Human resources and technology are not always bosom buddies, but the reality is that today many organisations want to achieve a sleek, integrated HR department which literally can use data for business critical elements like succession planning and managing the talent pipeline. It’s undeniable that technology plays a huge part in enabling this.
However, it’s also crucial that the human resource department has the full backing of senior management to make the transformation from business support to business partner.
Michael Esau is responsible for organisational development – strategic projects at Premier Farnell. The HR professional was already working for the company when new CEO Harriet Green was brought on board to turn the company’s fortunes around and is fully aware of the value technology can bring along with support from the very top.
With the new CEO who understood the people side of the business and was focused on change, the difference was marked with a clear message and company strategy that any employee could recite. The organisation was able to spread unified communications amongst employees. "I always maintain that genius lies in simplicity," said Michael.
However this was only the beginning. The catalyst for change brought a desire to be able to look at performance across the board and really understand the business and its people.
This is where technology came in. SuccessFactors’ Cloud-based business transformation system allowed the organisation to have data at their fingertips and use data to aid the day-to-day human resource role and be a tool for business transformation.
Not only was the admin burden lifted and the paper records left behind, but it provided a more secure storage system and data which could be used for organisational development, from spotting skills gaps and succession planning to performance management.
Michael explained: "Driving the performance, driving the objectives was the challenge, it worked really well but the figure was when we started to drive the succession. All of a sudden you’re classifying your entire workforce in terms of ‘where are they in terms of their potential and in terms of their performance?’" He continued: "Then you start to know where your very high potentials are, where are your other high potentials, and then you know what your succession pipeline looks like for your entire business. Where are we at risk, where are we vulnerable, where are the people who are ready now, where are the people who will be ready in one or two years?"
The technology can also kick-start initiatives within the business which can make a huge difference to performance. Michael said: "You can start to make really focused and intelligent decisions about the development of your people."
It’s hard not to conclude that technology, which is so often blamed for alienating humans from each other, in this case is being used to bring people together to truly recognise and support what business widely claims is its greatest asset – the employees. To have the people side of the business treated as a truly central role within the company, with the CEO and HR function working closely together with business transformation technology to back up and inform strategic decisions – that’s an attractive prospect for the human resources function – and for businesses everywhere. And it’s a reality for Michael and his team. Have we seen the future for other organisations?