Technology is still failing to meet the needs of HR

Sorry this is a major rant, I don’t have time to fully explore the whole issues but I had to blog about it anyway.

Watson Wyatt Worldwide released a press statement overnight that concerns me greatly and leaves me to believe that either their research is wrong or technology has fundamentally let down HR over the last 5 years. Now I respect Watson Wyatt so I guess that means that technology is at fault, or at least the way we have implemented it. The press release reads like one from 2002, not 2007. Even the executive summary from the research report is a concern.

Watson Wyatt’s 2007 HR Technology Trends Survey finds that companies are turning to technology to give employees access to pertinent information and tools. From portals to software solutions to call centers, HR technologies are providing a bridge to the information that employees need to understand their changing workplace.

I’m sorry but best practice companies were using software solutions, call centres and portals (although they weren’t call that then) 7-10 years ago! What has happened to all of the investment in HR technology over the last 5, 7, 10 years? Has it all been a complete failure and everyone is just ignoring this fact?

All is not bad as 46% of companies are now doing benefit enrollments over the web, but that is a very low number. However only 27% have notifications of all life events online! Another concern is around the basic payroll decisions, and compensation transactions are processed.

… transactions related to compensation and payroll decisions, promotion and transfers and retirement still tend to occur the old-fashioned way. Fewer than one in five companies report that all transactions in those programs take place via the Web.

The last, and probably biggest concern, was around talent management the buzz area of HRIS over the last 2 – 3 years.

Twenty-one percent of companies are somewhat or very dissatisfied with the quality of talent management service provided, versus 10 percent in the health and welfare area and 6 percent in defined benefit administration. Many companies are looking to add technology solutions to their talent management programs, especially for succession planning, where more than 30 percent plan to adopt technology solutions in the next two years.

Now the research was with only 182 companies so it is limited in scope, but I would except Watson Wyatt would have been reasonably careful in who they chose to participate to get a board representation of organisations.  So I guess technology is the failure.

HR is a heavy administrative function in which it is widely known and acknowledged that technology is critical for providing the productivity improvements needed to allow the function to become more strategic. This is not a new concept, I was preparing business cases over 10 years ago on this very basis.

I can only assume that these failures in technology to address the business needs that they are contributing to the fact that we are still seeing that business leaders don’t see value in HR! Thomas Otter kicked off a discussion a couple of weeks ago on this based on research from Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and The Economist Intelligence Unit. Thomas tagged me to get into the conversation, I didn’t as my blog died but I think I need to.

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