HR and IT are often seen as two corporate departments that are the most bogged down in outmoded technology, and the least forward-thinking. While this isn’t always a true reflection, many IT departments have been faster in responding to contemporary work trends than their HR counterparts.

IT teams today see their roles as have developed from that of simply building systems to now brokering business services. Yet, numerous HR teams are stuck using document-based ‘systems’ built on out-of-date information, that are frequently rife with error. Relying on this kind of stop-gap solution is hampering the strategic role that HR can play. To change this scenario, HR can learn from IT.

As providers of services to the business, HR and IT have quite a bit in common. When staff contact either department, it’s generally for one of three reasons; they want to get something fixed, they want another kind of help/advice or they want something new entirely. The IT Service Management (ITSM) discipline has over the years become adept at putting processes in place to address these questions with speed, efficiency and accountability.

These kind of processes are just as relevant to HR, and in today’s ‘digital age’, the technology can be easily adapted – based on the availability of customisable, cloud-based platforms. Today’s Service Management solutions are built to enhance user experience and to fit the user’s ‘workflow’ – allowing for approvals, escalations, security and performance management functionality.

The workflow sitting behind a request to IT for a new PC or printer, for example, will provide the approvals, ordering process and tracking that will see the printer delivered to the requestor, with full transparency and visibility. So, if we disregard the IT ‘content’ of the request and imagine an employee requesting a change to their pension scheme, there’s no reason why this technology can’t be applied to other ‘process-heavy’ functions such as HR. 

DIY workflows

Self-service is another feature of how IT departments have developed in recent years, and another area where HR can take a lead. Indeed, there are a growing number of organisations using Service Management solutions to create a single ‘point of contact’ and develop self-service portals for staff to access HR advice and support.

Using self-service portals staff can, for example, check terms of employment and fill in automated forms such as for holiday requests, or complete the onboarding of a new employee. The technology can also automate the systems used for managing queries and HR cases – from providing straightforward advice, to more complex matters such as disciplinary or grievance cases. One benefit of this approach is that it gives the management team an up-to-date overview of all cases in progress and it is auditable, rather than relying on paper records or spreadsheet trackers that are open to human error.

Using self-service portals, staff can fill in automated forms such as for holiday requests, or complete the onboarding of a new employee

By easing the workload and improving efficiency, Service Management technology can enable the HR function to focus its staff on more ‘value-added’ work rather than day-to-day admin. Moreover, the implementation of such technology also significantly boosts the approval ratings of the HR department.

Users like the self-service elements, the fact that information is available 24 hours a day, and the ability to track queries and requests online. And because the HR team has more readily-available information, they are able to respond more quickly to colleagues when personal interaction is needed, and keep track of their key performance indicators more easily. As such, it’s time HR realised that IT isn’t just a separate department to be called when a computer doesn’t work, but one that could help it revolutionise the way it works.