A key challenge for all HR organisations is how to choose the right technology in line with the budget and implement it correctly
Indian organisations still view technology as a tool for process efficiency rather than an opportunity to increase their touch points with employees
Successful implementation of HR technology does not depend on the robustness of the platform, but on employee engagement during the process
Globally, organisations are looking to implement a unified or integrated talent management strategy wherein every employee across the world encounters a standard interface of HR. Obviously, companies won’t be able to implement the HR strategy without the support of technology. It enables the organisation to capture data about the complete lifecycle of an employee, ranging from induction to performance management. Thanks to technology, an organisation is able to create robust future plans based on rich data gathered from diverse business and talent constituencies.
Technology has become the backbone of an organisation’s HR strategy and plays a pivotal role. But, a May 2013 People Matters survey among 168 companies across industries revealed that in a majority of organisations (65 per cent) it is HR and not IT that managed HR technology budgets. This finding was revealing as HR managers are often ignorant about technology and do not do rigorous testing that results in technology implementations going awry.
If HR technology is implemented in a bad way, then it can have adverse effects on the morale and motivation of employees. In fact, organisations that aim to present a personal and more human face of HR to employees manage to achieve exactly the opposite through a bad technology implementation.
Says Sujaya Banerjee, Chief Talent Officer and Senior VP-HR, Essar Group, “At Essar, we initially made the mistake of using the already-existing back-end HRM system for the front-end. While we were able to standardise the organisation’s interface with HR across all locations, the system was tacky and highly unreliable. This made us realise that what we needed was a fully integrated Human Capital Management system that had an interactive friendly user interface. We bought a world-class performance and talent management suite and drove it as a change management program rather than a HR technology project and managed to drive award-winning adoption during the very first year of implementation.”
Implementation linked with business results
A key challenge for all HR organisations, therefore, continues to remain how to choose the right technology and implement it correctly. For choosing the right technology, an HR manager needs to have an idea about the budget. But often HR managers find it difficult to secure budgets even if the business leadership is keen to drive HR technology within the enterprise as they link its implementation with business results.
The People Matters survey found that in 64 per cent of the organisations CEOs are serious about buying decisions on HR technology and they have the final word on an HR technology decision. HR, however, is unable to create a substantially convincing business case for a technology budget. Anand Pillai, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Learning Officer of Reliance Industries says, “While implementing a technology may be great, an organisation is productivity-driven and business-driven. The business wants to know how a technology implementation is linked to talent metrics, like employee engagement, or attrition, or productivity, or even the direct and measurable results of succession planning.”
Losing touch with employees?
As technology goes wider and deeper within an organisation, HR faces the risk of losing all forms of personal connection with talent, both within and outside. Indian organisations still view technology as a tool for process efficiency rather than an opportunity to increase their number of touch points with employees.
In fact, the survey reveals that the three most-mature HR technologies in India are the purely transactional platforms pertaining to time and attendance, payroll and benefits, and compensation. Social technologies, resource analytics, and enterprise workforce management are the three least mature. Gautam Chainani, Chief People Officer, Aditya Birla Financial Services Group, says, “While we have gone deeper and wider with the organisation, we are beginning to see the challenge of managing processes and people. While technology has become an integral part of our talent management strategy, it has also become important for us to be sure that we do not lose the people-touch.”
Vikram Bector, Chief Learning Officer at Tata Motors, concurs. “Managing the scale of a geographically dispersed workforce from Korea to Spain, we realize that it is extremely important for HR to be technologically present, without losing the people-touch. Though technology promises ‘anytime anywhere’ presence, it is important to ensure that HR is never more than a phone-call away,” he says.
Implementation depends on engagement
The HR technology implementation does not depend on the type or size of the organisation but on how to engage the workforce during the process. With the proliferation of GenY and Millennials in the workforce, the importance of social tools and resource efficiency platforms have become increasingly important.
Both internal and external talent now want everything on a social platform. They also prefer to optimise their contributions by maintaining a balance between work and personal priorities.
An important factor that decides a technology platform’s success is the organisation’s effort in helping employees adopt it. Whether an organisation plans to implement technology incrementally or wants to go all ‘big bang,’ the most critical aspect of success or failure of a technology implementation depends on how the enterprise makes it relevant for everyone in the organisation. The technology implementation needs to comprise the plan of how every employee is engaged in the implementation. While there are lots of ways to implement technology, the proof of the pudding ultimately lies in its adoption.
Change management is the key challenge during technology implementation. While a technology might display great promise, many enterprises fail to derive its benefits because change management initiatives are either very casual or start post-implementation. To say that a technology implementation is successfully adopted means that employees understand its relevance to their everyday jobs and business leaders drive it within their functions. To connect a technology’s relevance to business outcomes, progressive organisations link an employee’s competencies to performance.
Lastly, to make a technology implementation work effectively, designing efficient employee-centric processes is crucial.
Ramkumar V., Head of HR for Media & Information Services ISU at TCS, mentions the relation between processes and technology through an experience at an Apple store. Ramkumar says, “When we walk into an Apple store, we see a sales executive holding a hand-held device capable of taking the customer’s order and processing payment within seconds. The ability to process employee needs within an arm’s length is the aspiration that HR should have with technology.”
No is not an answer
Before rolling out an HR technology, an enterprise should have answered all the following questions as “Yes”
1.Were employee dipsticks or focus-group sessions conducted to understand the design needs?
2.Is the design based on inputs and analysis from the employee needs assessment?
3.Do employee testing results reveal that the interface is pleasing and exciting?
4.Is there a plan to fill the present gaps in the interface with subsequent upgrades?
5.Has the system been tested to check for lags and crashes?
6.Are there safeguards in place to protect against loss of organisational data?
7.Are there defined escalation, support, and inquiry processes in place for employees to interact with HR when needed?
8.Has every member of the HR function been certified to act as a support resource when needed?
9.Does every activity of the employee lifecycle comprising a technology intervention have an assigned owner?
10.Was the change and transition management plan implemented before the technology rollout?
11.Have the roles for team leaders, functional heads, and employees been defined?
12.Has the organisation communicated the relevance of the technology in the everyday responsibilities of an employee?
13.Has the technology proposal been discussed at the board?
14.Has the organisation secured the buy-in from a majority of the leadership on the implementation of the technology?
15.Have the expected HR outcomes such as productivity and engagement been defined in terms of business-facing and shareholder metrics?
(The roundtable organised by Cornerstone OnDemand and People Matters was the source for this article)