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HR systems take off in 2015

Published on Saturday, 07 Feb 2015
Josh Bersin
Alison Wong
Bianca Wong

Technology is set to revolutionise the way companies and employees interact

Not only will the use of digital technology in HR systems and practices transform the way people work, and be a key factor in the future success of organisations, but this process is already underway, says Josh Bersin, principal of Bersin by Deloitte, Deloitte Consulting. In a report, “10 Top Disruptive HR Technology-Related Trends Poised to Reshape the Workplace and Drive Organizational Success”, Bersin outlines some of the key elements in this revolution.

“Traditionally, HR software was used to automate HR processes – such as time cards, expense accounts, performance reviews and training records. This meant that the systems were designed to be used by HR staff, not employees – and the focus was on making sure the data was accurate, consistent and in one place,” he says. 

“While none of this has gone away, HR software today goes much further. People now need tools to help them learn, coach others, evaluate and share performance and recognition, look for people and information, and of course still manage their benefits, time, and other administrative duties. Employees are expected to manage their own ‘systems of record’ and HR is shifting from ‘administrative support’ to ‘performance coach and consultant’.”

These systems also give business leaders the real-time information they need to adapt to changing conditions. “Think about goal management. Our research shows organisations that revise their goals quarterly, or more frequently, are nearly 50 per cent more likely to have above-average customer satisfaction, and 65 per cent more likely to be effective at controlling costs than those organisations that only revise their goals once a year.”

Bersin says the internet really kicked things off. “Initially the web – now the cloud – created an opportunity for vendors to build HR systems that [employees could use directly]. This all started around 2000 to 2003. As it took off, more and more HR systems went into the mode of ‘user applications’ and now many end-to-end HR systems are very focused on making people more productive.

“Along the way, we made HR leaders and professionals more productive – by both making their jobs easier and freeing them up from doing mundane tasks that employees can do themselves. Much of this is in a transition phase with companies still very much working hard to make HR systems easy for employees to use.”

The plethora of software tools that are, or are becoming, available allow HR departments to track, support and motivate employees from before they even enter the organisation to the moment they leave.

Among other capabilities, online recruitment platforms can post jobs on social networks and tap into employee’s friends for referral recruiting, Bersin says.

When it comes to productivity, there are tools that enable employees to take online courses, let people create and share their goals, capture feedback, and help HR to analyse who the high-performers are. There are even analytical tools that identify why people leave.

Bersin says ‘Big Brother’ fears associated with digital tools are overblown. “Most companies already monitor employee communications, so new feedback tools are not likely to cause problems. Employees desperately want to make sure their honest feedback is confidential, so that is a big issue. As long as the data being captured is used to improve the workplace, employees are very happy – when data is collected and nothing happens, people become concerned and lose trust.”

However, he does think there is a danger that analytical software could be overused at the expense of interpersonal engagement with staff. “In fact, many of the companies that give analytics information to managers make sure that they have consultants and advisers that show the managers how to use it – and how not to use it. Some of the data is confidential, some is misleading, and much of it they simply won’t bother to look at. 

“In many cases it’s effective not to just give managers a bunch of data about their people, but rather to use the data to give them ‘decision tools’ that help them manage people better.”

Some leading Hong Kong companies are already embracing the new possibilities afforded by digital technology. 

“We are in the process of implementing an HR system roadmap, so we can leverage an automated system to help us improve efficiency and ease-of-use for our employees and managers,” says Bianca Wong, group HR and corporate communications director at Jebsen. “On the learning and development side, we have implemented a mobile app for all the retail sales staff and promoters in our consumer business unit. The mobile app will allow them to easily access new product information, company news and marketing promotion information, as well as being used as a clock-in/out application to track attendance.”

Alison Wong, general manager of HR at MTR Corporation, says: “Apart from a robust HR management system that streamlines our HR processes, we also have an employee self-service system that allows employees to access and update their information and submit annual leave and job applications via an electronic platform. This greatly enhances efficiency, especially as we have staff working at different locations. 

“We have also adopted an electronic performance appraisal system to enhance process efficiency, competencies management, training needs identification and facilitate statistical analysis.”

However, Bianca Wong does not believe the use of analytical software will replace the human touch. “I think by having more automation, HR professionals will have more time to interact with employees and improve engagement.”


Tech’s message
Josh Bersin’s top 10 disruptive HR technology-related trends

1. The shift from HR systems of record to employee systems of engagement

2. Mobile is everything: companies need to build apps, not just “mobile interfaces”

3. Analytics-driven, science-based solutions are needed

4. The science of leadership, assessment, and psychology is evolving with “big data”

5. Sensing, crowdsourcing and the internet of things help companies capture continuous data about employees

6. We now source, attract and recruit candidates through “network recruiting”

7. Dramatic changes to performance management and talent mobility through a new breed of performance management tools and approaches

8. Learning management systems now integrate learning with talent and performance management.

9. HR management and talent management systems are merging

10. Technology-savvy vendors will likely outpace their peers

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