Technology: Changing The Face Of HR

Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 2237 , Published on 13 September 2012

Why do the employees still perceive the HR department to be performing only the paperwork or other trivial administrative functions? Worse still some perceive HR department as a “cost center” and be completely abolished from the organization. The panacea to most of today’s HR related concerns is Technology. Let us delve into the matter to understand and explore how technology has the potential to bring multidimensional changes in its functions.

The timeline

The HR operations and deliverables have been undergoing transition since its inception. A closer look at these changes reveals that technology has brought far reaching repercussions in this journey. Let us take a look of it.

Traditional Personnel management

During this phase, HR was supposed to be inferior to other departments like marketing or finance, not contributing much to the organization.  The line managers were passive players performing the task of transactor of the policies and decisions of the HR professionals. So, the functions were primarily restricted to the operational level.

Business Partner

This phase involved the evolution of the Human Resource Management (HRM) which included onset of the strategic functions into the administrative tasks. The functions were categorized as operational functions related to the routine personnel functions. In addition, the managerial level comprising of activities like acquisition, development, engagement and retention were included. Major challenges at this stage were:

i) Lacked  power and autonomy in decision making

ii) Was not integrated with the line managers

iii) The operational functions (paperwork and routine tasks) overloaded it that it could not focus on the managerial functions

Strategic partner

The HRM practices have evolved over the past with the inclusion of the strategic functions that included future development plans. At this point, the role of line managers and employees in performing the operational functions became crucial with the HR getting focused on the higher level tasks.  A major challenge here was how the above target be achieved without affecting the employees’ normal job commitments and also keeping them motivated in performing these “additional” functions.

Why technology?

The repercussions of technology are far reaching, some of them are covered below as:

  • In this war for talent, the organizations cannot compromise on their branding and there is a need for the HR professionals to focus on the business strategies playing an indispensible role in decision making of the organization that gives it the recognition as an internal consultant. This requires the HR functions getting more technologically enabled particularly the operational level functions. Thus, using technology we can develop an “alternate delivery mechanism” for the transactional activities.
  • To acquire and engage the Gen Next employees, who have an inclination to work in a technology, the organizations have started to adapt their work culture with technologies like telecommunication, self service, virtual teams, video conference etc.

The diagram above shows that as we move ahead in the technology value chain, the involvement is shifted from the transactional to strategic functions.

Stages of the technological embodiment in the organization

1) Transaction Automation:

  • The HR information system (HRIS) serves as an electronic database to store and retrieve information instantaneously, accessible to everyone and everywhere in the organization. This can include employees’ records, the organization’s policies or information related to the benefits available to the employees.
  • The Intranets together with the internet is used in automating the crucial information. These are broadly of 2 types: data of the employees and business data. This automation can ease the HR professionals from spending a lot of time on the routine tasks which can now be shifted from being manually handled to being automatically stored.
  • This not only helps to cut the administrative cost but also helps in the HR professionals to shift the focus to the crucial strategic functions.

2) Automation for convenience:

  • Tools like the Self service, HR kiosks, Real time systems, HR over internet can help the employees to enter their details and take care of the administrative functions on their own, reducing the burden on the HR department. Not only this, it can also help to have a better feedback system in place.
  • These tools can aid the employees in self-planning their career; ensure a better communication between different departments and help in connecting with the external HR professionals, thereby ensuring an integrated decision making.

3) Customer service

This application has revolutionized how jobs are dealt with. Some of them are:

  • E-recruitment: Gone are the days when recruitment meant the tedious task of reaching out to the potential candidates, involving humungous cost and time. The Social networking sites (SNS) and job portals have made the process highly efficient to reach out the potential candidates. It offers the following advantages over the traditional methods:
  • Economical method to publish the job openings
  • Far reaching and quicker processes of receiving the application response, screening, hiring and background verifications.
  • The video conferencing technology has helped to reach the candidates across the boundaries thus widening the talent available and diversifying the talent pool of the organization and also cutting down the traveling costs.

  • E-learning: Using the technology, the HR professionals have been successful in customizing the process of learning & development. The online learning materials can help the employees to enrich themselves with the pace they are comfortable with and also removing the huge printing & travelling cost involved in designing these modules on paper and circulating them to the employees. Also, the Virtual HR tools like Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 have revolutionized the learning process by removing the distance barriers and also providing the real-time experience of learning in a team.

  • Computerized performance monitoring (CPM): Most of the employees lack clarity on the parameters their performance is gauged. Thus, the CPM helps to bring more transparency into the system. This tool helps to clearly state the objectives and goals considered with their relative weightage.

  • Employee Self Services (ESS): This tool helps the employees to access their data and information of interest like payrolls, benefits and training materials. On the other hand, it helps the HR managers to focus on the strategic matters like compensation and benefits, succession planning, talent management etc. This ensures that the work that requires the effort of 2 or 3 individuals is completed by a single one with the aid of technology.

  • Virtual teams: The new concept introduced is of virtual teams.  This involves employees working together when most of them (or all) are not physically present in the organization. Managing these resources becomes a major challenge for HR professionals. These include finding and hiring the potential candidates who can work efficiently in virtual environment and also ensuring that the physical absence from the workplace doesn’t mean compromise of the values of the organization..

4) Future Analysis

  • The data so received by the HR professionals through various sources like the training performance, appraisal records or achievement assessments, quit interviews or HR research, can be used for statistical predictions and analysis through data mining tools collectively termed as the “Predictive analysis” .On the basis of the data collected and statistical analysis, data trends are formulated using which the strategies for the future are formulated in order to meet the future demands of  resources.
  • Through these statistical tools the organization can analyze some sensitive data related o the employees. By analyzing the employees who have the probability of performing well in the future, the organization can selectively employ its resource.  Also, by understanding which source is most efficient for recruiting against a specific job profile, it can channelize the specific resources and thereby reduce the cost and time factor.
  • The predictive modeling is based on advanced statistical tools like the linear regression model, logistic regression, Probit regression, neural networks, Radical basis functions (RBF) etc.


The discussion is incomplete without considering the challenges involved.

Losing the “human aspect”

Let us not forget the basic function of the HR professionals: the human element. So, a major challenge in the way of the technological evolution is maintaining a balance between technology and the human aspects.

Technological obsolesce

It is evident that technology keeps evolving every second day and hence it becomes imperative that the organizations keep themselves abreast with the latest technological innovations. Having obsolete technologies at workplace is worse than not having it at all.

Proper training of employees and line managers

Our discussion focused on the fact that the HR functions should be shared by the line managers and employees through tools like the intranet, self service etc. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the employees have to be trained well before working with these tools. An absence of expertise or semi-skilled employees will affect the accuracy and productivity causing data damage.

This article has been authored by Ela Koshal from Welingker Institute, Mumbai.



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