The effective use of technology is a key determinant of the successful management of human capital in organisations of all sizes. It has revolutionised the way HR functions from short listing to recruitment, performance management and even to psychometrics.
With the rapid and constant development of the Sri Lankan IT industry of which we witnessed a remarkable growth in the last 10 years, business organisations, its cultures and practices were changed positively. Information Communication Technology (ICT) has now become a way of life.
Why is technology important for a HR manager?
Intellectual capital and technology have become the new measure of business success while capital and cash flows remain as important as ever. The role of HR has also changed accordingly.
It is becoming increasingly important for an HR manager to understand business and what drives it. Challenges faced by an HR manager cannot be considered in isolation as it goes hand in hand with business. They must respond to the requirements of today and prepare for tomorrow as well.
For a time, Human Resource Management was almost strictly an administrative function, with the professionals focusing their attention on completing repetitive tasks and serving as personal consultants to employees.
Until 1970s most of the Personnel Departments were considered as a place which hire and fire people and keep personnel tracking. Through those records, the companies were able to get information on newly-hired employees to the organisation, fired, promoted and transferred while producing reports on present and to some extent on the past.
Unfortunately those reports and information were not sufficient to contribute significantly in designing and developing strategic plans and the decision making process of the organisation.
Transiting from personnel to HR
Slowly the personnel departments took on the name Human Resource Department and started to spend more time planning and analysing to support top management requirements in decision making.
The role of human resources departments even in small and mid-size businesses turned more complex. They changed their ways of dealing with people slowly and developed relationships. Organisations that were willing to adopt this change with the hope of revolutionising the industry kept a step ahead and now are amongst the top business leaders in the country today.
Most of those organisations recognised the importance of improving and integrating the human resource department with the strategic business direction of the entire organisation. Considering the pace at which technology is taking over business functions, those companies welcome new technology to their HR departments, use technology to manage day-to-day details, administrative functions, etc., and contribute more to elevate their roles in organisations.
With the growth of computerised business applications, the first HR information system was introduced in the late 1960s and HR managers began to spend a significant amount of time establishing relationships with employees and serving their requirement.
A human resource information software system or HRIS system is one way that a lot of companies use to manage everything easily and become even more productive. Having this system in the company could aid the human resource team to become more organised and practice being practical in the workplace. It is a database application used to track information pertaining to the employees and applicants.
New research indicates that companies with the most high-performing HR functions behave differently when it comes to the use of HR technology and this may be the most convincing reason for HR professionals to improve their knowledge and skills in this competency domain.
Advantages of a human resource information system
There is no better answer than technology which will give you an edge over your competition. The development of HR technologies is helping to transform HR into a decision-making science, with this people can measure the impact on business and its growth. Not only HRIS but also internet and email play a major role in communication and have accelerated business functions.
Whether it concerns the hiring and firing of employees or whether it concerns employee motivation, the Human Resources Department of any organisation now enjoys a very central role in not only formulating company policies, but also in streamlining the business process.
To make a human resource department more effective and efficient, new technologies are now being introduced to make things much simpler. As mentioned previously, one of the latest human resource technologies is the introduction of a Human Resources Information System (HRIS); this integrated system is designed to help provide information used in HR decision making such as administration, payroll, recruiting, training, and performance analysis.
The basic advantage of a Human Resource Information System (HRIS) is to not only computerise employee records and databases but to maintain an up to date account of the decisions that have been made or that need to be made as part of a human resource management plan.
The Human Resource Information System not only makes the functionalities less challenging, but they are also ensures a smooth running, without any hindrance or hick-up.
This system paves the way to human resource personnel to apply new technologies to effectively gather and appraise employee time and work information. It lets an employee’s information be easily tracked so that it can be assessed on a more scientific level whether an employee is performing to their full potential or not, and if there are any improvements that can be made to make an employee feel more secure.
Employee benefits are very crucial because they help to motivate an employee to work harder. By using an automated system in employee benefits, the human resource department is able to keep better track of which benefits are being availed to which employee and how each employee gets the benefits provided.
Such automated system also has advantages in HR management because it restrains time and cost consuming activities leading to a more efficient HR department. Technology definitely take away some of the drudgery associated with administration.
Challenges in implementing automation system in an organisation
To keep pace in an increasingly competitive business world, companies need to function as efficiently as possible. Technology can do wonders but only to the extent of helping people to do their tasks better. We cannot forget the fact that technology cannot replace the intelligence that man carries with him.
Even the best technology cannot replicate the convincing HR manager who can motivate an employee to give his best, understand complex human problems and provide solutions, show empathy to employees, etc.
Contribution of technology towards enhancement of other sections of business
Be it HR or any other business process, it is unquestionable that technology plays a big role in today’s business environment. With technology, you will be at an advantage with speed, efficiency, and accuracy.
Technology merged with accounting before it link with any other management functions with the innovation of the calculator by a French Scientist named Blaise Pascal. Computers and accounting software allow accountants to use electronic spreadsheets — eliminating the need for manual work.
It became much simpler for accountants to keep track of information on a minute-by-minute basis and completely eliminated most mistakes and is sure of the accuracy of the data.
Advertising is a field that has a great influence of technology. Modern technology has given businesses an extraordinary ability to communicate with their target markets, causing a dramatic evolution in the way marketers craft advertising strategies.
Very often advertising is misunderstood by many as marketing. Simply stated, marketing is everything you do to place your product or service in the hands of potential customers. It includes diverse disciplines like sales, public relations, pricing, packaging, and distribution. Advertising is one such discipline.
Logistics is also a field in which technology plays a great role. It handles the distribution systems that include activities supporting both the forward flow of goods from the manufacturer to the consumer as well as the reverse flow from the consumer to the manufacturer.
Has HR realised its value and importance in organisations?
Why do some HR managers pay ‘pooja’ to their CEOs or managing directors? This act is not a function of a professional HR person. Several HR persons have failed to establish the value that HR can drive into the business. It has become a ‘fad’ for one to say “I am in HR,” hence, leave alone the CEO, there are peers and other staff who question, “What is HR all about?”
Time is opportune for HR to take the ‘bull by the horns’ and start defining the value that it creates. All HR supporting technology can only be established if the HR is perceived as a value addition to the business by its intervention.
(The writer is the Managing Director and CEO, McQuire Rens Group of Companies. He has held regional responsibilities of two multinational companies of which one was a Fortune 500 company. He carries out consultancy assignments and management training in Dubai, India, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. He is a much sought-after business consultant and corporate management trainer in Sri Lanka.)