Dealing with disparate systems can become a hurdle for HR when trying to drive value from human capital management systems. How can they overcome this, asks Tim Rushent?
There was a time when HR was regarded by some as a title for the department that helped managers hire and fire workers.
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But in the digital era, HR is truly living up to its name, as organisations look to mine their human capital, enhance efficiency, and improve productivity and innovation across pools of talent.
For HR directors, this represents an enlightened step, which allows their own skills to come to the fore.
Today, they not only help attract and select the best possible staff and leaders, but also plan and support their integration and trajectory through the company and steer the overall workflow according to the available talent.
In order to do this, HR managers are increasingly embracing the measurement of human capital management, and building strategies of workflow optimisation that take into account individual people on the front line of business, almost in real time.
While this is not a matter of micro-managing the people – who should be capable of completing the tasks assigned to them given the appropriate support – it does ensure a smooth deployment of human resource wherever it is needed, in order to achieve the organisation’s goals.
To do this, a 360-degree organisational overview is a prerequisite.
Bringing it together
While the individual workflow elements of a digital strategy can go far beyond the traditional HR realm of recruitment, training, disciplinary, appraisals, career planning and health and safety, it will be necessary to bring all of these individual areas onto a single central digital platform.
This way, it creates an information management resource from which to carry out more advanced workflow and employee lifecycle management.
Grappling with the challenge of disparate information sources and systems, while keeping information accessible, secure and up to date, is all too familiar for most HR professionals.
The sheer volume of data generated has expanded dramatically, as the requirements of the likes of health and safety, employment law and regulatory compliance have created vast amounts of documentation that must be stored and kept up to date.
This data should not be merely regarded as a burden: it is at the heart of the insight required to give executives an overview of the workings of the human side of their company.
But in order to do that, it must be available on a single system that allows all information to be accessed, viewed and mined.
This can be achieved using an enterprise information platform, capable of dealing with a multitude of document formats, across a single solution. Without necessitating a major IT overhaul, HR teams can therefore take control of their data and start to build a digital strategy.
In the digital era, HR is truly living up to its name, as organisations look to mine their human capital, enhance efficiency, and improve productivity and innovation across pools of talent.”
Naturally, such a system also serves to smooth the traditional functions of HR, allowing a degree of automation within the department when it comes to scheduling training, right to work checks or appraisals, for example.
It will also provide greater access for employees, who could be offered a self-service portal for logging their personal details, providing documentation or reporting concerns. This helps to ease the onboarding process and encourages staff retention and loyalty.
Such enterprise information platforms also make it possible to deal with the unconventional work schedules, contracts and careers now being sought – especially those from the millennial generation or the growing army of freelance workers.
Millennials have grown up in a digital world where the use of smart devices and social media is the norm.
As well as a flexible approach to work, they value professional development and regular feedback and encouragement, while perceived inefficiencies in the onboarding process or access to information often regarded as a deal-breaker.
The challenges of incorporating a growing focus on flexibility is also helping to redefine the relationship managers have with technology, putting electronic communications and automated enterprise information systems into the heart of the HR digital strategy.
Increasingly, every possible need of key employees – from help relocating to suitable networking and development opportunities – can be anticipated and catered for online.
HR practitioners must play a key role in shaping such enterprise information platforms, which are often designed to be developed and adapted without the need for specialist IT teams.
This way, the system is created by those who will ultimately be using it at a strategic or managerial level, while the automation of the simpler tasks will free HR practitioners to take an overall view of the workforce in the full confidence that no-one will be left out of training, or regular assessments, opportunities and feedback.
Given the need to satisfy the ambitions of an organisation’s most valuable workers, and mitigate risk from a compliance and legal point of view (for example right to work in the UK), every HR manager is going to have to embrace a level of digitisation beyond mere record-keeping.
Ambitious and IT-savvy HR managers are already taking this process to its logical conclusion – one which gives them a role at the very core of an organisation as they offer advanced workflow management while nurturing and deploying top talent to create a way of working far more efficient and controlled than has previously been imaginable.
At the same time, issues of compliance should largely be taken care of by a single enterprise information platform that not only logs and stores all records, but schedules checks and flags any matter that has not been attended to.
This allows the HR team to become a catalyst for driving productivity, backed by a resource which maximises the return on the organisation’s human capital.