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Integrated Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) have become easier, affordable, and practical for smaller and medium-sized business

Integrated Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) have become easier, affordable, and practical for smaller and medium-sized business


1. Introduction

This article is a follow-up to last month's article about whether it would be a good thing to integrate your Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) with your payroll in the name of improved operational efficiency and cost saving.

Way back in the July 2001 edition of equity-Skill Development News we wrote about the 'Agony And The Ecstasy' of using

spreadsheet based software to compile, update, and maintain your company's Equity and Skill Development Plans.

And, in last month's newsletter you were asked to think back on the last time you had to access, extract, and compile all the supplementary information such as a grievance analysis by race, gender, and disability, labour turnover trends by race, gender, and disability, extract upper and lower salary ranges by level.

In this article we explore the people management issues that Human Resource professionals in smaller companies face on an ongoing basis to provide high quality real-time, and accurate information in the face of the following demands:

>> From line manager that HR begins to manage by the number to reduce cost, and improve administrative efficiencies (doing more with less)

>> From employees for basic information on demand about their benefits and conditions of employment such as sick days, and annual leave

>> From government with their ‘voracious appetite' and demand for more and more paperwork and reports

2. More efficiency

Over the last couple of years, Human Resource Professionals have been under the whip to save money, be more efficient, automate as much as possible, and to still make time for strategic planning. The economic downturn has accelerated these trends.

In response, HRIS products have had to become more affordable and easier to use. For the most part, they have. HR at smaller companies can now have more confidence that automated systems can do what they want, and more

companies are either upgrading their systems or buying their first one to cope with some of the following kinds of scenarios:

>> You are the HR manager for a company that owns five different companies, and you are required to generate five different Employment Equity Reports, but are unable to easily produce an overall report for the five companies.

This means that if an employee is transferred from one company to another, the system thinks the employee was fired by one company and then hired by another. It takes a lot of manual manipulation to get the information right. Most of the newer systems are capable of handling employee transfers.

>> Many smaller companies are finding that they have to move beyond just having personnel files to becoming more strategic to

compete for scarce talent, and retain talented staff. To do this you need quick access to information. You need to see the staffing game plan, and in the light of affirmative action and financial goals be able to model various staffing scenarios and what these will cost the company. Ever tried doing this by hand or with a spreadsheet!!

3. Partnership role between Line Management and Human Resource Professionals

Work that was once done by HR is slowly shifting back to managers and to employees, even in smaller companies. South Africa’s people friendly legislation has put the responsibility for people issues squarely on the shoulders of the line managers.

The challenge for HR will be to take on a partnership role with line and to have a policy and paperwork framework and system in place that makes it easy for line to take on many of the administrative tasks previously handled by HR.

In this scenario HR would be responsible for creating line manager friendly policies, procedures, and paper flows for many functions traditionally handled by the 'professional'

Examples of this partnership are:

>> Training administration: having the applicable policies and procedures to hand for all training supplied by the company, and for managers and employees to be able to schedule people to attend courses without constantly conferring with HR about policy and paperwork; in future this will be available on the web, or the company intranet.

>> Performance management policies, procedures, schedules of events, and having online electronic appraisal documentation available for use throughout a performance and budget cycle; in future the system will automatically alert managers and employees to critical appraisal tasks that need to be completed and will automatically generate the supporting paperwork.

>> Automatically routing training and development plans and appraisal documents to each employee's file.

3. Creating a policy, procedure, and paperwork framework, and system

Creating an online policy, procedure and paper flow system is the logical starting place for upgrading your current system to an automated HRIS.

Unfortunately there are no HR packages available that come with ready made content and paperwork to either upgrade your current HRIS, or to start one from scratch.

The SAP, BAAN, and ORACLE HR product range is usually a non-option for smaller businesses. Current PC based HR packages usually have little or no policy frameworks in place that are based on South African Labour Legislation (which is still evolving).

4. Employee self-service

Pressure from the stock markets, and from Chief Executives to cut costs will accelerate the self-service trend.

As smaller companies get more comfortable with self-service, HR professionals are looking to do more sophisticated forms of self-service, beyond such tasks as checking on the true value of pension fund contributions, requesting time off, applying for study grants and study leave etc.

Moving these kinds of duties away from HR's desk not only saves time and money, but also increases employee satisfaction. In a resent study by The Society of Human Resources Management in the US, found that nearly five out of every eight hours of an HR professional's time is spent doing administrative work.

If you ask employees what health benefits they have, they won't be sure. With self-service, they can log on to a computer - from

anywhere (even an information kiosk) - and see when they qualify for a preventative doctor's exam, what a filling costs, or what their annual allowance for contact lenses is.

5. Aids, skill loss, and succession

As demographics change due to HIV and AIDS related early retirement, or death, employers increasingly are concerned about how they are going to replace these skilled employees.

In many parts/provinces of the country there isn't a big labour pool of qualified workers to replace them with. This is where training and development will have to fill the gap with fast track learning.

Scheduling hundreds or thousands of hours of training for its employees will require a robust HRIS to track skill development and ensure that that training is in line with NQF requirements and the business plan.

Business will also have to track what local high school and technicians are learning, so that when learners graduate, they know what entry-level skills and knowledge they have.

These days' having a clear line of succession isn't a nice to have but is becoming a necessity. HR will need to identify which employees need certain technical skills, who needs supervisory skills, management skills, and leadership skills, and so on. Today's HR professional must have a system that can help you learn about these skills and will allow you to track the courses that employees take to build skill portfolios.

6. It's all about ROI (return on investment)

During this period of slow economic growth, HR is under more pressure to prove that its systems are an investment that will pay off, and not just an additional cost.

Do you know how much time is spent manipulating data and handling various HR transactions (functions) with, and without an HRIS?

This includes more than just time that HR spends at tasks such as manipulating data to get an Employment Equity report to work right. It also includes the time and energy that employees spend on tasks such as changing their address for health providers and getting approval for vacations, which can be automated with an HRIS.

Have you calculated the cost-benefit of employees completing NQF aligned skill modules, and learnerships?

The cost includes the employee's time away from work and the money the company spends on training. The benefits include lower labour turnover, lower recruiting expenses, and less money spent on overtime. The overtime costs come in when, instead of filling a job after an employee leaves, you have other employees work overtime to fill in temporarily.

Using an HRIS facilitates decision-making by allowing the company to better understand which employees leave the company, and why. HR can also use the system to see which benefits are more popular, and then use that information to scrap unpopular benefits and add well-liked plans. This improves employee satisfaction. "It's all about ROI." ROI, of course,

Does not necessarily mean finding the cheapest alternative.

7. Resistance to change

The trend toward more self-service, as well as HR systems hosted online, enables employees and managers to do more of HR's administrative work. HR professionals who want to maintain control aren't always pleased with this change. Moving a lot away from HR's control can be looked at as a threat to the HR people. Sometimes they're worried that this will mean their jobs will be at stake.

Who wants to do the trivial tasks like filing and handing out forms anyway? And, if your HR department still sees that as necessary "controls", you desperately needs a new HR department to help take your business forward.

Rather than losing their jobs, HR will be rewarded for getting quicker and better data for recruiting, retention, and training initiatives. Ultimately it is all about what's right for the bottom line. One of the ways to help the bottom line is to improve the speed and efficiency with which HR transactions are processed.

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Gary Watkins

Gary Watkins

Managing Director


C: +27 (0)82 416 7712

T: +27 (0)10 035 4185 (Office)

F: +27 (0)86 689 7862

Website: www.workinfo.com
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