We are witnessing game-changing practices that are setting the stage for HR and technology to join arms and function together. The kind of issues being tackled range from acquiring and retaining talent, managing diverse compensation practices, integrating a heterogeneous and diverse workforce, mergers and acquisitions needing HR and cultural integration, managing a performance driven work culture, career and succession planning, nurturing internal leadership talent, on-line and business-need based training and so on. The result has been that technology has to be deployed to gain a distinct competitive advantage in the market.
Hence, the emphasis now is on putting technology to work in HR with a view to enhance productivity of retail stores through a more effective use and management of data and information. The convergence and integration of technological solutions that are available are being put to optimum use through mobile technology, web-based applications and social media.
Why technology in HR?
A Human Resource Management System (HRMS) or Human Resource Information System (HRIS) refers to the systems and processes at the intersection between human resource management (HRM) and information technology. It merges HRM as a discipline and in particular its basic HR activities and processes with the information technology field, whereas the programming of data processing systems have to be converted into standardised routines and packages of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software.
“It is important to understand that different organisations have unique requirements and one cannot recommend a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution when it comes to recommending a comprehensive HR Technology solution”, says Udit Mittal, MD, Unison International. Today employees and people processes have to align with the business needs in an effective and efficient manner. A comprehensive and user-friendly technology solution is the key to meeting the challenges of speed, scale, connectivity and integration which are critical success factors for managing a large, diverse and disparate workforce. “Tracking of a learner's interaction with content in focus requires sophisticated computing and technology” says Vishal Purohit, CEO and Founder of Wooqer.
Things to be considered while implementing technology in HR are taking into account the business interests in terms of scaling up profitability , faster turnaround time for new products, creating markets in new geographies, increasing revenues and profitability, creating new market segmentations must dictate the decision for a HRMS that will merge technology with HR. “The HRMS must enable the organisation to adopt best practices in staffing, performance management, compensation and benefits, benchmarking, employee self-service, learning and development, and employee communication” Mittal adds. According to leading technology experts, many companies are now leveraging the full power of the Web with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to get hold of the newest HRMS. A good SaaS provides the advantage of an in-house system, and yet eliminates the need for on-site hardware and maintenance.
The implementation of technology into HR will be rather incomplete unless the virtual aspect is integrated in one way or the other. While retailers consider the process rather high-budgeted, one must look into the possibilities of cost-effectiveness. “Virtual training is a good aid for trainers, but should not try to replace trainers. Instead, a trainer’s primary role shifts now to be a quality content creator and a facilitator for group discussions when they happen”, Purohit adds. Few retail training people accept the trend but they feel the technology should be used as part of a structured intervention which includes e-learning, classroom training, on the job training and coaching and feedback. One should not undertake it as a standalone because that certifies clarification. Going virtual is a great way to educate sales staff on product prices for example, however if you want to teach a process, then you need to look at real-time training mostly when you want to show them how to up-sell to a customer.
Technology vs human
Technology is not a substitute for the ‘human’ touch and ‘humane’ approach. It is an enabler. At the end of the day, it must help us deliver business and organizational goals, make things better and easier. Nothing can replace the face to face communication and the human interaction. For the HR professional who is attempting to get budget sanctions and show adequate or even better value for such investments in technology, one major challenge will always be that of establishing ROI. One of the most acceptable measures of return will be in the form of savings in staff costs, which results in lower headcount. “The typical ratio of HR staff to total headcount is 1:100. This can be more effectively achieved for the HR staff to focus on the more important and strategic agenda of the organisation. One consideration that must be borne in mind is the cost of technological obsolescence” says a leading training manager with Kronos India. Undoubtedly, the greatest value accruing from implementing technology in HR comes from the higher levels of employee engagement and talent retention through a robust talent management system enabled by technology.