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e-HR feature: So, what is this e-HR stuff all about then?

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Having been asked by the Editor and agreeing to write a number of articles on the subject of e-HR she suggested that I should include an intro, so I thought it best that I should apologise right from the start. Firstly, sorry if some of my comments or statements make you feel uncomfortable. I am generalising in my views on some HR professionals attitudes to this subject, so please don’t take it personally or send me hate e-mail!

I plan to write a number of articles covering ‘how to’ guides including how to choose an e-HR system’, issues to consider when implementing a new system, presenting a business case, security and data protection. If there are other items or issues that you would like covered, please let the Editor know and I’ll do what I can to accommodate.

Mark Brome

So, what is this e-HR stuff all about then?

If like me, you have been bombarded with articles, leaflets, sales pitches and emails from software suppliers etc over the past year or so, you could be forgiven for that glazed, bored look in your eyes. After all, recent surveys have confirmed what you had thought all along, that a high percentage of e-HR implementation projects failed to live up to expectations and deliver added value. Phew, don’t have to worry about trying to jump on the “next big thing” bandwagon for another year! Think so? Maybe you should read on.

Like it or not, accept it or not and understand it or not, the e-HR express train is here right now and is not stopping at the HR station. The software is evolving so quickly that it will make your eyes water. Unfortunately and I am sad to say, that it appears that it is not the HR profession that is driving this train. So your choices are you either jump on board, get pushed on it by your boss, IT department, your employees or the finance director, or you get hit by it! With all the jargon and techie speak racing around, I thought that it would be useful to offer a simple explanation of what it is and is not, without any sales pitch you usually get from the software providers.

No matter what title this new technology comes labelled as, e-HR, self-service, HRMIS, ERM (employee relationship management) etc, the bottom line is this; it is a piece of software that initially moves the HR administration from the HR department to the line managers and the employees themselves (hopefully), which it turn frees up the HR team so that they can focus on more strategic issues and become true business partners to their client base and reduce HR transaction time and costs (allegedly). Having e-enabled the basics, other areas of the HR function become a target for e-HR automation, such as employee benefits, recruitment, payroll, training and so on. Or in the words of the European Vice President at the previous company I worked for, “so, we will end up doing HR’s job for them then as well as our own?” After catching that grenade, I composed myself, made a potential career changing reply which went along the lines of “well not quite, more like your managers now having to do what you pay them to do – manage their teams more closely and make decisions about people” Phew! kept my job despite my VP for HR grinning at me and the said European VP glaring back at me. However, he had made a very good point which taught me a very valuable lesson, e-HR or any other title you want to give to it is not about the technology, but more about change management, something I have never forgotten or underestimated.

…and the impact on the HR profession?

If you listen to the doom merchants for too long you could end up believing that the HR professional will become extinct having been replaced by a computer. I don’t think so and neither should you. True, as the technology becomes more wide spread and ever more sophisticated, then certain roles may disappear altogether. But as professional managers, this should allow us to reallocate potentially motivated resources (telling an HR Manager or Administrator that they now don’t have to push paper – how much more motivating can it get!) to the real business issues and become real business partners and part of the business. Guess why some of you are not sitting at the “top table”? (if I hear that term again – I’ll scream!), maybe you are too busy pushing the HR paper and worse of all, they are happy to let you continue pushing it.

True, this technology is not without its problems, cost of purchasing and implementation, data protection, security and privacy to name but a few. But shouldn’t these problems become challenges for the HR team to deliver on rather than IT departments, finance people and lawyers? If we don’t address them ourselves then they will and in turn, taking the credit for it – yet again.



About the author

Mark Brome says: “you could never call me a professional techie type. Having spent nearly seven years working as a European HR Manager, previously working as a General Manager for a large logistics company, I suddenly found myself in the right place at the right time (depending on your view of this e-HR stuff) having been asked to implement a new HR system for the company I was contracted to at the time.

This fuelled my interest in technology. I then spent the next year or so learning everything I could get my hands on, from learning web design and development for e-commerce including HTML, XML and JAVA, systems architecture, project management and so on (bored yet?) Then, having moved to a global technology company as EMEA HR Manager, I was asked to get involved in implementing PeopleSoft 8.0 self-service HR systems across Europe. From there and having taken a redundancy package (thank you so very much Mrs HR Director!), I am currently working in a global pharmaceutical company and awaiting the green light to implement SAP HR. Having been there, done some of it and still eager to learn more, I am still waiting for the scars to heal! Budding e-HR specialists – you have been warned.”

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