As 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 employees.
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 p