HR: Out of the attic and into the boardroom
Traditionally, human resources (HR) has been viewed as a cost centre, not a profit centre, and has, as such, held low status - that is until recent years, when technology finally became prevalent in strategic HR management.
Emile Bosman, HOD: HR Services, Softline VIP, says that while the HR management function has been changed and influenced greatly over the years by a number of factors, such as employment laws, the most compelling influence has undoubtedly been technology, as well as the retention and management of talent (“the war on talent”).
“HR was always the last department in a business to be allocated a portion of the IT budget, a true reflection of the low status it held in most organisations. Even as recently as five years ago you would still find HR offices in small and medium-sized businesses keeping all employee records in paper filing systems, for example. But long-overdue human resource information systems (HRISes) have quickly evolved into powerful, cost-saving systems for businesses of all sizes.”
The benefits of automating and streamlining the HR function and processes are substantial and systems have become accessible and affordable, even for small businesses. Such systems have the potential to improve organisational effectiveness and cost structures, and position a business to seize a greater share of the market. So, at least considering the adoption of HR technology makes good sense, especially in the current economy.
There are, however, challenges facing e-HR, not the least of these being employee self-service offerings. Bosman believes too many organisations underestimate the impact of technology on their employees. HR needs to spend as much time with employees on “change” as they do on the training and implementation of software. Training should be provided on company time to develop the self-efficacy of the employees and, better still, employees should be involved in the development of the system, so that it's not viewed as just a system for HR.
Another hurdle is that it has long been assumed and accepted that HR departments have to earn “strategic partner” status. HR departments can be better integrated and involved in strategic planning processes if they are able to expeditiously provide appropriate and accurate information through the use of information technology. To bring this about, HR not only has to change its role in the business from a “guardian of justice” to more of a “service/consultancy” role, but also its focus on the most appropriate type of delivery systems, Bosman concludes.