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How technology found its place in Human Resources

February 23 2020

How technology found its place in Human Resources

It can be hard for many of us to imagine running our HR departments without the use of technology or automated processes.

Whether you’re handling employee benefits enrolment or making arrangements for annual leave - we all can easily fall into the trap of taking our trusty HR systems for granted. Without them, we’d be working our way through mountains of paperwork and admin, instead of fulfilling other tasks which are necessary to move our businesses forward.

HR technology was first introduced in our workplaces with the need to process large numbers of payslips, which prior to the 1960s, was primarily a manual or clerical task. The arrival of large mainframe applications to carry out payroll activities, such as calculations and the creation of paper payslips on a large scale was, for many companies, the first major application of technology to an HR-related problem.

Such systems quickly proved their weight in gold – reducing clerical activity and the number of staff required to support the process. At the same time, it was recognised that these systems often held a valuable database of employee information, such as information about jobs, pay, cost and absence levels. Therefore the progressive demand for better information swiftly led to the development of HR-related applications that held additional employee information, which could be used to base strategic HR decisions.

The arrival of desktop PCs in the 1980s saw an explosion in the availability of cheap, flexible PC-based HR applications that were easy to implement, and which offered a whole range of reporting tools and functionality. This opened HR managers to the idea of managing much of their administration through a desktop system.

However, being an HR manager in the pre-web era made it very difficult to share data, as PCs were notoriously poor at sharing data, and systems integration became a major headache.

When web-based technologies entered our offices, the problem of sharing data and tools over a network was a thing of the past. This also meant that anyone with access to a PC and an internet connection could now use self-service tools that enabled line managers and employees to access and update records.

Although we have come a long way in the last 50 years, some organisations are still playing ‘catch up’ and aren’t using their systems to their full capacity.

What innovations are grabbing the spotlight in the HR technology community?

Self-service HR systems for employees and managers have gained considerable attention within the HR technology community, and for all the right reasons. This is where employees have their own secure login so they are able to access their personal records and payroll details. Employees can also update personal information, such as address and contact details, which would otherwise be updated by HR. This, in turn, allows HR departments to benefit from reduced administration costs, increased accuracy and enhanced productivity.

The cost and efficiency implications of self-service are important, but they’re not the only issues. Self-service can play a big role in helping organisations manage a broad range of people-related activities more effectively. And because it generates significant volumes of data for analysis, it gives senior management better insight into their workforce and helps them manage everything from absence to long-term planning.

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