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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY TECHNOLOGY'S INCREASING ROLE IN HRD

 

TECHNOLOGY'S INCREASING ROLE IN HRD


 


By JAWAD S. NAQVI
Aug 18 - 24, 2003 
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'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' Arthur C. Clarke

Change is the only constant in the world. Incessant transition in the internal situation and external environment of an organization an interesting mix of crisis, development, cost and complexity require technological partnership to become integral part of the enterprise culture. In the 21st century, those unable to benefit from the rampant technological research and development will lag behind in their pursuit of achieving the desired surplus making capacity. And who can afford to miss a science and technology frontier rich with prospects?

Human resource refers to people in an organization. The expansion of personnel effectiveness and potential in an organization to meet long-term and short-term goals is known as human resource development (HRD). Right from the selection and induction of employees in an organization to their training, development, evaluation and compensation comes under the jurisdiction of HRD. An effective HRD program ensures creation of a work-and-worker-friendly environment, thus resulting in a higher surplus for the organization.

Technology is defined as: 'scientific knowledge used in practical ways'. In the industrial context, this knowledge may be used to improve productivity, quality and quality of work-life by designing new machines, modifying old designs and developing other scientific practices.

Above discussed definitions of technology and human resource development help us to establish a relationship between these terms. We can say that technology's role in HR development deals with the scientific contribution by method or machine to facilitate human resource function in an organization.

TECHNOLOGY'S CONTRIBUTION IN DIFFERENT HR FUNCTIONS:

Technology's major contribution to HR systems was possible due to advancements in information and communication technologies. Internet and an integrated network of personal computers within and outside the organization have filled the time and paper based communication gap that used to exist in the organizations. Now we can use facsimile, email or telephone to place requisition and justification for a new staff in our department, request for the revision of pay structure of a class of employees, or may recommend someone for training. Information technology has gifted an automatic database management system (DBMS) to assist in recruitment and selection, training assessment, tracking performance, and linking individuals' performance with the compensation.

HR PLANNING:

Traditional tools of project management for instance Gantt, PERT and CPM are encoded as a computer program, thus current status of human resource in an organization (department or taskwise break up) and future forecast on the basis of planned activities is possible through computer aided HR planning. An intelligent system can help in assessing the human capital needs in terms of skilled or semi-skilled manpower to accomplish a particular task e.g. in the assembly line of an aircraft or automobile. This is useful in quickly calculating the number of employees in a certain section (for instance, number of sewers in a garment production facility) on a particular date if the forecast production volume (wokorder based) is fed into system. This also helps in accurate planning and deployment of manpower, and needs' assessment for training and development including curriculum design.

 

 

RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION:

Recruitment is the process of inviting applications for a job. Selection is choosing the best fit among the available candidates. In the IT era, recruitment and selection is no longer a mechanical search of CVs and applications in stale bulky office folders. It is a high-tech art now. Organizations advertise on the Internet, create their profile and job specific CD-ROMS and pursue for the best fit for their current and future needs. Normally such computer disks carry almost everything that anyone would like to know about the organization and its community. This project may cost as low as $1500 and bulk copy makes it virtually inexpensive by all means for the organization of any size and budget.

Online application form is a good example of the role technology can play in this field. For instance, a job advertised for the post of Production Supervisor in a textile factory listed three essential requirements for a candidate: age above 20; qualification graduate or above, and minimum production supervision experience 2 years. Candidates were given an option to apply online. Online application forms once filled will be sorted by the system into two categories. The applications fulfilling the required criteria will be automatically segregated and will be emailed to the concerned authority. All online applications will become a part of application databank sortable by different attributes. This is the cutting-edge role of information technology in recruitment and selection. Many organizations today use this system to pre-screen applicants for a job thus saving time, effort and money.

Internet recruiting is also possible through chat rooms surveys and online invitations for prospective fits for a job. In USA, certain organizations are reported to prefer this method to job fairs by virtue of its cost effectiveness and direct hit rate. In the academic institutions, internet enrolment and graduate program emails are cost effective, and a quick means of attracting prospective students in the junior classes who are most likely to look for a suitable degree or college for higher education. Thus instead of arranging college education fairs and inviting students, this is an easy way of new enrolments in a college. Emailing the prospective students also builds a two-way interchange of ideas and thoughts between the college and the students. Business enterprises can also engage in this type of activity in the vocational training institutes of higher degree colleges in their hunt for supervisory or management trainees, or junior level technicians. Internet advertising and emailing the prospects is more useful because the 'best fits' normally do not bother about job fairs.

Similarly online behavioral and skill level tests help human resource professionals evaluate the suitability and expertise level of each applicant.

TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT:

Multimedia technology has facilitated training managers to organize, edit and present key points in their lectures. It is easy to highlight focus ideas, incorporate graphics and pictures, and flip back and forth while explaining the slides. This facility was not there by conventional illuminated slide projector or write-on boards. A training database management system helps HR department maintain and track the training and skill level record of employees in an organization. Together with the record of employees' qualification, work experience and employees' performance rating in his current assignment, this helps identify training needs of the individuals.

Changing nature of business relationship in the world today has tremendously transformed the previously self-centered and internally focused training and development programs. Organizations today are very much involved in the supply chain development, and their business performance is directly connected with the performance of their suppliers, buyers and business partners within and outside the country. Traditional training approach could not be of much help in this scenario and again technology extends a hand of assistance. Web is an ideal platform for sharing business values and best practices with the horizontal and vertical business partners. In value chain economics, the health and performance of one business is contingent upon the overall supply chain and product, which brings to us the concept of extended enterprise beyond its erstwhile physical boundaries. Today training wing in an organization can design and develop interactive training programs for each player in the value-chain according to their performance gaps or required targets. This is a transition from business-based partnership to training based partnership for mutual benefit.

One major benefit for web-based training platform is its ubiquity, and that odds are very high that it will be an extra burden of time and cost on the partners in training. This type of training is cost effective, timely and useful in terms of learning and business creation.

PERSONAL RECORDS AND ATTENDANCE:

Employees personal records are now kept in computer based databases, which are easy to organize and analyze. Automated attendance system (finger or card scanning for time-in and time-out) is widely used in organizations today to systematize and record employees' attendance and overtime records. This information is also utilized to calculate workers compensation, and track their discipline etc.

Nowadays two concepts are becoming increasingly popular in the HR departments:

(a) WEB-BASED KIOSK:

A human resource kiosk is designed for use in conjunction with HRIS to deliver services to the employees in an innovative way. This enables staff to personally perform a number of activities online. This access may be secured by a password. These activities include:

* Viewing and editing personal details, addresses and emergency contact information, banking information etc.

* Viewing general corporate information

* Enquiries on leave balance and previous record

* View payment breakup and the salary slips

* Apply for leave online

* Claim for special compensation and overtime

(b)

 

 

INTERACTIVE VOICE RESPONSE SYSTEM (IVRS):

This system is useful and recommended for a human resource department experiencing a large number of inquiries from internal and external callers. This is a forward-looking approach to handle inquiries. This helps the caller to directly access the desired set of information or to contact the concerned desk (e.g. compensations, training, recruitment etc) without unnecessary interruption by man or machine. An Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) processes inbound calls, plays recorded messages including information taken from databases and the Internet, and may route calls to either in-house service agents or shifts the caller to an outside extension. However care should be taken to avoid multiplicity of options and level of options. We recommend the use of voice recognition technology as the number of layer goes beyond three. Also the number of executives and number of lines should not differ so widely as to keep a caller holding for more than three minutes. The IVRS is a piece of technology, but should be used with a greater degree of human understanding that is paramount in particular for an HR department.

PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT & COMPENSATION:

An online performance management system helps employees forward their personal assessment to their immediate supervisor for providing comments on the individual's performance during the period under review. This ensures a paperless and rapid transmittal of performance report in an organization. Key advantages include: confidentiality (lack of paper-based files), savings in time, money and effort, quick to give and receive feedbacks at 180 and 360 degrees and creating a paperless environment in the organization. However, MIS must ensure the system's security and confidentiality. This system can be further linked to the compensation and rewards and once the finance and human resource departments have identified the basis of increments (e.g. 70% on performance and 30% on seniority), it is easy to divide the allocated budget among evaluated employees on the basis of their Performance Evaluation Rating (PER).

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS:

One possible area is the partnership between the management and the trade union in order to develop professional skill level and employability of the workforce. This is a training based affiliation. In the 1970's, we witnessed growing joint labor-management partnership to soften the impact of wide-scale lay offs in the auto industry, which has now taken the form of a sophisticated collaboration going beyond unemployment assistance in the early years. There is more reliance today on learning technologies, from multimedia CBT to Web-based distance learning to promote individual and organizational goals. For instance in USA, international brotherhood of electrical workers and lucent technologies, the Unites Steel Workers of America and other steel manufacturers are employing technology for 'training for mutual development'.

Another alliance of Boeing Corporation and International Association of Machinists (IAM), the largest labor union in Boeing, resulted in a web-based quality through training partnership (QTTP), launched to help employees in their career by posting existing job openings, and online registration for training needs to qualify for the jobs advertised. This site is a clear-cut example of how technology can help build ethical industrial relations with a healthy outcome for overall business environment. One similar example is the training CD-ROM by Institute of Career Development, a union-management partnership between United Steelworkers of America and the steel manufacturers to educate steelworkers in mathematics, problem solving and computing.

 

 

BUILDING MANAGEMENT CONFIDENCE IN TECHNOLOGY

Change generates fears and resistance. Technological changes in human resource management will meet resistance, and the onus is on the change leader and the change agents to create an environment in which human resource and allied staff in the organization can comfortably embrace this change.

One common fear could be: "the rate of technological change is too rapid to keep pace with." This may cause employees to discourage systems based on new technology. For example, a compensation manager resisted to introduce computer based performance management system linked with the automatic distribution of allocated budget for increments by saying that his 'staff would not be able to handle that.' And that 'the system is too modern to be implemented at this stage.' Some managers also express their concern about the viability and expenses of new technology and resort to citing some failed attempts in the past.

One possible strategy is by not importing technology as a new concept in the organization. Instead staff can be made a part of technological groundwork undertaken before the launch of a project. This participatory role in the application and productivity of technology will enhance their awareness, and make them less likely to resist such changes. This will also transform their status from the 'recipients of technology' to the 'partners in technological change'.

Last but not the least is to plainly explain technology's role to the employees at large in an organization. It could be in form of training sessions, interactive discussions or introductory brochures highlighting the role of technology in organizational objectives. This will create technology-assisted efficiency in the enterprise, with a general fusioning of natural science with humanities and social science. That is where technology and human resource go hand in hand.

Jawad S. Naqvi is a human resource practitioner in Pakistan. Currently he is serving a textile factory in Lahore as manager human resource development.