Why HR managers have to be tech savvy? – I

*Question:* Why do you find HR managers only in IT companies? *Answer:* Only IT companies need human resources, others are doing very well by sacking them, thank you!
Jokes apart, human resource management is increasingly becoming technology-centric in more ways than one. Even as an ironic truth lurks behind the above joke with IT/ITeS companies proving to be the biggest recruiters in most economies, functionally and operationally, human resource managers worldwide are increasingly turning towards the use of technology in their day to day activities. This article focuses on why human resource managers need to become more and more comfortable with using technology.

With the employee strength of Tata Consultancy Services recently crossing “the 1 lakh mark,”:http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/TCS_employee_strength_touched_100000/articleshow/2413999.cms most people have begun to recognize that in the private sector, only IT/ITeS firms can employ such huge numbers. Except for public sector undertakings such as the Indian Railways or India Post, no other Indian company has such a huge workforce. Interestingly, the other top five players in IT/ITeS space – Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Cognizant and Satyam – are all big ticket employers. In fact, during the last decade, employment in this sector has grown more than eight-fold from 1,90,000 people to more than 16.3 lakh people now.

Combine this with the facts that (a) IT/ITeS firms are talent intensive and rely mainly on their human resources to generate value, (b) there is a veritable talent war going on in this sector, (c) that talent management and talent retention is a key to success in these firms, besides several other factors, it becomes clear why the above joke needs to be considered with a certain degree of seriousness.

As far as HR managers are concerned, it is the IT/ITeS sector which is most active in the HR manager recruiting space as it is here that the need for good quality HR managers is the highest. It is also this sector which probably poses the biggest challenge to the HR professional. And, since working in an IT/ITeS company requires at least some basic awareness of technology, it only makes sense that all aspiring HR managers should be tech savvy at least to some extent.

But this is probably the least important and weakest reason for HR managers to be tech savvy. Of far more importance is the fact that the HR manager’s workplace is changing, and changing fast! Each passing day, HR managers are increasingly resorting to technology tools and solutions to carry out their day to day activities across all industry and service segments, not just the IT/ITeS sector alone.

For example, when the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recently asked its Special Expertise Panel on Technology and HR Management to “report on technology trends”:http://www.citeman.com/textpattern/index.php?event=article in the sector, its overall conclusion was unsurprising – IT is being leveraged by HR to benefit almost every aspect of its day-to-day operations. With HR technology constantly improving and costs continuing to decline in many instances, it is inevitable that implementation of these applications will continue to rise.

The SHRM study found that for US companies at least, increasing concerns over labor and knowledge shortages (the problem is probably even more severe in India), as well as compliance requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley (again Indian firms probably have to contend with an even more complex compliance regime), have pushed firms to examine HR management more closely than ever before. And in turn HR departments have increasingly turned to their CIOs to tackle strategic issues such as performance management, compliance-oriented training and succession planning.

The SHRM’s panel of experts identified “expanded use of the web for delivery and utilization of HR applications on a service basis” as a common trend, but the deployment of HR technology runs far deeper. One particular area that has been highlighted is the increasing deployment of self-service components built into HR technology systems. Employee self-service is giving employees access to details about their payroll and pension information from any web-based location along with the ability to change information.

Also, self-service for job-related functions allows employees to see what jobs are on offer and can be extended to external applicants who can identify open positions and send in their CVs online. The CVs are then forwarded to a centralized pool for the recruiters to evaluate.

Elsewhere, software is being deployed to manage areas such as internal mobility, appraisal management, succession planning, package review and personal development. E-recruitment and performance management software are also helping to dramatically improve HR’s ability to carry out effective people relationship management (PRM), and improve their organization’s employer brand. PRM allows organizations to form one-to-one relationships with potential and current employees, enabling companies to better attract, develop and retain the right people and realize their full potential.

With such solutions, organizations are able to treat their candidates and employees as they would treat their customers. It also enables them to move away from subjective people management to objective and efficient people management to the great benefit of the employee/candidate.

The study also found that applicant tracking and hiring management systems are increasingly making their mark in human resources. Organizations are realizing that finally there is technology which does not limit the ability to match and improve a firm’s workflow process. They are constantly facing a daily challenge of fierce competition for skilled resources whilst having to balance that with reductions in recruitment budgets and diminishing numbers of resources to administer the recruitment process. Applicant tracking systems provide a cost-effective answer to these common problems.

Currently, the technologies making the biggest impact in the HR market are:
* Employee self service
* Workflow technologies
* Vendor management systems
* Applicant tracking systems
* Hiring management systems
* E-recruitment software
* Internal mobility software
* Performance and appraisal management software
* Succession planning software
* Personal development software
* Career planning software
* Package review software
* Executives and key people management software.

With increasing globalization, Indian companies can ill-afford to ignore this trend of increasing technology-intensiveness in the HR function. Naturally, in such a milieu, tech savvy Indian HR managers will surely have the edge over peers who suffer from technology phobia, however mild.

But then many of you may wonder that since HR by its very nature deals with the ‘human’ element of any organization, when it becomes more automated, will it lose its very essence? Look for an answer in a separate article on this issue in your favorite HR site.

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