Soft focus

first_imgSoft focusOn 1 Feb 2000 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Comments are closed. With this year’s Softworld conference and exhibition only a week away hereis a timely reminder of the importance of technology to the strategicHRfunction Technology is playing a crucial role in realising the capacity of the HRfunction to act as a strategic partner in the achievement of business goals.The advance of e-business and globalisation has increased demands on HR toprovide integrated and flexible systems available 24 hours a day, seven days aweek to support global business. E-business has accelerated the process ofdevolving HR decisions to line managers, thrown together teams built acrossvirtual networks and time zones and created an environment which is onlypossible through connectivity, collaborative working and instant access toinformation.Technology, used wisely, can help meet these demands. First, technology canrelieve HR of much of the routine administrative work that can stifle creativity.Second, technology can perform previously impossible complex transactions tocreate access to new reward systems, such as flexible benefits and global shareschemes, and add new levels of employee understanding to existing systems suchas pensions. One way of meeting the challenge of integration is to use Internettechnology as a common tool.Developments in HR systems have supported business changes in the followingways. Along with the automation of administrative tasks is the growing abilityto extend access to a wider group, including employees, applicants, pensionersand suppliers. Some companies are venturing into new technologies such as interactive voicerecognition, using kiosks and even mobile phones for access, imaging anddocument management.Windows technology with the use of browsers and kiosks has made systems moreuser-friendly, saving time and money on implementation and training for widergroups. Reporting tools are easier to use, with more real-time data and betteraccess to history and trend information.The speed of growth of new technology can often be overwhelming and presentsa challenge to organisations struggling to keep ahead. It pays to consider very carefully the process of automation to ensure itdelivers efficiency benefits and also who should be responsible for enteringdata and the purpose it serves. A key contributor to success is gaining thebuy-in of everyone involved in the process and making sure they understand whatis required of them. Employees, for example need to understand where personalupdate is their responsibility.Specialist applicationsThese developments have given the HR function the opportunity to enhance theperformance of tasks such as expatriate and pensions administration and alsoopened up new possibilities which would previously have been unthinkable due toadministrative workload.Expatriate managementExpatriate populations are growing together with an increasing focus on thereturn on investment. Using technology to handle the routine areas of expatriatemanagement can release time for HR to concentrate on expert matters such asselection, career development, repatriation and intercultural adaptability,thereby lessening the risk of assignment failure.Pensions administrationThe trend from defined benefits towards defined contribution pensionsschemes encourages an active interest from employees in the performance oftheir pension funds. Future systems, currently available in the US, allowemployees to track the performance of their pension fund, to switch investmentsbetween funds and model their future pensions. Employers will welcome theavailability of data on the performance of pension funds and financial status.Flexible benefits Flexible benefits are increasing in popularity, particularly as apost-merger harmonisation tool. They tend to improve employee satisfaction andhence recruitment and retention statistics, while offering cost containmentopportunities. The new packages offer electronic interfaces to providers, taxcomputations and configurable reporting. These systems can be operated in-houseor outsourced to providers who may offer additional support such as callcentres and helpdesks.Learning and performance managementCreating a link between learning and business results is a priorityobjective for HR managers who need to justify training budgets. Leading edgesystems help achieve this objective.These systems can offer a wide user group access to the right learning atthe right time, using competency analysis to identify skill gaps and suggestdelivery methods. Desktop learning can realise significant savings in traveland accommodation budgets.Companies are looking for further functionality in linking learning anddevelopment with performance management and reward strategy with theintegration of performance data, 360-degree feedback and job evaluationmethodology. An overall view of an organisation’s capability and progressagainst goals is helpful for executive information.Share scheme administrationAs share scheme incentives are increasingly used as a remuneration tool,current methods of administration are becoming impracticable. Driven by marketpressure, the technology to service global share schemes is already on thehorizon. It will incorporate a wide variety of facilities including tracking,documentation, report generation and regulatory and tax compliance and willneed to link the whole range of interested parties in different locations andcountries.Implementing technologyThe future HR function is likely to incorporate strategic partnerships,shared services and administration (supplied either through self-servicesystems or a service centre.)Systems can be operated in-house or on an outsourced basis. Activities mostsuitable for outsourcing are those which are low risk and which the company isless able to perform effectively.Shared service centres can be defined as a centralised group of resourcesdrawn from one or more functional areas that delivers products and services tointernal business customers. Some companies favour a single central location,perhaps with satellites, to maximise standardisation while others choosemultiple locations. HR shared service centres can realise significant costsavings and service improvements and can be used in combination withoutsourcing or as a transitional step towards it.Using the Internet or a company intranet, employee self-service can becombined with either outsourcing or shared service centresConclusionDevelopments in technology represent a vast opportunity for raising theimportance of HR in the organisation and focusing on its strategic role. Risks,however, can be high and it is vital that the right approach is adoptedBy Dierdre Hardy• Dierdre Hardy, is senior manager for global HRsolutions atPricewaterhouseCoopers. This is an edited extract from her masterclass session,”Implementing HR Systems to Deliver Business Improvements” at theforthcoming Softworld HR & Payroll event, 9-10 February at WembleyConference Centre, London. The event comprises an exhibition, seminars and educational masterclassescovering the latest developments in HR and payroll technologies. The SoftworldMasterclasses are a series of briefings from independent industry experts ontopics such as selection, implementation and strategic issues. For details, contact Imark Events on 0208-939 4704. Hotline: 07000 763896, last_img read more