HR and Technology

Technological applications play an increasingly important role in HR. Technology improves HR functioning in four main ways: self-service, call centers, productivity improvement, and outsourcing. For example, using Dell’s HR intranet, the firm’s employees can self-service many of their HR transactions, such as updating personal information and changing benefits allocations. And, Dell’s HR intranet and “data warehouse” provide its managers with desktop access to HR related information, such as “How does turnover in my department compare to that of the other departments at Dell? Technology also enabled Dell to create a centralized call center. HR specialists answer questions from all Dell’s far-flung employees, reducing the need for multiple HR centers at each Dell location. The “improving productivity through HRIS” box presents another example.

More firms are installing internet and computer based systems for improving HR productivity. For example, International paper corp. finished installing its “Viking” HR information system a few years ago. In terms of efficiency, the goal was to achieve an HR staff to employee ratio of one to 150, and cost per employee of $800 for delivering HR services. The Viking project included four components. There was a data warehouse which stockpiled a vast array of HR related information on employees. It included new technology to upgrade the company’s existing centralized HR service center. The third part consisted of new software for managing HR activities such as payroll administration. The fourth component included as intranet based employee portal that employees use to self service certain HR related needs.

Technology also makes it easier to outsource HR activities to specialist service providers, by enabling service providers to have real time, internet based access to the employer’s HR database. Outsourcing is increasingly popular. About 84% of the HR professionals responding to one survey said their firms outsource the administration of pension plans, 84% outsource employee assistance/counseling programs, 74% outsource retirement planning, and 73% pension administration, 72% temporary staffing, and about 68% of employers outsource background checks to specialist firms.

The HR portals

HR portals, usually hosted on a company’s intranet, provide employees with a single access point or “gateway” to all HR information.

They let employees, managers, and executives interactively access and modify HR information. They thereby streamline the HR process and enable HR managers to focus more on strategic issues.
Sometimes the firm’s gateway HR portal supports just as few HR specialists. Anheuser Busch used this approach when the time came for annual benefits package enrollments. HR knew there would be a large number of employee inquiries. It therefore replaced its manual inquiry process with Authoria HR, an HR portal from Authoria, Inc.

Doing so let HR digitize and aggregate through a single source all the former paper benefits counselors had been using. That made it much easier for specialists in Anheuser-Busch’s HR call center to answer employees question as they came in the aim is to eventually allow employees to research and answer their own HR questions through a browser based interface.

Wells Fargo used an HR portal when it merged with Norwest Corporation. The merger meant moving 90,000 employees to a new benefit plan, which of course triggered numerous employee inquiries. As at Anheuser-Busch, Wells Fargo armed its HR call center counselors with a specialized portal; this helped them research and answer employee’s inquiries.

NCR also installed a HR portal. It is called HR express, and is organized into three information areas; benefits and compensation, training and career growth, and NCR values and HR policies. NCR also needed a forms center to the sites title bar. HR expresses gives information they need to manage HR tasks, such as those relating to company benefits and updating their personal information. The forms center gives them quick access to any HR forms they need.

Putting HR services online doesn’t just cut costs by letting employees research their own inquiries or by letting HR call center counselors do their jobs more easily. It also enables HR to redeploy its assets and focus on more strategic issues. Putting HR services online is not just for cost savings but to transform the work HR was doing from reactionary dealing being on the cutting edge, making people better employees.