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The relationship between HR and technology is still blossoming, but are employees ready to allow IT to change the way they work? Sabrina Zolkifi finds out what organisations are doing to ensure staff are equipped with the right skills in order to embrace IT as a key aspect of work.
Technology has been one of the most disruptive things to hit the workforce, completely changing the way we work today.
It has also played a significant role in the evolution of HR, and with new IT offerings catered to human capital needs now available, the function is spoilt for choice.
The Towers Watson HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey Executive Summary Report recently found one in three global organisations are looking to improve or restructure their HR function in 2013 and 2014, with the need for better efficiency and quality the biggest drivers behind the change.
It is along these lines that more HR leaders are looking at new technologies and how to better leverage on them to propel the business forward.
“We are living in a very interesting time where technology is changing faster than anything else, says Dheeraj Shastri, HR business partner (WFP) at Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific Japan.
“Once, where there were desktops, they have now been replaced by laptops, and then by tablets and now smart phones Change is good and change is healthy, and it motivates us for innovation.”
Technology is increasingly more present in several aspects of an organisation, but with the changes the HR function has been left with a bulk of responsibility when it comes to making sure employees are IT-savvy.
When Steven Tan, vice president of human resources at CapitaLand, joined the company’s HR function it had no IT structure to it. He shares more about his experience implementing an HRIS system in a case study attached to this feature, but also says on top of finding the right service provider, it was just as important to make sure employees were trained and competent in using the new systems.
“The purpose was for them to learn the foundation and really know how the system works, so that when we work with the consultants, we will understand what they are talking about so that we can make informed decisions faster,” Tan says.
However, before HR even jumps into the actual act of training, there are other things HR practitioners have to keep an eye on.
Sorting out the groundwork
“Training should be closely tied in with organisational goals, employee productivity and profitability without losing an eye on the company’s return on investment,” Shastri says.
Shastri also highlights the importance of making sure the ROI of these training programmes are being monitored in order to measure the success rate of the investment.
The Towers Watson report also found 29% of respondents plan to adopt a new HRMS in the near future, with more than 60% planning on also providing employees with mobile access via a smartphone.
With all these changes, Tan says it is important companies find a system and service provider that fits the organisation’s objectives.
“It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but you need to understand your company’s needs and where they are headed, and what you’re using the system for,” he says.
Additionally, it is just as critical the project manager leading the IT change and training is someone the organisation can trust and communicate well with.
Once these foundational aspects are in place, HR will need to focus on a training issue closer to heart – the employees themselves.
When an organisation implements a change which requires a significant amount of IT skills training, one of the most common challenges is initial resistance from the workforce.
Tan says this mindset shift cannot happen overnight, and requires a two-fold approach.
“There needs to be a vision of change, which needs to be communicated to the people,” he says.
“The team may know it is important for the organisation to use technology, likewise their bosses need to recognise that as well, or the team themselves will not bother.”
On the other hand, employees also have to understand how the new processes are helping, rather than impeding, their work. That communication strategy is slightly trickier as it involves convincing employees to change the way the work, potentially altering an environment they’ve become familiar with over a long period of time.
A change in mindset is also needed because there may be a group of employees who need to understand how the implementation of technology will change the flow of work.
“Some people have this mindset that we’re taking the work away from HR because in the past they didn’t have to worry about policies and the work could just be passed to HR.
“But they need to understand as managers and employees they too have ownership of that process. It’s that change in mindset that needs to be communicated over time.”
Companies can leverage on the training process to communicate these changes to the workforce, and Shastri adds companies must ensure both employees and management are constantly aware of how the training programmes are ultimately aligned to business objectives.
Bridging the gaps
In Shastri’s experience, challenges often arise because of a lack of training objectives or a gap between the training module and organisational goals or performance.
“Most of the time, employees or even managers are not aware of that how a particular training programme is going to help the company reach its goals,” he says.
Therefore, companies can tap on one of the biggest trends in technology today – that is data analytics, when designing training programmes for their workforce.
“The HR function can implement a practical approach to help executives make the right investments [in training] based on effective analysis and practical initiatives.”
“With the help and availability of enormous data, it is very essential that we be able to interpret that in the right meaningful sense. I once read an article which said analytics is the combination of art and science; presenting data is art, whereas interpreting data in meaningful manner for action is science.”
The other thing HR should keep in mind is generational differences when building or choosing IT training programmes.
Undeniably, the younger generation of employees are more comfortable working in a digital space, and will require little to no training when it comes to certain aspects of HRMS.
However, moving up the employee demographic scale, HR has to remember there isn’t always a one-size-fits-all approach to IT training.
“The right training programme can play an essential role attrition retention strategy especially for our regrettable and top talent attrition,” Shastri says.
With so many factors for HR to keep in mind, the function has to realise it is still at the beginning of the journey when it comes to IT skills training, and that pushing through the changes will pay off in the long run.
“IT will continue to be a huge part of the HR function. IT is always a tool that makes work more effective, so the whole idea is to know how to utilise it so the company more efficient,” Tan says.