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Using Technology in Human Resource Management

Executive summary

The growth and development of internet and web-based applications has found many areas of applications especially in the different department s in organizations. The Human Resource (HR) docket is an area that these technologies have been utilized and benefits realized. Development in this area has been witnessed through the development of many software applications that are useful to the HR department. One of the areas of concern is the staffing objective of the HR department. The above developments in addition to accruing many benefits to the organizations have also posed a lot of challenges to the working and operations of the HR department and the organization at large. The Human Resource is a necessary department in recruitment of employees, retention and development of the same (HR Management, 2010).

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The developments have gone through various stages of and have resulted to a complete turn around of events in the HR department especially involving staffing. The most remarkable change in the HR docket due to technology is the development of self service- applications that have resulted to reduced work load for HR professionals and a significant reduction in cost of operations in this department. While this trend is projected to grow over several years to come, organizations must be prepared to curb the challenges that come with the new technology and thus proper preparations require to be put in place for the companies that wish to embrace technology in the HR department if success is a major concern.

Introduction

In most major organizations, the human resource department is taken as one major department that determines directly or indirectly the performance of the company. However, unlike other dockets in the company or organization, it is very likely that this department is overlooked in enterprise management (HRMS). This can be demonstrated where for example a new product is launched by the project team the success is highly attributable to the efforts of that team. However, when the human resource management team is able to manage the labour force successively, it is highly likely that they will go unnoticed. In most cases this department acquires attention in the event of problems.

Far from reality, the human resource department plays a very significant role in making sure that all the operations in the organization moves as required. After noticing this vital role played by the human resource department, software developers have embarked on producing programmes applicable to the HR department to ease operations especially in its staffing duty and reduce cost of operation a move have yielded numerous benefits to the organizations. However, organizations that have embarked on projects to automate their HR departments have to be well armed to survive the challenges of such a move.

Background of technology in staffing

All Human Resource departments in organizations are gearing their efforts towards achieving the goal of enhancing their performance and filling gaps of skilled and experienced workforce that is capable of working towards achieving the organization goals. In order to meet this target the organizations are finding it extremely important to adopt technology to enhance their performance. The HR department which is faced with the task of providing skilled and experienced workforce is one area where technology is being used to solve some of the day-to-day challenges.

The reason why the HR department is putting efforts to tap the vast opportunity provided by the web-based applications if because most of the transactions are being carried out online. For HR department to be able to keep pace with other department e.g. sales and marketing department, means of adopting new technology have been devised to help the managers have an easy time, offer better services, achieve better results and also respond better to calls towards achieving the overall organization goals.

Technology in staffing have been there for a long time and projections state that it will go on with no limits and this will significantly influence human resource in future. Initially, the HR managers were tasked with the duty of formulating physical procedures aiming at staffing which included the procedures of advertising, choosing, and hiring of employees in the company. In addition, the procedures involved appraisal of managers, and also assessment of individual performances in their various duties in the organization. These tasks involved a lot of paperwork and human to human interaction.

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According to Warner, (2008), some web applications like the development of Face Book, and the video sharing application i.e. YouTube may have played a major role in towards enabling the development of the internet applications that can be used in the HR departments in organizations. These two applications did set a good ground for experimentation and creativity. Although some of the consequences are serious, the developers of the software applications to be used in the HR department could have borrowed a lot from such applications especially in recruiting.

Technology in the HR department aims at achieving several goals. First, it has been shown that companies that have embraced technology in the HR services have significantly reduced the cost of operations in this department. The term E-HRM has been used to refer to the ways of implementing HR strategies, policies and practices through the full use of the web based applications. HR Magazine (2006). It is shown that the use of internet services in the HR department was specifically geared towards reducing the cost through eliminating most of the administrative HR positions and by enabling professionals in this field to change their focus towards assisting the organization in strategic decision making that would lead to overall organization efficiency that further reduces cost.

The rise and development of web services and internet came with various applications to be applied in operations in the HR department. In recent times the HR department has embraced technology in almost every aspect of day-to- day operations. The challenges of performance management and compliance in training and appraisal have pushed the HR department in many organizations to embrace technology through web for delivery of HR applications. Also, organizations have used technology in the staffing through the HR department by adopting some applications like employee self-service for example in accessing their payrolls and pension information from a web location. Consequently the employees are now able to change this information or make contributions by providing information through the same path. (BPC. n.d.)

The focal point of all HR resource systems for employees and managers is the self- service Human resource systems. This move has particularly eliminated the need for unnecessary steps especially in the recruiting and hiring process. The developments in this area have evolved to a point where web-based models enable applicants to access information. This only requires the applicant to have a web browser.

It is being projected that the evolution in the HR field is to continue especially in the staffing aspect. The evolution has even changed to have greater use of handheld sets like the blackberries. This important service in the HR department will enable human resource managers to even make remote communications when away from the organization (DSG, 2010).

Felix Stroud-Allen in DSG publishing (2010) head of sales for recruitment, reports that the technology has moved to a point where applicants tracking and hiring management systems have appreciably increased. While HR managers face the challenge of acquiring skilled resources in competition with other organizations, they must undertake this task at reduced recruitment budgets and resources to administer the process. The applicant tracking systems have been found to be tools that are cost effective to curb the challenge.

Current status

The automation in the HR department was initially a domain for the large organizations. However this trend has changed significantly such that even smaller organizations are finding it extremely important to keep pace with the big corporation in embracing the opportunity offered by the internet in carrying their operations. It has been reported that the use of internet technology in the HR departments in organizations has yielded positive results through saving of the cost and at the same time maintaining the quality of services in staffing and other areas. (Teng, 2006)

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In the last couple of years there have been three major technological developments that have touched on the HR department in business organizations. First, the re has been a multi-tenancy architectural design in software which has been identified as a key aspect of architecture that enables software services in cost effective applications. Secondly, there have been witnessed an eruption in web services architecture. This aspect have is very crucial in ensuring continuity of the services in future with more flexibility and ease in implementation. Lastly is the intelligent self-service especially for the employees and in the staffing aspect. The incorporation of the above three aspects in the HR technology applications have enabled organizations to realize improved results and higher business benefits (Teng, 2006).

Unlike in the past where in staffing, HRs would make system selection on feature, function or price matrix while considering a certain function for example in recruitment, performance appraisal or in compensation planning the current phenomena is that specification on additional modules is made available which have the capacity to be incorporated in the recruitment and staffing suites. This have been found to have the benefit of having an integrated approach able to show consistency and also able to incorporate additional modules in future (Teng, 2006).

According to Loofbourrow in Teng, (2006), the resent development in the HR technology has been the amalgamation of the initially separate software to form one software which is inclusive of all instance, hiring applications, compensation management, and performance management as one application. This has played a major role in enabling HR managers to optimize human investment through staffing and workforce management. In recruiting for example, the integrated application enables the HR managers to access all information they need to look at before making decisions on hiring or dismissing an employee. A complete picture of the person can be obtained by logging in to different applications provided in the incorporated software. During staffing, recruiters and appraisers are able to quickly review ranked list incase of either internal or external candidates and thus they are confident that the decision they reach at on recruiting yields the best person suited for a particular job. In addition, HR manager are able to track the performance of hired employees and thus the organization can be able to determine the best talent.

Technology in the HR has grown from a point where it have shifted from applications limited to specialists to a point where even an average user can comfortably and conveniently use the technology to access most of the information necessary in recruitment and staffing. These applications have made the use of technology easy and cheap (Merritt in Teng, 2006). According to BPC. (n.d.) the recent advancements in HR technology include work flow technologies, applicants tracking systems, hiring management systems, E-recruitment, performance and appraisal management software, succession planning, package review software, among other applications. It is reported that applicants tracking and hiring management systems have been witnessed to be a common phenomena in HR. This application enables the organization to constantly face the challenge of completion for skilled employees and at the same time maintain minimum figures in the recruitment budgets. Thus the applicant tracking system is a cost effective method being used by HR departments through the application of technology.

The adoption of technology in the organizations in the HR department have prompted managers to come up with forums for educating the employees on the ways of using the opportunities brought by the web- based applications. According to ASTD/NGA (2001), the American Society for training and development (ASTD) and the National Governors Association (NGA) in 2000 convened the commission on technology and adult learning which aimed at defining and gearing people towards adopting skills necessary in a technology enabled environment which is necessary for employees and the general public in the digital economies being witnessed today, Weatherly and Leslie, (2005). In line with these initiatives, the U.S department of Defense incorporated 1,600 colleges and universities and more than 100 corporations to develop an open architecture for online learning. The HR department has adopted this provision to use the technology to effectively carry out the operations.

The benefits that organizations that have embraced HR technology especially in staffing have accrued are many and which have led to an overall growth and development of the organizations. According to Towers Perrin (2003) the web based applications have been adopted by the HR department as communication and transaction tool. The departments that have embraced the latest technology have realized increased productivity and a change that have enabled the department to make better service deliveries. It is outlined in the report that 60% of the companies that have adopted HR technology reported a reduction in the administrative work in the departments. Apart from the prevalent employee self service, the managers self service which is slowly been adopted in many organizations have accrued less administrative work for the managers who effectively use this provision of the technology. In addition to reduced work load for the HR managers, the technology has enabled elimination of some service delivery channels in the HR department and thus leading to overall reduction in cost. Such eliminated channels include, some voice response systems and paper based operations. During staffing for example, the hiring of the employees is being conducted online. Applicants have the opportunity to apply directly online while the managers and recruiters have the ability to make a direct communication and tracking of the applicants therefore interview forums are eliminated as well as reduction in overall cost incurred during hiring process incase of organizations that still apply the traditional methods.

The HR mangers are constantly faced with the challenge of acquiring the best talents and abilities from the human resource it employs to meet the organizational objectives. The managers cannot therefore be satisfied with the workforce they already have but they are obliged to look from all areas ways and means they can tap the talents of people outside the organization if they are convicted that by hiring them in the organization, they will deliver services that will enable the organization achieve its major goals. The web based applications at the disposal of those managers have enabled them advertise vacancies in their organization that are designed to yield the best qualified personnel for a given job. These applications have enabled the managers to meet the goals in staffing while maintaining minimum cost of services like advertising for job positions. It have been shown with certainty that although the modules formulated in that technology being used in HR departments are meant to have a direct benefit to the department, the organization as a whole also benefits from such technology. The digitization of information allows the management to add information to the information system of the organization hence the data collected and analyzed in the HR department can be integrated into the larger Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, (BPC, n.d.).

The automation in the HR department in organizations also supports the development of each of the other departments in the organization. This is particularly because most of the other domains in the organizations are always ahead in adopting technology that is relevant to their applications. Thus when all the domains have a complete understanding of the use of technology, HR professionals are able to speak in a language that is understandable to other professionals in other domains in the environment that is so much technology driven.

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Problems and challenges of technology in the human resource department

As mentioned earlier, the adoption of Information Technology by the HR departments is being leveraged to benefit all aspects of its day – to – day operations. The most significant benefit that can be attributed to the adoption of technology in organizations in the HR department is the cost reduction without loss or decline in the services offered. The reduction in cost comes about through elimination of administrative positions and provision of time for HR professionals to focus more on strategic decision making that lead to higher efficiency that further saves cost (HR Magazine, 2006).

Also, projections are that, the technology is improving appreciably leading to a decline in cost and better service delivery and thus these applications will continue to be applied and developed. However, organizations need to worry of the challenges and the possible negative consequences that may accompany such a move over the traditional methods of operation in the HR department. According to DGS (2010), adoption of technology in the HR department is likely to erode the very element of human which is natural in HR. Human Resource entails people management. Adoption of technology is moving managers away from the contact of the people they are entitled to manage. Applications that allow self service of employees especially in staffing and recruiting and the online hiring process reduce the physical contact between the managers and the workforce. Rather the communication is made online in almost every aspect in the HR department. Bardette in DSG (2010) have the view that for effective management of the people, managers should have a face-to-face contact. Ruth Cavender in DSG 2010, holds the view that, the risk in adoption of technology is real when manager in the organization rely on the process technology as an alternative to human interaction. In line with her suggestions I do highly support the fact that software and the hardware installations technology in the HR department can be a solution to the inherent issues of human resource management.

The adoption of technology in place of humans offends talent. It is the view of many that holding on to technology alone in HR tasks like in hiring of employees is similar to purchasing equipments and this compromises quality of people being employed in the organization. Although many benefits can be realized when organizations employ web- based technology, the benefits can be easily and quickly lost or may not be realized if the expected users are not skilled enough to understand on how to capitalize on its use. Incase of such challenges to the HR technology, the result will be that many HR responsibilities like recruiting, access to information, administration etc, will not be improved. This challenge is further aggravated incase the available HR professionals and the target group are not adequately skilled to effectively use the provisions of the technology (Collison, 2005).

The adoption of technology policies in the HR department sometimes goes contrary to the regulations put by labor organizations. Also these applications must go in line with the regulations put by government through legislation to ensure fair play both to the employees as well as between competing organizations. Organization must therefore make sure that they comply with regulations put regarding protection of employees, stakeholders and public from issues of personal privacy and identity theft (Weatherly and Leslie, 2005). Many companies in their quest to adopt HT technology are faced with a situation of internal politics, thus the process of adoption and implementation o such a project is carried out in reactionary increments. When such policies are implemented in an organization faced with internal politics, the operations are always inefficient and full benefits cannot be realized.

Future projections in application of HR technology

As mentioned earlier, the growth and development of more sophisticated applications both in the form of hardware infrastructure s well as software to be used in HR will continue to rise. These projections are in line with the developments in other dockets within an organization whose growth is increasing at a fast rate.

It is suggested that the use of internet in utilization of HR applications through the application service providers (ASPs) will rise appreciably with many companies offering to provide such services. The growing trend according to Weatherly and Leslie (2005) is that ASPs will continue supplying software applications through the internet. The software applications are projected to reduce in price such that even small companies that could not initially afford the software will now afford them and enjoy their applications in the HR department for example in their efficient staffing goal. It is also projected that organizations will increase their investments on development and deployment of e-learning applications that provides the managers and employees with a good opportunity to learn and familiarize themselves better to the technological applications for efficiency and effectiveness. Learning may involve intensive procedures to employees who may require a more structured classroom environment. It is only though this way that organizations can tap the vast opportunity that is accrued by embracing the technology in the HR department. the society in preparation for the technology environment that is currently being witnessed will move to respond to the changing trends by suggesting and incorporating learning forums in the curriculums of institutions of higher learning like universities and colleges to prepare future leaders especially in the HR related courses.

The other projection in the development of technology involved in HR applications is that wireless devices and handheld devices with 24/7 connection will continue growing. This will be due to reduction in the price of purchasing such items and development of software applications that can be used with such devices. These applications will benefit both the managers and the employees in keeping the track of the workplace events incase they are on travel. Remote communications will therefore be possible (Weatherly and Leslie, 2005).

The above trends will continue to face out paper transactions where eventually HR managers will be able to post pay statements and applications directly online. Also the trend is growing towards a point where employers will start paying the employees electronically with no paper statements. This will also apply in other applications especially in staffing where applicants will be able to ply online and the recruiting group will respond through the same path. Online interviews and hiring will become common phenomena for many organizations without involvement of paperwork.

Evaluation and recommendations

The changes being witnessed in the HR profession have been realized through a process of steady evolution. The effects that the changes have brought to the HR profession and in reality the organizations as a whole are both profound and revolutionary. All organizations despite of their size will therefore gear their efforts towards adopting the new technology in order to realize the benefits. Before organizations can fully decide on whether to adopt the technology, adequate preparations need to be done which include, adopting the required support infrastructure, educating the target groups on way and means of using the technology to effectively carry out operations.

HR technology is an essential tool of management owing to the benefits of adopting it, therefore it is incumbent upon the HR managers whose aim is make the HR department successful as far as meeting the organization goals, to accept the challenge of emphasizing and implementing measures that will make the organization tap the opportunities in web- based applications (Keener, Heard and Morgan 2002).

As HR department implements policies aiming at adopting technology in its operations, many software vendors will increasingly be available to offer software applications at low cost.

Care must be taken the composition and formulation of the team to carry out the project of installing technology systems in the HR department and its implementation. A thorough assessment and documentation definitions of requirements and the selection of the software vendor need to be looked at carefully. This will mean that the professionals will fully understand the terms of contract and at the same time make a choice of a system that will be easy to use in the initial stages as well as in future.

The adoption of the HR technology has yielded many organizations to formulate applications that allow self service in their operations. Serf-service HR is a good and desirable goal of all organizations. However, the application requires a comprehensive understanding and the potentials of its functionality. Therefore, organizations need to adopt policies that aim at educating the target groups on the use of the applications effectively.

Before companies can adopt technology in HR department it needs to invest time to study and identify the gaps that may hinder efficient application of such technology. As Loofbourrow in Teng, (2006) suggests, organizations need to carefully consider the concerns of their integrated community and only get into agreement with software vendors that will give applications that will lad to fulfilling those needs. Even as HR managers decide to adopt technology in most of their applications, it is still important to adopt HR best practices in the areas of performance, compensation, recruiting and employee communications before adopting the technology. The process should be appropriate before adopting the technology since incase of a bad process the results even after adopting the technology will be bad.

Conclusion

Organizations that aim at remaining competitive in the market look at technology- based self service as the preferred method of advancing and improving client services and to manage employees. While HR practice leaders retain the objective of attracting, retaining, motivating and developing new information in consolidating talent through staffing the organization with the right caliber of employees, self service have been found as a major tool to help them meet their goals.

In future, the topic of HR technology will be more oriented on the type of applications that are available rather than the trend of development that have taken place in the development of HR technology. More emphasis will be on the differences in applications and their specific benefits to organizations that adopt HR technology.

References

ASTD/NGA. (2001). A vision of e-learning for America’s workforce: Report of the commission on technology and adult learning. Web.

BPC. (N.D.). Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS). 2010. 

Collison, J. (2005). SHRM HR technology survey report. Alexandria, VA: Society for Human Resource Management.

DGS Publishing. (2010).Technology aids the human touch. DGS Publishing. Web.

HR Magazine. (2006). HR technology competencies: new roles for HR professionals.(Human Resources). HR magazine. Web. 

HR Management. (2009). Recruitment Plan. Resource Center. Web.

Keener. D, Heard, D. & Morgan, M. (2002). Implementing a human resources system-lessons learned [SHRM White Paper]. Web.

Teng, A. (2006). Leveraging Technology in HR Transformation. Tech Trends. Vol. 5 No. 1. Web. 

Towers, P. (2003). HR on the Web: The investment is paying off-HR service delivery survey report. 

Warner, A. (2008). HR must use technology to the organization’s advantage. Reed Business Information. Web.

Weatherly, and Leslie, A. (2005). HR Technology: leveraging the shift to self-service-it’s time to go strategic. HR Magazine Tuesday, Web. 

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