No escape from Web of automation for HR

Every HR director working for one of the top 500 companies is acutely aware of the need to address the use of Web technology in HR – and soon. But so far there are only a handful of organisations that are actually doing it rather than just talking about it and pondering which way to turn.

IT company ICL is one of the small but growing minority which is tackling the automation question head-on and it bravely aims to transfer up to 90 per cent of HR transactions to staff via its intranet.

By June next year all its HR business such as recruitment, absenteeism and holidays will be on-line. The only exceptions will be matters of a sensitive nature such as disciplinary procedures. Its aim is to improve efficiency and boost productivity.

HR needs to catch up with other parts of the business in this area. Finance did it 10 years ago and HR needs to get its act together. The marketplace in HR outsourcing is also growing and the news this week that BT and Andersen Consulting have had the go-ahead for their HR outsourcing joint venture means there will be no escape from Web technology.

In theory it seems that HR will be free to be more strategic and implement policies as the day-to-day paper-pushing becomes yesterday’s working pattern. If this works in practice then it will mean jobs are at risk. But as ICL’s head of resourcing points out, staff could then be redeployed in more useful roles.

Exciting times are ahead as it will fundamentally change the way HR is managed and how businesses supports employees.


Simplicity is the watchword


Whatever you like to call yourself and wherever your loyalties lie to the terms “human capital”, “human resources” or “personnel”, it is clear that human capital, HR or personnel professionals must not alienate the very people they are trying to influence. The war of words rages on about the right terminology.

But Mike Judge, who likes to call himself personnel director of Peugeot, is right about one thing. Over-complicated, unclear and jargon-ridden language is a common failing. What the personnel department does is quite simple and it should have a pragmatic and commonsense approach to staff. In the Internet age it is doubly important to make this the mantra for the first decade of the new century.

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