Lucy Tan, chief human resource officer at NatSteel Holdings, talks to Jerene Ang and Akankasha Dewan about the nuances of implementing and measuring the effectiveness of an in-house HRMS.

Today, HR has to transform from an administrative function to being a strategic, value-enhancing business partner to firms.

With this dramatic change comes some significant differences in the way HR plans and executes its initiatives, with a special emphasis on leveraging technology.

Utilising an HRMS can positively affect an organisation’s internal work environment by creating time for HR staff to allocate towards more impactful employee programmes or issues.

“As companies grow and expand, you need to have a tool to help you manage the transactions and automate your processes,” says Lucy Tan, chief human resource officer at NatSteel Holdings.

“Not only will this reduce a lot of manual processes and increase efficiency, it will also enable us to empower managers to make better decisions with the data generated.”

NatSteel’s HRMS

Tan explains her team has implemented an HRMS “from scratch” with its client partner.

She emphasises the government has been stressing on productivity. One way to do this is to automate your processes.

“Also, with a controlled system in place, we will be able to do planning ahead of time. For example, we have so many workers working on shifts and rotating shifts, and they also work overtime. At least with the HRMS integrated with the clocking system, we not only can track their hours and plan ahead, but it helps to put governance and compliance in place.”

She reveals the company has already rolled out the first phase of the system, which is performance management. Other than setting and reviewing KPIs online, goals get cascaded to every employee, so there is visibility of how individuals can contribute to achieving the company objectives.

“We also have a tool to do talent reviews where charts are generated to show the high and poor performers at the organisational level.”

Measuring the returns of the system

These features may be great, but how profitable were the returns of investment of the system?

According to Tan, the biggest returns were in terms of how much time her company saved on generating HR data especially using data analytics for business decisions.

“Our online performance management system significantly reduces the appraisal cycle time as managers can access employee data before each talent review discussion with an employee.”

She explains that now it takes half the time to generate such reports compared to before the system was implemented.

However, Tan adds these returns were gained after several challenges.

Every new system has teething issues after implementation, similarly the company also had to deal with the changes expected from the business after using the system.

These included demands from the employees to enhance the features of the system.

“These are called improvements, for example, improving the interface for greater user experience. Now, we are looking into integration for the iPad and mobile and are developing the mobile apps,” she says.

She reveals her vision of the ideal system, by saying it should cater to making employees feel empowered by allowing for better access to information.

It should also reduce the stress on HR for administrative changes as well as reduce the amount of paper needed, in line with the company’s “go green” initiative.

Additionally, it should come in the form of a cloud-based solution, be accessible across various devices (desktops/laptops, smartphones and tablets) and be a completely organic and native solution.

It should also contain analytics with dashboards to serve the organisation and aid in the making of good decisions.

Managing expectations from the system

Of course, there will be a learning curve with the new system and a lag in performance while the old data is integrated with the new.

Such problems point to the fact that bringing in a new system can be a challenge for both managers and employees, as they have to get used to the new changes in HR processes.

Tan explains, however, that proper communication before and during the implementation of such a system can help.

“We did roadshows, training and a lot of communication before we implemented the system. Some required more hand holding, so when they need help, the team will guide them personally,” she says.

Recounting the biggest obstacles her team encountered during the process, Tan warns a key element of implementing processes successfully is, in fact, change management.

“I think sometimes, we are too aggressive with the implementation timeline and eager to implement quickly. However, it also requires time for employees and managers to change their mindset and adapt to a self-service model using technology to replace manual work.”

Image: provided