Richard Watson outlines how technology can improve business outcomes in a time-poor and rapidly changing world.
As the boundaries of a typical modern workplace continue to evolve, HR departments must be adaptable to navigate this ever-changing environment.
The last decade has seen the younger tech-savvy “Facebook generation”1 enter the workforce with different demands and expectations to previous generations. Through social networking, virtual communities and mobile technology this younger generation communicates in a different way, and is accustomed to a level playing field where everyone is listened to and takes part in discussions.
Employees now also demand more flexibility in their hours, workplaces and localities. "Employers are recognising that, for a new generation, a new approach to management is required which gives staff flexibility and ease of communication. Leadership, performance management and development have to adapt to the new climate.”2
How can new technology benefit your business?
Better employee engagement
Extensive studies conducted by consultant Marcus Buckingham, who worked for Gallup for over a decade, found that the most engaged workplaces are 27% more likely to report higher profitability, 50% more likely to have lower staff turnover and 38% more likely to have above average productivity3.
So how can technology assist with employee engagement? The importance of collaboration at work has been emphasised in recent years but this can be challenging given the increases in mobility and flexibility in the workplace. This is where collaborative software and social networking can provide a solution. For instance, an HR management system can incorporate the ability to create “communities” (eg Project Team) where participants can post documents, share information and work on reports together regardless of where they are based. Such collaboration enhances the work experience and ensures smoother communications within virtual teams which is especially important to the younger generation as well as helping improve the productivity of employees.
Attract and retain the best talent
A 2011 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers on the Millennial Generation4 states that employers will need to offer this younger generation “greater autonomy, more flexible career options and more opportunities for peer recognition”. People entering the workforce now have expectations that they will be provided with the tools and technology to be productive in any environment – whether in the office, at home, with a client or on the road. This becomes a significant differentiator from a recruitment point of view. This way of working means that tools like smart phones, tablets, virtual meeting software and other collaborative tools will become increasingly necessary to meet the base requirements of most corporate roles.
Based on the findings of a survey of 703 senior HR executives in Australia and five European countries2, HR departments are looking at the latest in mobile and social networking technology to empower and engage their people while increasing productivity. Innovative companies such as the French energy group Schneider Electric are embracing collaborative technology with the deployment of an internal social networking tool. “The system helps to get employees to share best practice and build on solutions created in another location. So we have a lot of savings and efficiencies,” said the head of enterprise community management, Louis-Pierre Guillaume.
More time to focus on HR strategy
The Australian HR Tech Report for 20115 showed that the primary motivator for improving HR systems and technology was to save time and/or increase efficiency. Time pressure is one of HR’s biggest challenges. HR professionals need to find ways to work smarter and to alleviate the burden of repetitive administrative processes, which will enable them to focus on HR strategic issues and adding value to their business.
The latest integrated HR management systems (including employee and manager self-service functions) are key to streamlining HR processes. Using these systems will allow HR professionals to introduce efficiencies through automation of workflows, efficient data management, accurate reporting and the ability to manage the recruitment, training and development of their employees all in the one central database.
Budgetary constraints are another barrier that HR professionals must overcome as stakeholders demand more and more from limited resources. Moving away from the one-way communication models to more mobile and collaborative tools can lead to cost-saving benefits. For instance, a technology strategy that allows employees to work from different locations can save on employee relocation costs, business travel, computer infrastructure and office space.
Take the lead in technology investment
Even though the cost of new technology can be seen as a barrier by some, the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) low level cost entry can combat the prohibitive upfront costs associated with some technology solutions. Leading edge companies understand that investment in technology is well worth the long-term benefits. Process efficiency, time and cost savings and the ability to attract and engage the best talent are some of the rewards for businesses that embrace HR technology.
Increasingly, work is ceasing to be in a specific place or at a specific time. For many it can happen at any time of day and in any location. Executives who understand this and embrace the technology that can help support this new world will be reaping the benefits in the future.
About the author
Richard Watson is Managing Director of ADP Australia/New Zealand, a provider of comprehensive payroll and HR solutions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 000 729.
Hamel G, 2009, The Wall Street Journal
HR Challenges and Solutions: Engaging and Empowering Employees in the New Workplace, research conducted by ADP in association with CorporateLeaders and published by ADP ES International, 2011
Summary of Gallup research can be found on its website, Gallup.com
PricewaterhouseCoopers Managing Tomorrow’s People: Millennials at work: perspectives from a new generation; and Millennials at work: reshaping the workplace
Australian HR Tech Report, research conducted by Navigo, 2011