Technology & HR-Leverage one for the other: "Technology and HR are enablers of business. Integration of the two would mean not only harmonious co-existence but also leveraging one for the other. Leveraging of technology for HR would mean digitizing the mundane HR activities and automating the back office and transactional activities related to recruitment, performance management, career planning, and succession planning, training and knowledge management. Leveraging HR for technology implies managing change associated with technology by way of communication, training, hiring, retraining, stakeholder analysis and conscious keeping. Thus they can play complementary roles."
Technology and HR both have one thing common i.e., both these are enablers of business.
recent times, technology has become synonymous with information
technology, as hardly any other technological development of the past
would have impacted all spectrum of business as information technology
has impacted. Irrespective of the kind of business you are in i.e.,
services or goods, commodity or branded, trading or manufacturing,
contemporary or traditional deployment of information technology in one
form or the other is a foregone conclusion. To manage and deploy
technology in an effective way, all business Organizations would need
knowledge workers. Managing of these knowledge workers is the
responsibility of HR function. Hence the integration of technology and
HR is an absolute must.
Having understood technology and HR in the
present context we must understand integration in this context.
Integration would not only mean harmonious co-existing but would also
mean one enhancing and complementing the other i.e., technology is used
to enhance effectiveness of HR and HR functions helps in adopting and
managing change which technology deployment brings in.
Leveraging technology for HR
management as a function is responsible for deliverables like business
strategy execution, administrative efficiency, employee contribution and
capacity for change. All these are accomplished through what HR people
do i.e., staffing, development, compensation, benefits, communicate
organization design, high performing teams and so on. In majority of
these areas technology is being deployed.
is one area where all the companies worth their name leverage IT. There
are two different models of e-recruitment, which are in vogue. One is
recruitment through company's own sites and the other is hosting your
requirement on the other sites e.g., monster .com, jobsdb.com,
jobsahead.com, naukri.com, and jobstreet.com and so on so forth. The
first models is more popular with the larger companies who have a brand
pull for potential employees e.g., G.E., IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, HCL,
ICICI, Reliance, Mindtree consulting etc. Other companies prefer to go
to the job sites. Some are adopting both.
E-recruitment has gone a
long way since its start. Now these sites have gone global. Sites like
jobsahead.com and monster.com have established global network, which
encompasses separate sites for jobs in Australia, Denmark, Belgium, and
Canada etc. Job seekers are able to search job by region or country and
employers target potential employees in specific countries. For example,
3 Com recently posted a company profile on the Ireland site that
highlights the contributions of 3 com's Irish design team in its global
In the early days e-recruitment was plagued with
flooding the employers with low-quality bio-data's. Again technology
has come as a savior. Now pre-employment testing like the one introduced
by Capital One, a US based financial company, help in filtering the
applicants. These tools test online e.g., applicants for call centers.
'Profile International' a Texas based provider of employment
assessments, has developed tools that allow instant translation of
assessment tests between languages. Further developments like video-
conference specialized sites, online executives recruitments and
combining online and offline methods are leading to more and more
companies adopting e-recruitment at least as a secondary recruitment
method. Arena Knights Bridge, a US based IT company conducts video based
interview of its prospective employees and only short listed employees
are met in person. Even Cisco was to launch the same.
Employee Self Service
self-service is perhaps one utility of IT, which has relieved HR of
most of mundane tasks and helped it to improve employee satisfaction.
Employee self services is a plethora of small activities, which were
earlier carried out by employee through administration wing of HR. These
are travel bookings, travel rules information, travel bills, leave
rules, leave administration, perk administration, etc. Earlier all these
rules and information were in the custody of HR. Every user employee
was expected to reach out to HR and get it done. Now with deployment of
ESS in most of the companies, employee can request for travel related
booking online, fill his/her T.E. bills, apply for leave, log time sheet
and see his perks value disbursed and due etc. E.g., in Ballarpur
Industries Ltd. leave administration is completely digitized in its
corporate office. It is working towards digitizing travel related
activities, perks and even compensation management and performance
management administration. 'Digitize or outsource all the mundane and
routine focus only on core and value add' - Vineet Chhabra V.P. -PDC
Communication which is most talked about
management tool has always been a gray area in HR management. In large
companies with vast geographical spread communicating with all employees
had really posed formidable challenge to HR professionals. Technology
has again come for rescue. Starting with telephones, faxes, e-mails and
maturing into video conferencing, net cast, web cast etc. communication
is one area of HR, which has been greatly benefited by technology. Mouse
& click companies like Oracle, IBM has an intranet which caters to
most of the information needs of its employees. Brick & Morter
companies like BILT also have made a foray into deploying intranet for
internal communication, which has corporate notice board, media
coverage, and knowledge corners.
area of HR, which is leveraging technology, is employee development.
Programmed learning (PL) i.e. learning at its own pace is one of the
most effective ways of adult learning. Use of technology for this
purpose can't be over emphasized. Aptech Online University and 'The
Manage mentor' are some of the Indian sites, which are in this business
knowledge management, which is an integral part of any learning
organization, which cannot become a reality without technology.
Companies can harness the knowledge of its employees by cataloging and
hosting it on the intranet. Talk to 'Big-5' or not 'so big' consulting
companies you will find that main stay of their business is the
knowledge repository. Technology has enabled them to retrieve it
swiftly. In the competitive environment where speed is the name of game
technology driven Knowledge Management constantly provides a strategic
If you look at HR module of ERP solutions like people
soft, SAP, Oracle and Ramco they provide you with a comprehensive
package which helps in man-power planning, recruitment, performance
management, training and development, career planning, succession
planning, separation and grievance handling. A transaction happening in
all these areas are digitized and form a closed loop ensuring employee
database is always updated. E.g. a joining letter of a new employee is
system generated. It will be printed only when all mandatory fields of
information are entered. Similarly a transfer order or a separation
letter is issued from the system only if that transaction has been
carried out in the system.
For career planning, success planning,
skill and competencies matrix methods are used by most of these systems.
They search an employee with the required skills first in the in-house
database of employees. Once put in practice in letter & spirit, this
system not only enhances business results by matching the right
candidate for right job but also improves retention of employees.
payroll, churning out time office reports, providing HR-MIS are some
other routine activities of HR which have been off-loaded to technology.
Leveraging HR for Technology
HR professionals, preaching or practicing, learning or experimenting,
teaching or studying have experienced leveraging technology for HR. But
most of us come across a situation where we need to leverage HR for
technology. Let us understand what do we mean by this.
technology is deployed afresh or upgraded it involves a change. The
change may be at the activity level e.g., applying for leave through the
intranet or at the mental model level e.g., digitizing the process
succession planning which have been HR professionals forte. The people
have always registered adopting change. This is one area where HR
professionals are to deliver i.e., become change agents and lead the
process of technology and change adoption. The resistance to change is
directly proportional to speed of change. Now speed of change has
increased and hence resistance.
Just to take an example, most of
ERP implementation in the world have not been able to deliver all the
expectations. Some of these have failed to deliver at all. While
analyzing the cause of failure it has been observed that 96% of failures
are because of people related issues and only 4% are because of
It is the people who make the difference; hence HR
should exploit its expertise to facilitate the adoption of technology. I
would like to put together some of the thoughts on what HR should do
At the time of recruitment, stop hiring for skills
rather hire for attitude and a learning mind. Skills of today are no
longer valid tomorrow. Managing ever changing change is the only
criteria for success.
Functional or technical skills can be
acquired during the job. Hence recruitment in the technology era needs
to undergo a paradigm shift i.e., from a skill/competency based it needs
to be attitude and learning mind/ ability based interview. That would
translate into hiring for skills for future. In IBM every employee has
to fill in his/her individual development plan where the employee
commits its learning one/two new skills every year thus remaining
competitive every time.
If we look at the chemistry of resistance
to change it is either a skill issue or a will issue. To address the
will issue we need to work at a comprehensive solution starting from
recruitment (as discussed earlier), reward, compensation and leading to
organization culture which promotes change. A living example is 3M, a US
based company, where innovation is way of life, where 10% of revenue
must come from new products every year. For them change becomes way of
To address the will issue further organization need to
prepare a communication strategy which creates a 'pull' for the
technology. For example, in Ranbaxy, when they went for SAP
implementation they anticipated resistance. To address this they started
a house journal, which was aimed at educating the employees on the
benefits, which will result from adoption of ERP, SAP. This created a
need rather a potential need or a latent need was brought out. Adoption
of ERP did not become much of a problem.
At times adoption of
technologies is perceived as a threat by the employees e.g., automation
leading to reduction in workers, office automation leading to
retrenchment of clerks etc. HR needs to be associated with the technical
adoption right from the beginning till the end. At the selection of
technical stage if HR is associated, it can map the skills required and
create a pull during implementation and adoption. Post adoption it can
release the excess non-re-allocatable employees.
this process more clearly we can take example of ERP implementation. ERP
is taken as an example as this is one technology adoption which effects
employees across the org. irrespective of function and position. Any
other automation may have affected only a segment of organisation. ERP
implementation in any organization goes through the following stages.
1. Selection of package
2. Business analysis
3. Solution design
4. Configuration and customization
5. Conference room piloting (CRP)
6. Go-live and production
At each stage HR has to play a role, which will help in mitigating resistance to change.
selection process, the change agent can understand the business benefit
ERP would bring. This would help him to draw a comprehensive
communication plant aimed at creating a 'pull' for the change. The
communication plan may use its various weapons from the armory. The
obvious examples are Newsletters, Newsflash. In-house journal,
addressing by the top management, web cast, open house sessions,
meetings formal and informal.
During the business analysis phase
implementation team is supposed to analyse the existing business
processes. At times this leads to surfacing of some data which is not
very desirable by the process owners, leading to resistance at this
stage, HR has to be again proactive and carry out a detailed
stake-holder analysis. Such an analysis should give a lead to potential
areas of problem and potential champions of change.
design involves defining 'To-be processes' i.e., the way business would
be carried out in future. At this stage HR has to play the role of
catalyst to turn the heat on. The idea is to ensure to make maximum out
of an opportunity of package enabled business transformation. HR can
play a role by arranging to educate and train the right people on best
business practices, just before this phase.
configuration and customization HR has to keep on beating the drum, the
customization of a standard package is a big no-no. Similarly, during
the conference room plotting (CRP) it should help in identifying the
right persons to be involved in CRP. A thorough testing at this stage
would result in lesser pain at the time of going live. This is also time
to focus on training of end users, the employees who are going to use
the system once implemented. Training- retraining -training to ensure
all the prospective users are comfortable with usage of software before
the system goes live.
During the go-live stage HR has to work over
time to keep the motivation levels high. This is the time when
management starts losing patience as one glitch after the other keeps
appearing and virtually bringing the business to halt. At this stage, HR
has to play 'conscious keeper' for the top management once into product
relocating the surplus is a challenge for which it has to be prepared
This examples makes it clear that involvement of HR
during the entire life cycle of technology is valuable. ERP is not an
isolated case. It is true for any other technology adoption only finer
details may vary. Hence HR must play a proactive role rather than being
just a silent spectator or mere executers of the wishes of business or
chief technology officer in case of technological changes.