One of the most enduring and universal mantras chanted by corporate executives is, “our employees are our most valuable asset.” This pervasive perspective – self-evident though it may be – hasn’t always translated into corporate policies and investments that back up the enlightened call to arms. For many years, the human resources (HR) departments charged with finding, hiring, training, scheduling, paying, and otherwise supporting employees were left in the technological backwaters. Other corporate groups, deemed more “strategic” than HR, reaped most of the benefits delivered by a succession of IT advances.
In today’s fast-paced, digitally driven business environment, many companies have come to realize that HR – and the more comprehensive human capital management (HCM) role – may be the most strategic of their many operational activities. Organizations are now working to unify sometimes disjointed HR/HCM applications and systems, to automate many labor-intensive processes, and to offer different types of employee self-service functionality. More fundamentally, they are working to turn their HR/HCM departments into an advantage – a competitive leg up when it comes to attracting and retaining the best available talent.
Technologies such as mobility, social networking, data analytics, and cloud computing aren’t just powering digital transformation efforts, they’re also finding their way into advanced HR/HCM solutions. Employees can access HR services from their mobile devices and they can easily find and collaborate with peers. Managers can run sophisticated analytics to measure workforce variables such as absenteeism trends or to predict future talent needs. And companies can tap cloud-based HR/HCM services rather than incurring the costs, inflexibility, and management overhead associated with on-premises applications.
Adoption of cloud-based solutions for some elements of HR/HCM has already equaled or surpassed on-premises application adoption, according to market research firm Sierra-Cedar. For instance, in its comprehensive 2015-2016 HR Systems Survey report, “Innovations, Insights and Strategy,” the firm found that of the 1,200-plus organizations surveyed, 50% were already using cloud-based HR management systems and 83% were using cloud-based talent management systems.
The modernization and innovation happening within the HR/HCM sector couldn’t be better timed. Younger generations of workers have come to expect the same level of functionality and intuitiveness in their business applications and systems as they’ve grown accustomed to in their consumer apps and devices. They have little patience for kludgy or inconsistent HR applications, and the latest solutions have been crafted to be more “consumer friendly.”
Today’s workers also expect anywhere/anytime access to view personal information such as their upcoming schedules or their recent pay stubs. They even want to perform tasks such as scheduling vacation time or signing up for online training via simple requests that kick off automated workflow and approval processes.
For their part, managers need HR/HCM systems to help them deal with workforces that are much more diverse and dynamic than in years past. At some companies, for example, contingent workers and freelancers may outnumber full-time employees. That variability can make everything – from time and attendance reporting to benefits administration – much more complex and challenging.
As growing numbers of companies confront the imperative to evolve and transform their core business models and processes, cutting-edge HR/HCM solutions have become even more critical. “You need to predict and effectively plan for the workforce you’ll need in the future, not just manage the workforce you have today,” notes Yvette Cameron, global head of strategy for SAP SuccessFactors.
What was true before remains true today. Employees are, indeed, an organization’s most valuable asset. What’s different of late is the expanding embrace of sophisticated HR/HCM solutions. These solutions are helping companies attract, nurture, and retain those valuable human assets as efficiently and successfully as possible.
Learn more about the digitalization of HR in How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace.
This blog was previously published on CIO.com.