Our financial, marketing, sales, and operations are run by a technological interface. Programs such as QuickBooks, Excel, Great Plains, GoldMine, ACT, Sales Force, Daptiv, and so on, help govern these operations from beginning to end.
There have been numerous technology platforms introduced to the HR equation: Payroll, time and attendance, workforce planning and management, online recruiting, benefits administration, compliance management, performance management, compensation management, training management, enterprise resource planning and succession planning, and more. Human resources information systems (HRIS) are making an effort to consolidate these various HR disciplines.
For many years now, many large corporations have relied on companies like PeopleSoft, Oracle, and others to assist with the technology interface. Smaller companies have relied on programs such as Sage/Abra, HR Office, UltiPro and offerings by payroll companies such as ADP, PayChex, and Ceridian. Now, companies with as few as 25 employees are starting to look at the cost/benefit of these HRIS systems.
The primary benefit of any technology is the ability to consolidate data, analyze it, change it, and report it. It also reduces duplication of effort and inherent error. As we move forward, these human resources information platforms will be offered by payroll companies, insurance and benefit providers, PEOs and ASOs, as well as directly from vendors. Chances are, you’ll be able to choose from a suite of integrated options.
The question in this environment remains, “Will the effort be worth it?” In our experience a lot can go wrong with these technologies. The payroll and time and attendance tie-in are especially important. Assuming all the bells and whistles work properly, the next question is “Who’s going to be excited about using the program?” Most HR people don’t run toward technology; they run from it! It’s simply not their thing. Others will be dragged forward realizing that it will generate some efficiencies for the organization, and they’ll tend to use these programs at their lowest common denominator.
For example, most HRIS systems advertise how many different reports you can pull — sometimes hundreds or more. Chances are however, most HR people don’t pull any reports and don’t use the program strategically. They tend to free up some time resulting from open benefits enrollment and time keeping, but they’re not used properly to help hire, manage performance, conduct training, and deal with compliance.
It is our belief that strategy trumps technology every single time. We give this example: A great sales letter is of more benefit to a company than any CRM program. A great sales letter embedded in a CRM program which helps foster discipline and commitment is a sure winner. Strategic thinking about how to attract great employees is more important than the technology interface you use for the onboarding process. The strategy that you use to retain employees is far more important than any report you will generate about retention. So, the future challenge of these programs is not only that they consolidate all aspects of HR and do so without a glitch, but that they start being used at a strategic and not just a technological level. This will require a disciplined commitment, training, and intensive customer support. In our view, we’re not there yet.
In conclusion, before you get trapped by the promise of new technologies, be very clear about what type of impact they can have on your organization, and question if there are more strategic activities you can engage in that will trump the technology ones.