teach about basic technological developments or new
products. It is not the best vehicle for many other areas of training –
although the vehicle is there, it suffers from poor content. People put the
emphasis on technology but not the content

System capacities
Software development over the past five years has increasingly separated
data from application so different interfaces – such as the web, or hand-held
devices – can be used to access the application. In a few years there will be
other devices used to access data. Better system integration is also on the
agenda. Accessibility is improving so that information can be made available to
the widest audience

Tony Flanagan
Marketing manager, ASR

e-HR
What we tend to find is that HR departments are looking to streamline
internal processes through effective workflow practices linked to e-mail
functionality and electronic forms that can be accessed via the intranet. Now
that people are aware of the capabilities of new technology, it’s a question of
fitting it into their business culture and using it in their day-to-day operations.
A lot of HR processes are labour intensive but technology could dramatically
change the way they work

Recruitment tools
Being able to recruit online has a number of benefits but the key is being
able to track the process from the moment that someone fills in an application
online. Those details need to be sifted through to the database, where a skills
match can identify candidates for the post

Absence
Systems have developed to the point that, when someone phones in sick, that
process can be handled electronically. So the person at reception fills in the
details of the absent person on their absence screen and files that to the
relevant line manager to deal with. Absence can be tracked individually but
also at department level, so that trends can be identified

Payroll
The significant trend is that people are looking more for integration
between the HR and payroll software

Training and development
Staff retention is a key issue and one that is being addressed more through
training and development. Organisations are looking to  invest in their staff to try to retain them
for longer and e-learning provides a more targeted and streamlined way of doing
that. We also have software that can link individual appraisals to business
objectives, to ensure those objectives have been met

System capacities
Working processes are changing as more people are working from home. HR has
to find a way of ensuring they don’t feel alienated and to improve
communications channels between individuals’ homes and the workplace. People
find out what is going on in an organisation via its intranet, but in future,
information will also have to become available via the web so that it can be
accessed from different sources

Michael Howard
Managing director, Frontier Software

e-HR
Eventually all forms used within an organisation that need HR approval will
be eliminated and such approval process will occur over a companies Intranet.
However, until organisations allow their systems to be accessed via the Internet
– as an outsider – the benefits of electronic approvals will be minimised.
Naturally, Internet security still remains an issue. HR will only become an
efficient administrative/planning centre when the admin functions are deployed
to both managers and employees, hence systems must be designed in a suitable
manner

Recruitment tools
Again the web will become the number one facility for advertising and
gaining applicants compared to where it is now. Use of images and sound to
attract applicants will become the norm in five years time

Absence
Integration is the key to administering absences. When control is required,
managers using technology will be provided with automatic alerts to warn them
in advance of events happening

Payroll
The debate between in-house payroll and outsourcing will always be the
same. Either solution is suitable, depending upon business needs. Systems will
become more integrated and the successful HR software companies will be those
who offer both services

Training and development
Again, the use of technology for e-learning will become fundamental.
Systems will be designed to utilise all the methods for staff and students to
learn and comprehend in a quicker manner

System capacities
What we shall see in the future is: total integration between modules;
payroll accreditations; scalability; open technical platforms; Internet and
intranet awareness systems easy learning facilities.

Christopher Berry
Managing director, Compel

e-HR
E-HR will increasingly make the day-to-day administrative aspects of people
management a background task, enabling HR professionals to concentrate on the
added value contribution they can give to the development and competitiveness
of the organisation. For example, there is the increased use of employee
self-service for maintenance of data and the ease with which managers can
self-serve their own reports and information that previously would have had to
be requested from the HR function.

Recruitment tools
Increased profile and acceptance of online recruitment providers will add
another source of applicants to HR’s traditional portfolio of recruitment
sources. This will grow more popular as it integrates with a firm’s own
recruitment admin and applicant tracking software.

Absence
Absence management and cost control is often a justification for an HR
system. This will increasingly become the case through the ability of employees
and managers to gather data and report without intervention from HR. Increased
use of palm computing and PDA’s will make data gathering and reporting more
accessible, particularly with a remote workforce.

Payroll
Integration between HR systems and payroll will become seamless and secure.
Web-based technology will make delivery of pay information increasingly
straight forward. For example, payslips can be delivered electronically and
there will be easier access to historical data

Training and development
Technological development, particularly with delivery of graphical and
video-based material, will lead to greater opportunities for the delivery of
training to employees’ desktops or, in the case of remote workers, home PCs,
making selection of appropriate training material much greater.

By Caroline Horn

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