Every autumn, thousands of people from all over the globe gather in Las Vegas for the world’s largest conference and exhibition on HR technology. While analysts, academics and vendors talk trends and future scenarios, I have concentrated on what it all means in practice for HR and executive managements in the Nordic region.
While analysts and American software vendors have major US organisations in mind, we are concentrating on Nordic organisations with a workforce of 200 to 10,000 people. At first glance, much of it can seem rather far-fetched, but we all know that what happens ‘over there’ eventually turns up here – in one form or another. So to stay at the forefront, it is necessary to draw inspiration from the HR technology trends’ Mecca.
I have adapted the lessons learned from US organisations to a Nordic setting:
5 tips for the modern Nordic HR manager
- Create value with HR analyses
‘Big data’ and ‘Analytics’ are the hot buzz words to be heard at most HR conferences. A modern HR manager performs HR analyses that can say something about the future. Everyone is talking about it – but very few can point to any good examples. The most relevant examples often come from big retail chains, which use analyses to find the right employees and cut staff turnover.
These often have many thousands of employees, a high proportion of part-time staff, a high level of staff churn and a large number of new hires each year. Analyses and ‘big data’ are obviously relevant for such enterprises. But what about an organisation with 1,000 employees and 50 new hires per year?
In recent years there has been a lot of empty talk about HR analysis, but more and more good examples are starting to appear. After a deal of trial and error, the following advice has become clearer and clearer:
If HR analyses are the answer, what is the question? Start by defining which business-related questions you want to answer through HR data.
Think simple and minimalistic. It is easy to get lost in massive data mining exercises and advanced technology. It is more important to have precise and updated data than to have ‘big data’. Expect that your HR technology provider supports analyses. Good business-related analyses require data on financial performance, operations, quality, customers, etc, in addition to HR data.
Get started with simple analyses instead of creating the perfect foundation for advanced predictive analyses. Discuss simple analyses and reports with other functions within the company, and use them as the basis for decision making. That will help you learn more about the need for and value of the analyses produced.
Different needs for clarity and management of employee data
2. Get control of your HR master data
- in the payroll system to enable the payment of salaries.
- in IT for managing access to various IT systems, often controlled from Microsoft Active Directory, etc.
- in finance and accounting as well as ERP systems, to create reports based on the organisational structure.
- in talent management systems (employee development).
The largest global survey of HR technology use, which has been carried out for 18 years in a row by Sierra-Cedar, shows that organisations with a modern and integrated HR system for both HR master data and talent management are more satisfied than those which have two separate systems in these areas. This trend is so strong that vendors of talent management software which doesn’t support HR master data are struggling to maintain growth.
Before, decisions about technology were often taken on the basis of which vendor had the necessary functionality. Functionality is still important, but the big Sierra-Cedar survey shows that this is only one of four important areas. Other key aspects that affect customer satisfaction are:
3. Be a satisfied technology customer
With an integrated HR system, it is easy for the organisation to see these data and keep them updated. And the IT manager does not have to manage system access based on out-of-date data. Imagine the risks involved if a former employee still has access the company’s systems because the employee data is outdated!
In recent years we have seen a clear trend in the direction of shifting responsibility for HR master data from payroll, IT and accounting to the HR department. Cloud-based and user-friendly HR systems have made it possible for HR to take responsibility for this, and make it easy for managers and employees to verify the quality of the data and update it themselves. Modern HR systems are also easy to integrate with Active Directory and other IT systems.
- service and support
- user experience
- god relationship between customer and vendor
- easy to upgrade to new versions
4. Get the most out of your HR technology Modern cloud-based systems are acquired as a service (Software-as-a-Service) and are delivered via the Cloud. Vendors issue 3-4 releases per year, and upgrading takes a few minutes. Customers can therefore stay up to date. However, in order for these technological changes to create value, the customer must work in a different way.
5. Consider this about HR technology and smart phones. HR systems are often used by the entire workforce, and are therefore designed to be simple to use. Since all employees are exposed to such systems, it is important that they help brand the employer as modern and up to date, and are not perceived as old-fashioned. Access to such systems from mobile devices is part of the employee’s overall experience.In the longer term we will see that the majority of software programs work just as well on a mobile device as on a computer.
In the meantime, most people are having to prioritise what to make accessible by mobile phone. User scenarios where access from a mobile device rather than a computer is appropriate, and even preferable, should therefore be the starting point for any decision.Some programs are used only to follow a link from an email, which largely eliminates the need for an app. If the system is supposed to be capable of offline use, e.g. for inflight eLearning, a dedicated app is vital. In addition to ensuring the software functions properly on a small mobile screen, it is also important to think through how you will manage access to the HR system.
Computers that are owned and managed by the employer often have a ‘single sign-on’ capability, which makes logging into various in-company systems easy. Few enterprises support such simple log-in via a mobile phone. This is something you as HR manager should discuss with your IT department.
It is important that mobile support is integrated into the HR system itself and is not simply a mobile ‘front end’. A jazzed up facade with a lot of old, cumbersome software in the background is rarely a good solution in the long term, and can create major headaches when it comes to upgrades. Whether to have a dedicated app or software running in a mobile device’s web browser will also depend on the context in which the software is to be used.
But does it really matter whether HR systems are accessible by phone? The answer depends on which HR processes they support. At one end of the scale you have the payroll system, where there is little need to be able to run payroll from a mobile phone. At the other, you have systems for managing attendance and recording hours worked, which most certainly should be accessible by mobile phone.
In their private lives, mobile phones and tablets are the most important devices people use to access various software applications, while computers have become marginalised. At work, it has become perfectly normal for people to read their emails on a mobile device, while certain systems – such as accounting and ERP systems – are still not accessible on mobile devices.
The most important prerequisite for benefitting from HR technology is the customer’s change management capability. It is not enough that the vendor innovates and further develops his software if the customer is not prepared to make use of the new opportunities. In my experience, now confirmed by the Sierra-Cedar survey, organisations with a culture for continuous change in HR processes that are supported by HR technology benefit twice as much at a lower overall cost than those without any structured approach to change management.
A few years ago, IT systems were bought under licence and installed on a server, either at the customer’s site or the vendor’s. Such systems, often called ‘on-premises software’, could generally be adapted to the customer’s requirements as long as the customer was willing to pay for any changes. Upgrading happened every 3-4 years, could take many months and cost significant amounts.
So, in addition to functionality, check out the vendor’s cost picture and reputation for customer service, and build a long-term relationship.
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