Hr and technology - a maturing relationship


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The HR department has not historically been the heaviest consumer of technology, but that is changing fast, as employee self-service for HR processes and online recruitment become the norm.

Thanks to cloud computing, HR departments are increasingly masters of their technological fate. But, as our survey of 50 senior HR managers and executives revealed, they are faced with a growing volume of data. To make the most of that, they seek to boost their internal skillset and improve collaboration with IT.

This report, sponsored by Oracle, examines how HR departments are taking control of technology, and features in-depth interviews with:

-Laurence Collins, director of HR and workforce analytics, Deloitte
-Jacky Simmonds, HR director, Tui Travel
-Paul Smith, HR director, LV General Insurance


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Hr and technology - a maturing relationship

  1. 1. HR and technology A maturing relationship 4 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014 HR goes digital1 The human resources department has not traditionally operated at the cutting edge of technology. However, the digital revolution is changing the way in which HR operates just as much as it affects the performance of other departments, and HR functions are now catching up with more technology-dependent functions such as finance and marketing. A survey of HR executives and senior managers, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, found that nearly one-half (47%) believe HR’s business processes are more reliant on technology today than those of most other departments in the organisation. This view is not shared by the IT leaders surveyed, however, who rank HR’s reliance on technology behind all other departments. According to them, the top three technologies that are shaping HR are e-commerce (recruitment websites), mobile technology and social media. Laurence Collins, director of HR and workforce analytics at Deloitte, a consultancy, believes that HR has learned a lot by studying the marketing department. “A few years ago, marketing and customer services were opening up different channels from which customers could access services and products,” says Mr Collins. “I think people have realised that employees can benefit from many of the same digital services we deliver to customers.” The move towards employee self-service is perhaps the most significant, technology-driven trend in HR. Previously, if an employee wanted to know about their maternity leave rights, they would have to speak with someone in HR. Likewise, they would have to approach HR for the right forms to fill in to request maternity leave. Today, these processes are mostly self-service: employees can access the relevant forms on a corporate intranet and fill them in electronically. Workflow software then routes the forms to the right people for vetting and approval. Self-service HR systems have grown in complexity, and some are now as sophisticated as financial trading platforms. Mr Collins is helping one client, a large retailer, develop a system that will allow employees to trade shifts with each other. The company’s workers are mostly young, and their fluid social lives mean that they often want to change their shifts at short notice. “Rather How important is technology to your business unit’s processes? (% of respondents) Our business processes are more reliant on technology than those of most other departments in the organisationOur business processes are no more or less reliant on technology than those of most other departments Our business processes are less reliant on technology than those of most other departments in the organisation Chart 1 Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit. 47% 39% 14%
  2. 2. HR and technology A maturing relationship 5 © The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited 2014 than them just not turning up, they have created a market through which employees can swap and trade their shift for somebody else’s, and they can use their mobile phone or tablet to do that,” says Mr Collins. Another significant technology trend in HR has been the digitisation of recruitment. Job advertisements have almost entirely moved online, and recruiters must now engage with a complex digital ecosystem of recruitment consultants and job boards to find the best candidates. Among other things, this means they have to keep on top of consumer technology trends. According to Jacky Simmonds, HR director of travel operator Tui Travel, over 30% of people who visit the company’s careers website now do so via a smartphone or tablet computer, and this proportion is expected to increase. “We’ve been making sure the majority of our job boards have mobile sites, and also that candidates can continue the application process in a mobile environment,” says Ms Simmonds. Social media are also changing the way recruitment works. LV (Liverpool Victoria), the UK’s largest mutual society, hired over 1,000 people in 2013, and nearly one in four of these were recruited through social media. Paul Smith, HR director at LV General Insurance, explains that finding talent via social media is not simply a matter of posting job opportunities on popular sites. “We don't just reactively recruit using LinkedIn; we nurture, we talent-manage, and we talent- pool,” he says. “We sponsor discussion groups and topic forums; we look for people who are followers of LV, and we push tweets to them about the kind of stuff that's going on in the organisation—telling stories about our culture.” Social media are also being used internally by organisations seeking to foster greater collaboration among the workforce. This too has ramifications for HR. For example, social media can be subjected to “sentiment analysis” or “opinion mining”, which can help HR understand how employees feel about the organisation, or specific managers or projects, at any point in time. “It’s more immediate than a traditional annual employee survey that nobody does anything with,” says Mr Collins. “I’m seeing social media beginning to transform the relationship organisations have with their employees in terms of how they communicate, how they drive innovation, and how they motivate employees.” Which of the following technologies, if any, are changing the way your business unit works? (% of respondents) Chart 2 E-commerce Social media Mobile technology Cloud computing Big data Software as a service Web publishing Internet of things Digital marketing 57% 57% 43% 43% 41% 31% 31% 29% 18% Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit.