Monday, November 8, 2010

Technology in Human Resources


Globalization has created several opportunities and challenges for the human resource department (HR) of organizations that wish to participate in the current global environment. The opening of the global market through technology has made it necessary for HR to help organizations establish a competitive edge and make a profit. Today’s human resource department must be a partnership between HR professionals, line managers, and employees (Mani, 2007, p.3). Globalization has opened the doors to worldwide manpower availability and outsourcing of processes. Globalization has created challenges for HR in the area of relocating employees, adhering to local and foreign labor laws, and maintaining strict ethics standards.

Through improvements in technology and the Internet, organizations are able to tap into a pool of job applicants worldwide. Job opening can be placed on corporate websites or through employment agencies and viewed anywhere in the world that has Internet access. Applications and resumes can be collected electronically for ease of collection, reviewing, and storage. HR records and policies can be shared between company locations through a corporate intranet. Technology has helped to streamline the HR system and reduce the number of employees needed corporate wide.

Many companies are joining the trend to outsource processes both domestically and abroad to lower cost and increase profits. Outsourcing can turn into a nightmare if not managed correctly. Human resources is a critical partner in a corporations attempt to outsource processes to capitalize on low cost labor. Human resources can assess the need for additional employees and the types of skills required for these openings. Human resources will be responsible for the training and relocation of employees to foreign assignments. With the move to outsource processes, companies will need to reduce the current workforce. Human resources must be trained in handling the needs of these terminated employees such as counseling, job placement, and further education or training. During mergers and employee downsizing, HR must communicate to the remaining workforce that their jobs are secure and help rebuild the team spirit to maintain production and quality standards.

Relocating employees to domestic or foreign assignments are costly for a company and have a high percentage of failure if not handled correctly. HR needs to play a critical role in the relocation of employees and ultimately the success of the move. Relocation involves many aspects from language barriers; local customs, schooling for children, and family adjustment. An employee who is removed from his or her native country is called an expatriate. To improve the success of an expatriate program, HR must offer training in language, local customs, and family counseling. Families should be sent to the new location on a fact-finding mission to explore the local area and determine if the relocation will work for the entire family not just the employee. Can one imagine the turmoil of removing a teenager from their friends to move to the Ukraine for the next two years? HR should be involved in expatriate compensation and benefits to ensure they match the responsibilities of the assignment. With the opening of the world labor market, the new trend is to seek out potential employees native to the assigned area to eliminate the need for expatriates. Hiring local talent will eliminate the costly expatriate program and increase the potential success of the job applicant to meet the long-term needs of the company.

Human resources management has evolved in to more than just a department that processes employment applications and handles employee complaints. An HR specialist must be knowledgeable in both local and foreign labor laws, business strategies, and human relationships. With the opening of the world labor market, HR must be careful not to discriminate against any applicant for any reason. Not only do corporations need to follow United States labor laws but they must also follow any foreign labor laws that apply in the areas where they employ workers. All HR employees must understand and follow the rules of the Equal Opportunity Employment Act and affirmative act laws. A company’s HR department is responsible for filing required government labor reports and willfully assisting in any government audits.

Ethics is a big topic today with all the reports in the news of corrupt corporate officers. The human resources department is responsible for developing a corporate code of ethics and ethics policies. HR shall provide training on ethics for new and existing employees as required. An ethics hotline should be established where employees could voice their concerns anonymously. As companies move operations to foreign countries, HR needs to establish and enforce strict rules on not negotiating with corrupt government officials. Employees must be taught and monitored not to accept bribes, gifts, or kickbacks.

“The ever-expanding scope of global competition is causing a reexamination of how human resources can best support the rapid pace of business globalization. A shift from traditional and static structural solutions to business challenges must be made to a fluid and evolving dynamic network. A global competitive advantage will depend less on strategic planning inside the corporate head quarters and more on the behavior of employees across all regions of the world” (Pucik, 1996, p. 2).


There have been many trends and challenges in human resource management (HRM) over the last few decades; the challenge of diversity has been a substantial factor that has been magnified by the trend of global organizations.

In today’s global environment organizations need to develop a diversity program that truly take advantage of the talents and skills of their global workforce. Diversity is a challenge for human resources management, but successful organizations find a way to capitalize on the talents of a diverse workforce. In the pursuit of successful human resources management, the understanding of diversity is just one part of the equation. The desire to capitalize on the global market, through the use of technology, while embracing the diversity of the workforce to improve efficiencies and remain competitive is a critical and necessary process. The labor market in the United States continues to become more diverse with women and other minorities, so organization need to find a way to embrace the talents and capitalize on the strengths of a diverse workforce. Creating an HRM system that values diversity and challenges the historic culture, is a vital necessity for organizations to become and remain competitive. Corporations that desire to compete in the global economy understand the importance of embracing the values and capitalizing on the strengths of a diverse workforce, which in turn creates a competitive advantage. Not all organizations have learned how to create this competitive advantage. In fact, some organizations have had to learn a painful monetary lesson before implementing a diversity program that embracing the differences in culture. “Nothing like a lawsuit to kick start a diversity program, imagine how much money could have been saved?” (Noe, Hollenbeck, & Gerhert, Wright, 2003).

In a global economy, organizations need to develop diversity programs that encourage the understanding of different cultures, values and contributions. The training and resources needed for these programs need to be monetarily supported by senior management, to ensure future success of the program and the organization. In addition, diversity training needs to occur from the top down, from senior management to entry level personnel. Diversity training should be included in the recruiting process, so the culture of the company will continue to progress regardless of turnover. Successful diversity programs help eliminate discrimination in the recruiting and promoting processes, which creates a healthy and productive working environment. Culture change is more than just lip service; it is a long-term endeavor to create a competitive advantage. Managing a successful diversity program has rewards that stretch beyond the facility walls of the organization, like lower cost due to turnover and the ability to provide world-class goods and services to internal and external customers (Noe, Hollenbeck, & Gerhert, Wright, 2003).
Organizations that compete in international markets have unique needs that affect HRM practices and diversity programs. Having teams working together from around the world with different work schedules, languages, training needs, and cultures, needs a diversity structure that will capitalize on the organizations global strengths, to ensure a competitive advantage. When organizations are considering staffing and recruiting needs, they need to ensure that methods used are without biases against minorities, including any test given to potential employee candidates. A diverse workforce has different values in benefits offered by an organization, some cultures might hold more value in daycare, while other cultures may have a higher regard for some other benefits offered. The landscape of needed employee expertise for modern organizations has changed drastically compared with traditional needs, due to technology, like the explosive use of the computer in all industries within the United States. Historically, mastery of some type of technical skill was the most important factor when addressing a staffing need; today interpersonal skills have a greater value to modern organizations, because this type of strength will give an indication of how well an employee will work with other team members. In modern organization, all technical needs involve the use of a computer, the Internet and the ability to work in a team environment. In addition, most organizations are looking to feel their staffing needs with candidates that have a history of educational and professional achievements, including technical certifications, college degrees and quality management training (TQM). This atmosphere creates a tough job market for individuals seeking employment across the spectrum, because careers requiring college, technical, and QMT training are very competitive markets. So, for those who do not qualify for these opportunities are forced to settle for lower paying jobs. To combat shortfalls in the lack of necessary skills needed to compete globally and create a competitive advantage, some organizations implement training and mentoring strategies, to develop internal resources. To reduce possible future shortfalls in the capabilities of the workforce, some organizations make an effort to hire and train from within. This method can be costly to maintain and ineffective, if a solid training program is not in place and sufficiently support by senior management of the organization is not maintained. There is a wide spectrum of staffing needs from within most organizations, from entry level, to highly trained, educated or technically skilled personnel. So, organizational training needs can vary from basic remedial skills, to advanced technical training. Regardless of training or education, many employees lack the necessary interpersonal skills to successfully work in a team environment and the ability or exposure to diversity in the workplace. Organizations within the United States need to find a method to close the gap between the abilities needed and the abilities available, to compete in a global environment, regardless of well the economy is performing. The companies that have invested in technology to streamline their internal processes, trained and developed their personnel and continue to invest in a quality management training program with continuous improvement methodologies, have and will continue to whether the storm at a greater speed, then their industry competitors (Noe, Hollenbeck, & Gerhert, Wright, 2003).

In conclusion, organizations that invest in quality diversity programs with monetary support and resources from senior management, have a better chance to motivate their workforce by breaking down historic differences and biases of a diverse workforce. Investing in training programs that help employees learn how to work with diversity is a key element for successful organizations. To ensure success in the global environment organizations that work with partners or customers around the world, need to implement a diversity program that involves training on differences and similarities. Global organizations have employees of different ethnicity's, cultures and beliefs, so finding a method that will capitalize on these global strengths is the difference between success and failure. Companies must implement a diversity strategy coupled with a quality program that creates a holistic approach to the programs of the organizations environment, is paramount to achieving the organizational goals.


Many new technological trends in human resource management have come into usage within the last decade. These innovations have allowed HR professionals to better handle the vast amount of information under their supervision. Other advances have made connecting to employees and resources much easier and quicker. The unfortunate reality is that these advances have been in use, in other sectors of business, for more than twenty years. It seems human resources as a part of the business model has been placed on the back burner, so to speak, and left out of the technologically advancing market. Companies continue to rely on outdated methods to recruit, train, and employ workers. These mistakes are the reason companies cannot recruit well trained and competent employees, or the company spends vast amounts of capital to acquire and train individuals only to lose him/her to another company. Employee turnover costs companies hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because the company under pays, lacks stable benefits, or digresses in outdated policies that hamper or discourage growth and/or commitment. By introducing new and radical ideas to HR management the company can out grow the competition by acquiring top performers in the industry, developing a benefits package that both the company and the employee can be comfortable with and cutting attrition rates to keep talent in the company.
Advances in human resource information management systems (HRIS) have grown by leaps and bounds in the last ten years. Many HR gurus believe no other technological achievement has helped the industry as much as HRIS advancements. “I see three major developments: (1) multi-tenancy architectural design in software, which is the key architectural enabler of software as a service as well as cost-effective HRM BPO; (2) web services architecture, a.k.a. SOA, which holds the promise of greater long-term flexibility as well as greater implementation ease, therefore of lower total cost of ownership; and (3) intelligent self-service, which combines traditional transactions with the content (i.e., business rules, policy information, analytics, etc.) needed to ensure complete and correct transactions while reducing demands for customer contact. When these are combined, as they have been and are being done by leaders in HRM BPO (because they must do so to provide effective and efficient services), the results are improved business benefits at reduced TCO” (Bloom, 2006). Human resources information systems are growing into vast databases of potential treasures or abysses of peril and doom. Potential, current, and former employees of the company have information stored in these databases. The system is a wondrous world of money making opportunity for the company if the cards are played right. It is up to the HR administrator to sift through the rocks and pull out the diamond. The proper training and development of this professional will give the company a better chance of pulling out the diamond.
When asked what the most important technological trend has been in her career, Linda Lausten, human resources director for Power Chevrolet, Inc., replied, “my Blackberry. I take it everywhere. It keeps me in contact with everyone whether by phone, text, or email” (Lausten, 2008). By keeping her Blackberry with her at all times Linda can communicate no matter where she is or goes. If management needs her help she can get the information and begin a search or development of a plan right away. The Blackberry is connected to her computer database so she can access any information needed even off-site. This could be helpful if a worker hurts him or herself outside of normal business hours. Laptop computers have also become more powerful and lighter weight allowing associates to take them on the road with all the important information right at their finger tips.

Excluding the Blackberry, cellular phones have made staying in contact with the business easier. Emergencies happen and if no one is available to explain proper procedure the chances of the wrong procedure being followed increases. This can open the company to liability unnecessarily. Cellular phones began as bulky, awkward bricks weighing 3-4 pounds. Now cellular phones are as small as a pocket watch. Cell phones may seem more powerful than previous models but that really comes from better circuitry and design in the addition to a huge network of towers and repeaters to bounce the signal around the world. The communication allows people to converse around the world in seconds, inside buildings, on airplanes, and even on the oceans. Many cell phones have many of the same features as the Blackberry including web access, calendars, and Email.
All the advances in technology have given new life to identity theft and hackers breaking into confidential files. Companies have had to beef up security measures to ensure employee information is kept safe. Human resource personnel must be diligent in their quest for security. Laptop computers are virtually the most vulnerable to hacking due to the mobility factor and unsecured Internet connections. Laptops are also vulnerable to theft if left unattended for more than a split second. This allows thieves to have absolute access to not only personal information but also confidential company data that may cause huge problems in the wrong hands. Electronic mail also poses a threat with worm, Trojan, and spyware being transmitted every day through innocent looking emails. Companies have an obligation to keep employee information confidential and privacy issues have been an increasing problem in the recent past. Many credit card companies have had information stolen due to lacking security programs. Internet and Intranet security from many manufacturers, such as Norton and MacAfee, help keep networks secure and private information safe. This cost is substantial but what is the privacy of your employees and customers worth? It will cost multiple times more if the information is stolen and misused while in the care of the corporation. “Today, organizations are asking their HR departments for innovative approaches and solutions to improve productivity and the quality of work life while complying with the law in an environment of high uncertainty, energy conservation, and intense international competition” (Mani, 2007, p. 6).

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