Tools that help make HR a force to be reckoned with

the dotcom hype subsides, all things "e" are under scrutiny. Employee
communications is quite possibly the best example of how the Internet and
electronic communications can be deployed to support the bottom line.

Once viewed purely as a delivery mechanism, the Internet and company
intranets need to be considered upstream in HR strategy – for they have the
potential to release HR professionals from a transactional role to fulfil their
potential as a transformational force in an organisation.

Take a look at flexible benefit programmes: their virtual, paperless
implementation has removed the administrative burden of employee compensation
and given the HR function the opportunity to transform an organisation’s
relationship with employees by personalising it.

In purely practical terms, some companies are finding that they can extend
their flexible benefits e-delivery platform to actually leverage the e-HR
transformation. The Royal Bank of Scotland is extending its flexible benefits
platform, for instance, to send out joiner packs, interview and talk to

A large pharmaceuticals company, which is just starting out on its e-HR
journey, is similarly using it to automate certain functions and is offering
frontline management of pensions and benefits such as company cars.

In a survey of UK organisations, Employer Attitudes to Flexible Benefits
2000-2001, more than 80 per cent of respondents confirmed they are considering
a flexible benefit programme.

On the crucial point of implementation, more than 80 per cent consider
electronic preference modelling facilities and Internet/intranet communication
a useful or very useful method of information to support such a programme.

The administration of a flexible benefit programme is often perceived to be
a drawback to implementation, but, with online access to personal data,
educational material and the ability to monitor, identify and confirm flexible
benefit preferences, the costs are significantly reduced.

The survey found that almost 70 per cent of respondents expect to offer
intranet availability across all areas of flexible benefits delivery in one to
three years.

A key reason for this is clearly the increased availability of Internet,
intranet and knowledge ware to support this growth, but must also be a response
to lower costs of e-implementation, which typically range from £30 to £50 per
person per annum.

Looking three years ahead, the Intranet will have eclipsed paper-based
delivery almost completely.

Clearly, the value of an Internet/intranet-based flexible benefit programme
goes well beyond the cost savings.

With workforces becoming increasingly diverse – socially and geographically
– an electronic platform provides a centralised resource that can be accessed remotely
at any time, making it as convenient and accessible to a teleworker as a member
of the core secretarial staff.

It also gives employees the opportunity to spend time modelling the ideal
mix of benefits to suit their lifestyle and life-stage.

When staff are online, they are not under pressure to rush through their
decision, which they may feel on the telephone, nor do they need to feel
isolated because they can ask a member of the HR team to call them back to
discuss their decision in more detail, real time.

The relationship staff want to have with their employer is changing. Online
HR delivery gives HR teams a strategic tool to meet this demand, recruit and
retain the right staff and, ultimately, keep their organisations competitive.

Chris Noon is the leader of the HR effectiveness group at Hewitt, a
global management consulting and outsourcing company specialising in HR

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