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Technology Matters

Hyland Software director, Mark Greatorex, explores how combining strategy with technology can help maximise HR capability and contribution

February 2 2012 - Throughout industry, rapidly-evolving technologies are radically changing the modern working landscape, bringing with them not only new capabilities but also more technologically-dependent working practices. In particular, many organisations are already noticing that both social media and hand-held devices are becoming ever more visible and accepted business tools.

Next-generation cloud-based technologies are also, for many organisations, opening the door to business-focused remote working possibilities, as well as speeding-up day-to-day transactional activities and replacing paper-based documentation and other manual systems with time-saving, automated processes.

In the coming year, the additional capacity these efficiencies bring present a significant opportunity for the HR department to spend fewer hours engaged in time-consuming day-to-day activities and more time supporting the overall business agenda in a more active and strategic way.

Easing the administrative burden

A recent study commissioned by Hyland Software and conducted by independent research specialist, Fast Future, further underlines the expectation that many businesses will continue to adopt new technology to aid compliance and accelerate productivity.

Of the 200 professionals surveyed in the research, 90 per cent said that, in the next decade, they expect concerns over cost control, efficiency, compliance, data protection and records management to drive the rapid adoption of document and workflow management solutions that aid automation.

Take electronic content management (ECM), for example. Using an intelligent system it is now possible to integrate document capture with any human resources information system (HRIS), enabling any physical paperwork that is collected about the employee to be captured electronically and delivered through the existing HRIS. In addition to bringing about greater efficiencies, this can also prove to be a more secure way of handling personal confidential information.

Intelligent processing

Budget constraints are a key driver for organisations when considering fast, efficient software systems. While HR is not a revenue generator, it does incur significant hard costs, particularly when the business is expanding and requires additional staff. In this instance, ECM technology supports seamless HR management through automating, for example, the processes required for recruiting and initiating new employees.

The technology even makes it possible to automatically direct candidates through the appropriate channels for recruiter approval, manager approval and ultimately the execution of an offer. Once the offer has been accepted, it is possible to use the system to create a prompt to order new equipment in preparation for the new employee’s start date.

The technology can also be used for other HR tasks such as scheduling employee reviews, driving efficiencies by reducing human interaction and administration. Other processes might include managing annual leave requests or supporting the exit of an employee. When used as a mechanism for essential data capture, it is even possible to leverage ECM investments to aid the administration of an outsourcing programme.


With more and more executives reliant on mobile business tools such as smartphones and tablets, integration of business systems and processes for handheld devices has become essential in recent years.

For HR teams, inbuilt tools such as automated workflows for annual leave requests can now be configured to reduce the requirement for endless prompting. For example, if an executive has put in a request for a holiday that must be signed off by a specific director, the director will receive an automatic prompt on their Blackberry reminding them to approve the request. Once this has been approved, it is also possible to programme the system to reduce the executive’s holiday allowance accordingly.

The Document Knowledge Transfer function contained in advanced ECM systems also enables HR teams and to track and report on the status of records and documentation and supports the requirement for compliance and security around information. This is particularly useful when, for example, a business-critical amendment that affects all staff must be adhered to that also requires acknowledgement for HR records.

Connected world

The growing popularity and importance of social media in the professional sphere was highlighted by 70 per cent of respondents to the Fast Futures survey who believe that, firms will pay increasing attention to a candidate’s social media influence rankings when recruiting in the near future.

In addition, 38 per cent also said that social media would be used internally to build employee engagement and increase retention over the next decade and beyond, while 32 per cent felt a key HR priority would be to use social media externally to promote the ‘employer brand’ and attract talent.

As social media and collaborative technology grows in prevalence as a recognised and important part of day-to-day communication and activities, the challenge for HR teams now lies in preparing for the impact it may have on everything from culture and internal communications to recruitment and peer appraisal.

The fact that, in many organisations, the use of social networking tools by employees is still prohibited by company policy shows that there is still some way to go before the medium achieves widespread business adoption. Yet, failing to implement a forward-thinking approach and strategy for social media may well prevent businesses and HR teams from exploiting their full potential.

Smarter strategies

A further key challenge for the modern HR department is not only making the transition from service function to strategic planner but also whether the organisation decides that this role is best performed by HR itself, the corporate strategy function or individual business units. Here, as before, time could prove to be the crucial factor; according to a study by (2011), while 65 per cent of HR directors considered themselves to be strategic assets to the business, those responding to the poll spent just 15 per cent of their time on strategic work.

If HR continues to focus on transactional requirements, the strategic advisory aspect of the role is undoubtedly at risk of being outsourced - taking HR even further away from the top-level business agenda.

Mark Greatorex

Mark Greatorex


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