Thursday, October 30, 2008

How to Choose a Human Resource Management System to Satisfy IT and HR

We’ve all heard the saying “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”, but when it comes to standardizing on a global HRMS (Human Resource Management System), the same could be said for an organization’s IT and HR departments. In order to close the gap between these two departments and create a happier co-existence, IT and HR departments need to learn how to communicate more effectively. This can help ensure that the needs of each are taken into consideration, and that an emphasis is placed on creating a peaceful union of organizational equals.
Let us start with the following assumptions: The HR department understands what communication is necessary, and the manner and timing with which it must presented to achieve strategic outcomes. The IT department understands the security imperatives, and has the ability to understand the capabilities of the underlying toolset to achieve these outcomes.
The HR mandate
As organizations strive to build and sustain a high-performing, satisfied workforce, they place an even greater emphasis on the effectiveness of the HR department. Today, the HR department is viewed as a critical contributor to an organization’s bottom line, facilitating the organization’s ability to attract top talent, reduce turnover, and control the high cost of benefit enrollment and utilization. 
However, to be truly effective, HR needs to have the right combination of people, processes and technology in place to achieve success in this area. With the help of HRMS technology, organizations can now provide a number of strategic functions designed to automate a range of tasks. These tasks include employee assessment or satisfaction, time-to-fill or cost-to-hire statistics, employee performance index, revenue-to-employee or productivity-to-employee metrics, and turnover rate. While few will dispute the value of an organization’s HRMS, the road to adoption can be quite challenging. It requires careful consideration and cooperation among all stakeholders--especially IT.
The IT challenge
While companies increasingly rely upon technology to streamline their business processes and create a competitive edge, they are quickly realizing that if they are to truly optimize their IT investments, they must first work to align IT with their business goals. This is particularly true with an HRMS, which needs to be treated as more than just mere infrastructure or a “back office” application (given the major impact an HRMS has on an organization’s overall business strategy, competitiveness and profitability).
Five HRMS considerations designed to bridge HR and IT
In order to make the most of their HR technology investments, organizations must be sure to communicate the overall goals and objectives of the HRMS and solicit input from both HR and IT. Careful consideration must be made to ensure that the solution can improve the organization’s business processes, not just recreate old paper processes. The solution must also create efficient workflows with approval mechanisms, provide compliance reporting, and integrate all of the major components of HR. These major components include compensation and benefits administration, recruiting and training administration, andstrategic measurement tools such as metrics, performance management and succession management.
To ensure a long-term, successful coexistence between HR and IT, organizations should speak in terms that each department will understand, and should select a solution capable of supporting the unique needs of both. More specifically, organizations should adopt an HRMS capable of supporting the following five criteria.
Criterion #1: Scalable infrastructure to meet current and future needs
To ensure the longevity of the HRMS, organizations must look for a solution that is capable of meeting the current and future needs of HR, while reducing the involvement of the IT department. The HRMS needs to be scalable and highly flexible so that, once IT deploys the system, HR can use it to support the needs of its existing employees and extend the system to include new employees as the company grows (either organically, or through mergers and acquisitions). The solution must also enable HR to include future benefits plans and/or business processes. The HRMS should also be capable of supporting multiple language profiles so that all users in all locations can leverage a single, global HRMS platform. This is needed in order to achieve an accurate picture of the company’s HR goals and objectives--on a global scale--without having to seek additional IT support.
Criterion #2: Strong reporting and query capability to ensure compliance to internal and external requirements
The HRMS should also have the ability to support various HR and compliance-related reporting needs, including Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO), Military/Veterans (VETS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and Wages and Filings (W-2 and 1099).
To ensure the long-term success of the system, IT teams should look for a solution that combines data from multiple systems, has built-in report writer features, offers native language and SQL query capabilities (to ensure easy access by any level of user), and supports unlimited security profiles capable of defining the fields, tasks and actions that are permitted by each user. In doing so, HR professionals can easily add fields and tables to reflect the changing business and data needs of the organization, securely locate and disseminate information to appropriate and authorized stakeholders, generate sophisticated reports that comply with internal and external regulations, and provide sophisticated HR-related metrics and data to senior managers for decision making and goal alignment.
Criterion #3: Workload automation to organize tasks and improve processes
In order to support today’s “do more with less” work ethos, it is also important to look for an HRMS that supports what is commonly known among IT departments as “workload automation.”  Long recognized by the technical staff for its ability to seamlessly incorporate event-driven activity with calendar and scheduling functions, workload automation allows HR teams to organize daily tasks, prioritize work and improve their process efficiencies.  Leveraging automatic, user-defined “triggers”, HR teams can set up e-mail-based alerts, notifications and reports that allow them to focus on more strategic tasks, improve communications, and respond faster to employee requests and organizational changes.
Criterion #4: Tight integration and import/export to reduce redundancies and improve accuracy
Some other important HRMS considerations that are especially important to IT folks involve the tight integration of, and turnkey interfaces to, other HR-related systems. These include single sign-on, e-mail server integration, active directory, LDAP, third-party payroll services, benefit carriers or other internal legacy systems, and the ability to import data from other source systems. This is particularly important as HR professionals strive to create a central point of access capable of streamlining their HR processes. The system should also enable them to eliminate redundant data entry functions, increase data integrity (by having the ability to import historical data from outdated legacy systems) and, more importantly, provide additional analysis and reporting to other team members as needed.
Lastly, organizations should consider an HRMS that is capable of easily exporting HR-related data to other software utilities such as Word, Excel, etc. In doing so, HR teams can provide additional analysis and reporting across the organization using existing systems and popular formats without the need for additional IT involvement. With improvements in architecture, and with the proliferation of Web 2.0, traditional imports and exports can be reduced to Web Service requests that allow the posting and exchange of information to become seamless and automatic. This kind of advance allows the manager and employee to manage data without worrying about the administrative task of running an import or an export to manage the integration of systems.
Criterion #5: Advanced workflow to ease use and promote self-service
The final (and perhaps the most important) HRMS consideration involves the system’s advanced workflow functionality. Leveraging user-configurable menus and role-based forms, HR teams can automate time-intensive and multi-step or multi-person processes such as life change events (name change, new dependant, etc.), new-hire activity, terminations and training. As a result, HR professionals will enhance their productivity, reduce their training and administrative expenses, ensure faster and more accurate transaction processing, and lower the cost of collecting and delivering HR-related services throughout the enterprise. 
IT and HR departments alike should look for a solution that is capable of being deployed online, with Employee Self-Service (ESS) and Manager Self-Service (MSS) portals. This will help to encourage easy and secure access among employees, document company procedures and workflow, and ensure compliance with mandates such as Sarbanes/Oxley. By selecting an HRMS that supports advanced workflow capabilities, HR and IT groups can optimize and extend the technology platform to drive bottom line efficiencies and profitability.
Put simply, if an organization is to build and sustain a high-performing and satisfied workforce, then a fruitful relationship between HR and IT must exist. So, instead of thinking in terms of “Mars versus Venus”, IT and HR professionals should keep these five easy requirements in mind, using them as a means to openly communicate their goals, objectives and system requirements.
By giving proper consideration to the people, processes and technology in both your IT and HR departments, you and your organization will be well on your way to a long-lasting, satisfying marriage of HRMS equals who are working together to meet a mutually satisfying goal.
Author:Shafiq Lokhandwala is President and CEO at NuView Systems, Inc.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Automated Screening and Assessment Can Level Candidate Playing Field

Automated candidate screening and assessment solutions have become standard practice for many employers in the race to hire and retain talent in a shrinking labor market. Technology exists not only to assess skills and competencies, but also culture fit and work style, which can be reliable indicators of job performance and retention. However, few realize the benefits such technology affords in terms of objectively recruiting people with disabilities and leveling the playing field for all candidates.

Automated candidate screening and assessment solutions can be delivered via multiple methods - Web, phone, kiosk or table PC - and make it easy for anyone to apply and be interviewed regardless of mobility challenges or disabilities. Further, by removing the face-to-face aspect of a conventional interview, candidates need not be concerned the interviewer will be distracted by their disability rather than focusing on the interview's content.

Applying for jobs via technology compels an employer to make a determination based only on the candidate's responses to questions and assessments, as opposed to appearances or information presented on a one-dimensional resume.

Traditional hiring processes typically screen out unqualified candidates, leaving employers to hire those who fit minimum qualifications. This creates what is essentially a double jeopardy for persons with disabilities. It becomes easy to focus on restrictions the disability presents rather what the person may be able to do in spite of any challenges.

Advanced automated interviewing systems driven by artificial intelligence can be set up to adjust questioning appropriately, seamlessly and diplomatically when such situations arise - even routing the interview to a different line of questioning for jobs for which the candidate may be better-suited. In short, this process can screen in candidates based on the skills and competencies they possess. Conversely, face-to-face interviews can lead to the determination a person is not suited for an advertised position. The conversation is effectively terminated, rather than initiating a discussion to explore alternatives.

Synchronizing the assessment process via Web and phone also gives rise to the use of job simulations. For example, the employer can have a customer service simulation in which several screens of information are available to the applicant on the desktop. The candidate is then charged with negotiating the screens while responding to a variety of service calls. This provides all candidates with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and proficiency to handle the job.

Web-based interviews can be structured to ensure compliance with Section 508 requirements of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. Additionally, using a properly configured automated solution erases the potential for human error, such as asking potentially discriminatory questions during a face-to-face interview.

While objectivity and fairness should be the mantra of any interview and assessment, an automated system can document each question asked, the answer provided and the basis for the overall assessment. With the EEOC and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' aggressive interest in systemic discrimination, this detailed documentation can prove invaluable in proactively safeguarding the hiring process from negative outcomes such as litigation and compliance-related fines.

Most important, using an automated screening and assessment solution provides all candidates with a seamless and convenient process to apply for job openings. Moreover, it provides employers with an objective and reliable process for hiring and retaining qualified candidates who will be productive members of their workforces.

[About the Author: Ron Selewach is founder and CEO of the Human Resource Management Center.]