HR Knowledge: HR and Technology - SHRM India


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Web 2.0 can help HR professionals be more effective and efficient:
Monitor information updates.
Disseminate information.
Encourage collaboration.

HR professionals need to take advantage of the tools available.

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  • As you can see by the title of the slide, today we are starting a module on HR and technology. Technology is changing at a rapid pace, and while HR is not directly responsible for technological decisions in organizations, as a strategic partner HR should be prepared to offer recommendations about the effect of technology on employees. Additionally, as do all functional departments, HR must continually adopt new technologies to increase the department’s efficiency. As future HR professionals, you should also be aware of how technology can be useful in your own personal development in carrying out your job. Listed here are several questions underlying the three lessons in this unit.
  • HR has already been deeply involved in leveraging technologies like the Internet to automate many of the transactional tasks assigned to HR. Employees find benefits information, job postings and employee handbooks on company web sites. Time-saving functions like payroll automation and e-reporting technologies have also reduced the time dedicated to processing tasks and has given HR more time to devote to strategic planning and decision making. One of the ways HR professionals can demonstrate their ability to contribute to their organization’s strategic goals is by the insight they can supply regarding employees and trends affecting these employees. These recommendations require close attention to current trends, innovative ideas and legal developments. Of course, monitoring is only half of the process; HR is then responsible for making sure that the proper constituents are informed of the information gathered. HR is also responsible for encouraging communication and collaboration among employees. The physical dispersion of employees is increasing as businesses expand their global reach and continue to embrace flexible employee arrangements. Coordination and communication with these employees requires additional effort and planning. HR should eagerly adopt any technology that can bridge connections across these distances.
  • The technologies we focus on in this unit are called Web 2.0. This term was coined in 2004 to indicate a group of web-based technologies characterized by interactivity. These technologies are focused on building connections through the ability to interact and encourage collaboration and community. Thomas Friedman wrote in The World is Flat that these programs are “flatteners,” which make connections possible across the world. He quotes Carly Fiorina of Hewlett Packard who described information as “digital, mobile, personal and virtual.” Digitization makes the information easy to transmit.  This information can be manipulated through many applications where people capture and manipulate data without thinking about the technology. The commonly agreed-on group of Web 2.0 technologies is listed on this slide. We will introduce them briefly here but will frequently return to them throughout this module. Common examples of social networks include Facebook and MySpace. Additional sites such as LinkedIn have a more professional focus. On these sites people have a page that allows them to have a personal profile. This allows for connections with others on the site. Video sharing sites allow users to upload video they have created and provide access to others. Youtube and Googlevideo are the most popular sites that offer video sharing, but there are many others that provide this service. Blogs are short for web logs. The writer, or blogger, provides information in a journalistic format and allows access to read the blog to a select few or all Internet users. Wikipedia, the online user-created and modified encyclopedia, is the most popular example of a wiki. Wikis are web pages with multiple contributors, all able to add and modify content. IMs, or instant messaging, started by enabling contact among computer users. Now the technology has gone mobile and includes the ability to send messages to mobile devices. Services such as Twitter combine this into a what is being called microblogging. Updates or information can be provided to a wide number of contacts rather than being confined to a one-on-one process. Other developments in collaborating technologies are coming online continually. What technologies would you add to this list? (Students may include additional services such as Skype, which provides phone abilities over the Internet. They may also provide names of types of these technologies that have increased in popularity. There is a dynamic nature to technology, which makes listing all the variants impossible.) With changes in technology, many people are already at work on Web 3.0 technologies.
  • As an earlier slide pointed out, HR professionals contribute to an organization’s strategic planning by keeping informed about external changes and interpreting how those changes will affect the organization’s ability to achieve goals. A familiarity with available technologies can help HR professionals collect this information, and access to more information means a better foundation for making decisions and recommendations. The Internet provides access to numerous resources, and you should start taking note of these resources and familiarize yourself with them. They provide valuable information to help you learn about HR and to keep you current after you leave school. Here are three types of web sites. We will take a few minutes to visit each of these. We will review the information provided and how these sites incorporate Web 2.0 technologies. The first web site we are visiting in the SHRM site. SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) is a professional organization that provides HR information to its members. The web site is one way SHRM makes information available to members and others interested in HR. The site contains videos, podcasts, webcasts and other dynamic features. SHRM also produces papers and reports periodically for members. Instructor notes: Enter the SHRM site. Have your sign-in and membership number in case some of these options require you to log in. Things you can do at the SHRM site. Watch the video of the day. Answer the poll questions. Visit the HR Talk section – Click on Communities tab, HR talk. Point out the rules and regulations set up before joining the community. Point out job search information. Visit the student resources. The next site we will visit is the Department of Labor (or DOL) government web site. Government web sites are good sources for legal requirements, updates and access to forms. These sites are also trying to provide interaction. For example, the DOL site we will visit provides an E-law advisor who walks organizations through the process needed to meet some legal requirements. Instructor notes: Enter the DOL site. You can review the current changes and updates. One interactive feature of the DOL site is the E-law compliance advisor. A newer resource that might be helpful for HR professionals are blogs. Blog provide information about topics of interest to the author. These can provide information about new trends and are great places to look for innovative ideas and best practices. Of course, one should always use caution when obtaining information from blogs. Anyone can write a blog, so it is important to check the background and credentials of the author and not use the information obtained there in place of legal advice from your own counsel or government sites. Cross-check the material with several sites. Rating sites are helpful and provide a list of possible options. Gather suggestions from other HR professionals about blogs they follow and find helpful. Instructor Notes: The web site on the PPT provides links to a variety of HR blogs. You will want to verify that the blog listed is still active, before pulling them up in class. From the list of blogs on the site, I suggest the Recruiter Guy Blog. This blog seems stable, and he provides cutting-edge information. Since the next lesson talks about recruiting, it would provide a preview of information to come.
  • Once information is gathered HR is responsible for disseminating it to key constituents throughout the organization. Traditionally, this information was distributed through changes to the employee handbook, notes on the bulletin board, newsletters, memos and more recently email. All of these are examples of one-way communication not easily modified after issue. While many companies have replaced the printed employee handbook with a pdf file, this is still a static document that requires downloading to review current changes. Web 2.0 provides more dynamic ways to disseminate information. Virtual documents and networks can be modified in real time, and the documents can include video and hyperlinks to other information. The formation of these documents is much easier also and does not require knowledge of programming. Let’s consider the employee newsletter. When this is sent out either as a hardcopy form or as an attachment to an email, it requires multiple actions on the part of employees simply to update calendar information. The Wiki newsletter could include links to the calendar, as well as other personal touches—for instance-- birthday announcements that are hyperlinked to an email address so a quick note can be sent off to the birthday person. Social networks provide options for forming groups who need to be aware of immediate changes or approve necessary legal updates. Blogs can focus on information important to employees and be a way to answer questions employees have. Communicating with employees is one of the key roles of HR and these applications provide options to increase not just the amount of communication but the quality of correspondence as well.
  • This slide provides a practical way to start gathering information using a Web 2.0 technology. Setting up applications such as RSS feeds requires some up-front time, but you will easily gain that time back as a result of the convenience of the program. Using RSS feeds increases the ability to get an overview of current developments. RSS stands for really simple syndication. It is a service providing aggregated updates from news and blog web sites. To receive and read these feeds, you need an RSS reader or aggregator. Most common Internet browsers have built-in RSS readers or free ones can be downloaded from the Internet. On web sites and blogs, the RSS symbol indicates an available feed. Visitors can register to receive updates from the site. Instead of visiting multiple web sites and blogs to check for updates, the information is delivered to you via the RSS reader. Encourage students to work with the RSS reader on their Internet browser. This module is an opportunity for them to acquire skills and develop habits that will be helpful in their careers. Including detailed instruction here would not be prudent because of the speed of change. Students need to be encouraged to explore and figure these things out for themselves. The “help” function on any of these readers will walk them and you through the steps. Help functions are underutilized, so encourage your students to take advantage of these resources.
  • In addition to providing a source of information and a method of communicating information, Web 2.0 tools are helpful for collaboration. This is especially useful when dealing with employees in dispersed physical locations, whether that be across town or across the globe. Some examples of these tool include Microsoft Sharepoint, Googledocs and Wikis. Microsoft Sharepoint provides the ability for an organization’s intranet to support web-based applications. The intranet aspect means that the user group can be restricted to organization employees. Some companies appreciate the added security of access being strictly limited and under IT control. Once the service is set up, users can create sites and documents on which they can collaborate with other employees. Companies often use Sharepoint for document coordination, and yet some departments may not be aware of the availability. An HR manager is in great position to discuss with IT the option of using Sharepoint. Smaller companies can use other web-based free or low-cost services. Google provides Googledocs for this purpose. The Googledocs web site provides a video explaining how it works. Play this for the students. Googledocs is not the only free web-based service. Other options include wikis. PB wiki is one of many sites that can be used to create your own wiki.
  • This slide reviews what was covered in this module.
  • The goal of recruiting is to increase the pool of qualified applicants for open positions. Recruiters have always relied on leads gathered from employees as ways to make connections with possible candidates. Recruiters have also focused on making an impact in areas where people are actively searching for jobs, so job sites and college campuses are good sources of potential leads.
  • In his web cast, The Best Practices in Online Recruiting: How to Maximize Your ROI* (*Your Return on the Internet), which can be viewed on the SHRM web site, Peter Weddle talks about the different approaches needed depending on the type of applicant. Active applicants are searching for jobs, and the recruiter needs to present a favorable image to attract their attention. However, often the best people for the job are not actively searching for a new position. These are passive applicants, and a recruiter needs to actually seek out these applicants. Web technologies like search engines and social networking sites provide information about people who may fit the job opening.  
  • Let’s talk first about resources used by the active applicants and what we can do to attract these people. Job search sites are some of the most popular tools. If you have ever posted your resume online, you’ll know that sites like and provide access to a large pool of candidates. Additionally these sites provide a way to coordinate information collection. These work well for standardized jobs, especially when there is a large number of applicants with appropriate skills. Most students will be familiar with Internet job searches. However, for those who haven’t looked at these sites, it is probably worthwhile for the instructor to spend a few minutes on either or Employers also maintain collection sites connected the organization’s homepage. These sites provide information to applicants who already are attracted to the organization. Organizations are able to distribute extra information about the job and paint a realistic picture of the organization. These sites are currently being improved to include Web 2.0 technologies. These days, it is common for sites to include videos or blogs written by employees who discuss the organization and opportunities provided. These sites always help establish the organization’s reputation. Visit one or more of the web sites listed, or if there are companies that commonly recruit from your university, you may want to substitute those companies. This should demonstrate to the students the seriousness with which companies attempt to recruit the best candidates.
  • Video technologies provide organizations with opportunities to show different sides of the organization. Let’s look at a couple examples. Play the video from Google. On the Vault site, select one of the videos by an organization with which your students would be familiar.
  • Generation Y has expectations about connectivity and wants to work for organizations that will support, allow and encourage. Videos that demonstrate a workplace community will appeal to Gen Y employees. Videos also allow an organization to visually demonstrate a commitment to both diversity and the types of employees working for the organization. To the extent that this is a realistic preview, it should attract people that value the ideals promoted in the video.
  • To incorporate video in the recruiting process, HR should take the time to work across the organization. The IT department can provide information, support and help indicate where the video should be posted. For example, YouTube may be one option, but IT may have alternate recommendations with further reach. Including employees in the video production can also be important. Use departments with appropriate expertise, or create a video design contest so individual employees can express their experience with the organization in their own words. Not only will this add to the reality and believability of the promotion, it will also create positive feelings in the workplace by demonstrating the value your organization has for the ideas of its employees. Outsourcing is also an option. There are many companies that can help produce the video with a more professional and polished appeal.
  • Recruiting passive applicants is a bit more challenging, and as a result, many expert recruiters consider social networking sites to be rich sources of information about potential applicants. A 2008 SHRM survey of HR professionals with recruiting responsibilities reported that 43 percent had used social networking sites, though only 13 percent used them frequently or often. Sixty-nine percent of respondents said they used these sites to search for passive applicants. Many who don’t use these sites are limited by HR to perform searches. The following statistics are from a SHRM online article by Wright (2009). Facebook has 140 million users and LinkedIn had 28 million as of January, 2009. While LinkedIn had previously been seen as the place for business connections, Facebook is taking over as the social networking site recruiters use. The article also quotes an O’Reilly Media study that states that 35- to-44 year-olds are the fastest growing area of users, followed by 45- to-57 year-olds. (Wright, 2009).
  • Once we have recruited a group of candidates, selection is the next step in the process. Again, the Internet and social networking sites provide us with access to an extensive amount of information. Of course, employers are not the only group using these technologies for job searches. Today, some applicants actually use these technologies to reach employers. This CBS report demonstrates the role video resumes play in the modern job search arena (Instructor’s note: play video). Social networking sites can be used as screening tools because of the amount of information provided . Earlier, we talked about the potential of using social networking sites to attract passive applicants. However there are additional cautions if these technologies are used for selection. Some of the reasons are listed on this slide.
  • Participants in a SHRM survey on recruiting and social networking sites felt that learning information from these sites would affect the decisions they made. The highest percentage believed that finding contradictory information would make them less likely to hire the applicant. Conversely, involvement in volunteer activities or professional societies was more likely to positively influence decisions. Most respondents had no policy about the use of social networking sites for screening (Bates, 2008).
  • One of the reasons HR professionals are hesitant to use these sites is because of the potential to discover information that is not job-related. During the application process, employers want to only collect information that relates to the job; this protects us against discrimination charges. Social network sites are rich areas of a variety of information, and therefore a visit to this site is likely to introduce non-job-related information. Employers will be watching for legal challenges related to these activities, and HR professionals need to monitor developments in these areas. The type of job will influence how important it is to check the type of information that can be gathered from these sites.
  • For many employees, social networking sites are necessary tools to maintain connections. In organizations where there are no policies against using these technologies, employees take the initiative to use them for personal use. Many employees will have expectations about the ability to use the technologies, and it will be harder to attract top employees. Organizations often react by blocking access to these sites as they did with the introduction of the Internet, but many HR professionals believe that organizations that try to block access to these web sites will harm employee attraction and retention (Wright, 2009). In its role as an employee advocate, HR needs to communicate the value employees place on these technologies to technology decision makers in the organization. In addition, as these technologies grow in use, HR should play a role in setting policies for usage.
  • These technologies do have applications in work settings. Many universities, for example, adopted text messaging alerts after the recent spate of campus shootings. A report from Pistachio Consulting indicates that as many as 10,000 companies now use Yammer, and dozens of other types of instant messaging/microblogging applications are under development (Wright, 2008b). These microblog services allow you to send status messages to a group of followers, similar to status updates on Facebook. The updates are sent to computers, phones and other personal devices. Yammer was developed as a resource for businesses. People are linked together by their organization’s e-mail addresses. One of HR’s responsibilities is to create support for employees, and social networks are tools that can help us achieve that goal.
  • Of course, there may be resistance to incorporating these technologies into an organization. Some commonly heard complaints are listed above. Many of these responses are the same ones used when the Internet was first introduced into the workplace and many tried to block employees from using it. HR departments that work to develop policies for dealing with how these technologies should be used can avert some of the problems. Again, a proactive approach is better than trying to fix problems after they occur.
  • Brandel (2008) provides a list of reasons why employees want to use social networking sites. These seem to be reasons that would also help productivity. Social connections increase commitment to an organization and may help retention. Providing a way for employees to share information about work processes that are successful has been the goal of many information technology systems. Companies are establishing these type of sites for employees. These networks are set up behind the company firewall. Here are the names given to a few of these employee networks. Examples: Microsoft – Townsquare; Deloitte – D Street; IBM – Beehive; Best Buy – BlueShirt Nation (Brandel, 2008). There are some differences reported with these employee-only networks. Researchers on the IBM Beehive site find that employees use it for connections with existing friends but also reach out more to people they don’t know than happens on other sites like Facebook. Career advancement and building support for ideas and positions were additional reasons that people made connections on Beehive. Employees proactively used the sites for career advancement (DiMicco, Millen, Geyer & Dugan, 2008). Brandel (2008) reports that Deloitte found the following benefits from D Street: flexible work arrangement, virtual teams, new employee orientation, increased collaboration and retention.
  • When organizations consider designing policies for Web 2.0 use they do not have to start from scratch. The SHRM site we visited earlier provides examples of policies organizations can use as a starting point. In their white paper on blogging policies, Kaupins, Burwell and Spitzer (2007) outline some areas of consideration that can be applied to other Web 2.0 technologies. Issues that should be considered when designing these policies include the following: Purpose: A clear purpose for use should be outlined. Monitoring: These technologies will require monitoring on the part of the organization. Organizations need to decide how that monitoring will take place and who will be in charge. Once the monitoring procedures are in place, employees should be informed of monitoring procedures. Behavior: Specific behaviors both allowed and not allowed should be clarified. Other policies: These policies should be coordinated with other computer and Internet use policies. Ethical constraints: Policies and procedures will have to deal with allowing personal freedom but preventing issues that could bring about legal repercussions. Some possible problems that these technologies could expose organizations to are harassment, privacy, copyright issues, libel lawsuits or trade disparagement. For additional information about blogging, see SHRM’s sample blogging policy at
  • According to the Pew Internet and American life survey, 45 percent of “networked workers” we described earlier work at home and 18 percent do daily work at home. The increasing connections are preventing some people from making distinctions between work and personal life. This could put added pressure on employees as they are not able to disconnect from work. HR professionals need to watch closely to see what effect these pressures have on employee stress levels.
  • This slide provides a final wrap-up of the unit.
  • This presentation provides several important ideas that can be applied in particularly difficult conflict situations.
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