A bit of blue-sky thinking could create a more streamlined HR

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At a recent HR conference, business software provider SAP’s head of Cloud for HR, Mike Ettling was quoted as saying “HR has the least standardised back office function in an organisation. Processes are very disparate, highly unstandardised. Organisations are saying, we can’t afford this any more…”

Whether you agree with this or not, there is increasing evidence that advantages can be gained from standardising, streamlining and creating greater efficiencies in HR processes. Much of this, however, will depend on the availability of appropriate and relevant HR technology.

Many companies have seen the business benefits and are already embracing, or in the process of embracing, what’s on offer. The key to taking advantage of these new capabilities is removing the lack of flexibility that HR organisations have built in by adopting non-standard processes, said Ettling.

BT has signed a multi-million pound contract with Oracle to roll out cloud-based HR technology to nearly 88,000 employees worldwide. The multi-national telecommunications company plans to replace its existing, heavily customised systems with cloud-based software by the end of 2014.

The project will allow BT to simplify its HR processes, provide it with real-time data on its workforce, and make the company’s HR systems available to employees and managers through smart phones and tablets.

“BT is going through a period of growth, reflected in the results of the last two or three years. We really need to continue to be a strong company and focus on our organisational health. People are one of our strongest assets,” said Tom Howie, programme portfolio director at BT.

Easyjet, who have seen their workforce grow from a few hundred employees to several thousand in a relatively short period of time, have also initiated a cloud application that unifies core HR and talent management, allowing a seamless experience from onboarding through to succession planning, and helping the organisation manage the most essential jobs in the organisation. They have teamed up with HCM solutions provider Workday to develop a common language for performance and create greater transparency across its workforce.

Easyjet will also be able to gain access to key indicators such as cost, capacity, and capability of its workforce, and will be able to access a variety of reports, which are configurable to the needs of the business, speeding up decision-making and reducing their reliance on IT support.

So, how will employees benefit from these streamlined processes? Technology is already a primary touchpoint for employees to connect with an organisation, not just through social media, but through other personal aspects of an employees experience such as payroll, performance reviews, and benefits. It is vital, then, that the employee experience of that technology is positive, and the quality of the experience good.

If employees feel that the tools were designed with them in mind, and where productivity can be gained through employees accomplishing tasks in less time, they may be more motivated to use them. And a company’s consideration for the end user means that employees are more likely to shout about the benefits of working there – thereby increasing brand engagement.

With telecommuting on the rise and job hopping increasingly the norm, employees want to access these self-service systems on the go. A number of firms are rolling out new mobile apps designed to help organisations harness the so-called “hive mind” of their employee population to encourage collaboration, improve managerial performance and helping HR get a better insight on what’s really on employees’ minds.

A survey released in April 2014 from the ADP Research Institute, based on research of mobile data across 5,000 ADP clients, found that 37% of registered mobile users are using mobile HR applications to access their pay information, compared to 23% who use desktops and laptops.

“In terms of functionality, mobile will become the main channel for workforce management and engagement,” said Roberto Masiero, vice president and head of ADP’s Innovation Lab. “It’s right there, it’s personal, it’s the perfect place for a company to communicate with employees, and for employees to collaborate among themselves.”

So, perhaps, it’s now up to HR technology suppliers to take the lead. This increase in self-reporting means portals will have to be designed to ensure they are easy to use. The biggest challenge for suppliers will be maximising the amount of data absorbed while minimising workflow steps and they will need to build in a strong element of customisation so that companies can adapt workflow steps that aren’t mission-critical.

Crucially, these suppliers need to remember that, aside from ease-of-implementation and ease-of-use, delivering value to their own department remains the primary concern for HR, i.e. cost efficiency is key.

But for now the benefits of simplification are clear, by improving the accessibility of people operations employers can rise above the competition. As SAP’s Mike Ettling concludes: “If you can standardize, automate and socially enable your processes, your manual processes just melt away and you can focus more on the problems, and less on the administrative process issues”.

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