Self-serve HR programs fast becoming the norm

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Human resource departments are rapidly embracing technology systems to deliver services more efficiently and to improve the management of other programs, according to a study of major corporations in several industries.
Sixty-one percent of human resource managers reported a reduction in workload — some as high as 50 percent — as a result of employee self-service systems, which free them to focus on more strategic initiatives. The systems allow employees to sign up for benefits, change their benefit plans or write evaluations via a computer.
Managers also are adopting digital practices in nearly every human resource function and are making significant investments in the talent and management systems that support employee retention and engagement.
However, many organizations are not realizing the potential of these investments because of the complex internal systems of manual checks and balances which many departments require.
The survey was created by Towers Perrin, an international professional services firm. Areas of focus included employee benefits, compensation, communication, change management, employee research and the delivery of HR services.
“The human resource community is evolving from an all-paper approach to a more digital, more advanced strategy,” said Tom Keebler, principal and leader of the firm’s global human resource delivery services practice. “By applying technology where appropriate — to deliver or solicit information — HR teams are not only streamlining functions, but improving accuracy and better serving their employees. As a result, these tools are increasingly being recognized as necessary and critical to the ongoing effectiveness of the organization.”
The study surveyed 325 HR and HR information technology leaders at manufacturing and industrial, financial services and insurance, energy and utilities and health care organizations. Forty-seven percent of respondents were from companies with more than 7,000 employees.
Respondents were polled about a variety of topics, including which technology platforms they were using or planned to use. Of the respondents who said they would be changing their current HR system, a third planned to move to an SAP platform, compared to 10 percent who are planning to move to an Oracle platform.
Twenty-eight percent of respondents were still evaluating vendors, and the rest are choosing a mix of other vendors’ platforms.
Because talent and performance management systems are top of mind for senior leaders in many organizations, HR departments are focused on finding solutions to help motivate, retain and engage employees.
Among companies planning to change or purchase HR technology in 2007, more organizations plan to invest in a new performance management system than in any other human resource domain. Other significant areas of investment also relate to work force development activities: 31 percent of respondents plan to invest in staffing and recruiting systems and 29 percent will invest in learning and development technologies.
Systems providers, too, are recognizing the need for better performance management systems and are more willing to meet those needs with new products and solutions. By 2007, almost nine of 10 companies will offer annual benefit enrollment via the Internet, making employment self-service systems almost as ubiquitous as employees’ access to the Internet at work.
“Employment self service systems deliver measurable efficiencies to both employees and the organization,” Keebler said. “It eliminates inaccuracies in data collection by offering a single point of entry — the employee — and immediate application of business rules. It also links information across the enterprise so that systems can ‘talk’ to each other and increases the speed at which a company can accomplish HR transactions. By virtue of its ability to integrate transactions, communications and decision support tools, it engages employees in understanding, appreciating and participating in the delivery of their benefit, pay and other programs — an important goal for many companies today.”
The systems are growing in breadth as well. By the end of 2007, nearly two-thirds of the organizations said they will offer an on-boarding process through the Web to help bring new employees into the organization more efficiently and effectively. Fifty-four percent of respondents will have employment self-service system applications for career and competency planning.
The survey shows that line managers are generally receptive to the rollout of self-service applications across the HR spectrum. An overwhelming majority of participants reported that technology for managers offers faster processing, provides more accurate data and is more effective.

HP announces tech grants

HP is sponsoring an initiative to award grants totaling $2.8 million in cash and equipment to two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States and Puerto Rico.
The 2007 HP Technology for teaching grant program supports the redesign of math, science and engineering courses, with the goal of increasing the number of students graduating with high-tech degrees.
Extra consideration is being given to proposals related to environmental engineering and “green” product design.
The company hopes the program improves student success, as faculty members adopt technology enhanced instruction in their classrooms.
Higher education institutions interested in applying for a grant can find additional information at www.hp.com/go/hpteach.
The program was launched in 2004, and since then, HP has donated more than $36 million to programs throughout the country.
Amy Gillentine covers technology for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.