What's Your HRIS Say About You?

When I started in HR everything was on paper. Personnel files... paper. Applications... paper. Vacation requests... paper. Internal communications... nope, not email just paper. Slowly and surely though with each organization I joined the way of the world started to change little by little to the point that I've been involved in some capacity in the implementation of either an online application system, HRIS, or a combination of both at every place I've worked over the last nearly 15 years.

The thing is, that first system I played a role in rolling out wasn't so different than the last one I took part in. My experience has been that HR (and organizations) recognize the need to embrace technology but by the time they do, technology has gotten shinier and we're already umpteen versions behind the best in practice trendsetters before we've even gone live. You'd think this would be frustrating - and I suppose there have been days where it was - but the reality is that for me it's only pushed me to find and explore and see what better options are out there and then make a point of sharing all that awesome with whomever will listen be it leaders in my own organization or outside it.

To that end though, how an organization - and the HR function within it - embraces technology is a snapshot of the organizational culture, for example:

  • Still on paper in 2013? That says a lot about an organization's priorities and willingness to adapt (it also speaks to a certain degree of complacency and apathy among other things). Paper equals cost and cost is something HR functions should be looking to cut in an effort to add value and move away from the dated transaction focused role it likely has in this type of workplace. If you're literally pushing paper, it beckons the question of whether or not your role is that of a business partner or an overpaid file clerk?

  • Migrating off paper to systems like Access and Excel and other workarounds to a true HRIS? Admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing it, but this is really little more than a Band-Aid on a chainsaw wound and ultimately isn't necessarily any better than the paper systems your organization may have abandoned. On the plus side you'll find you have more time create strategic value once your spreadsheets and databases are built and you've got a process down pat - but unless you're cash-strapped or working in a pocket dimension stuck in 1999, it's time to move on and up.

  • Made the leap to some sort of enterprise wide server based system? Congrats - you're working in an organization that understands that the world is changing and that data and how we access it is a critical factor in a successful operation. You're also working somewhere (and the truth is, this is many if not most of the major corporations, government agencies, and the like in the USA) that's burdened with an ongoing obligation to patch and upgrade and maintain and basically spend truckloads of cash in order to keep alive a system that's become your be-all-end-all in terms of HR and finance and whatever else you've managed to modify it to do (or found bolt-ons to play friendly with it). 

If you work in HR, odds are one of these scenarios looks very familiar. And that isn't likely to change for you or most HR offices anytime soon - but eventually you and your organization will have to make the leap to the cloud and on demand data (and in many cases the glory of mobile) that's free of many of the operational costs associated with server based systems (or get left behind)... a move that some large organizations (notably Equifax and Yahoo) and many smaller ones (due to increased organizational flexibility and economy of scale) already have made.

Companies like WorkDay (whose semi-recent IPO made a huge splash), SmartRecruiters, Talentd (an offshoot of Submittable), SilkRoad, Dovetail Software, iCIMS, and others are changing the landscape of how HR professionals are handling data and transactions in ways that save money, create synergy, and build value - mirroring the ways in which tech has evolved and impacted our day-to-day lives so drastically on fronts ranging from shopping to socializing to entertainment to travel to DIY to banking and on and on. 

So the questions become those of what we value as HR professionals, as organizations (and to a degree how organizations value their HR professionals), and whether we're willing to embrace change in order to add value and develop strategic solutions or do we continue on about our business the way we always have (and likely watch our competitors pass us by)? 

Header Photo Credit: D.P. Rubino via Compfight cc

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