New HR Systems Survey: It Pays to Strategize

Aliah D. Wright By Aliah D. Wright December 5, 2017
New HR Systems Survey: It Pays to Strategize

New data from the 20th Annual Sierra-Cedar HR Systems Survey reveals that HR professionals can expect "more personalized, connected, and consumer-driven HR technology in the near future," said Stacey Harris, vice president of research for the IT services company based in Delaware.

This year's survey explored enterprise cybersecurity and risk strategies, emerging benefit applications, improved learning and development, and the adoption of the building blocks required for future intelligent platforms. For the first time, it also tried to gauge the influence of employee benefits and socially responsible policies on the bottom line. It found that companies that took the time to create a plan before implementing new technology saw bigger financial returns than companies that didn't.

The research represents responses from 1,312 organizations employing more than 17 million employees and contingent workers in over 70 countries. The survey results were published in October.

Key findings include the following:

  • Competition is heating up as core human resource management system vendors improve user experience and vendor satisfaction ratings for the first time in several years.
  • IT risk and data security strategies that include HR system environments are aligning with top organizational goals.
  • Corporate social responsibility (including employee benefits) is connected to better business outcomes.
  • Organizations are overhauling their learning environments, with 24 percent evaluating replacement options for their existing platforms.
  • Now that 50 percent of organizations have at least one HR system in the cloud, companies are moving to intelligent platforms for improved integration, scalability and data management. 

Top 10 HR Technology Initiatives

"Each year," the survey report authors write, "we ask organizations about top HR technology initiatives—the areas in which they plan to spend 25 percent or more of their time and resources in the coming year."

Topping the list was business process improvement, with 67 percent of organizations saying they are planning major business process improvement initiatives within the coming year.

Rounding out the top 10 are:

  • HR systems strategy.
  • Talent management.
  • Service delivery.
  • Business intelligence/workforce metrics.
  • HR/All systems integrations.
  • Mergers and acquisitions.
  • Workforce management.
  • Mobile enablement.
  • Social enablement.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to HR Technology]

The survey yielded a number of surprises.

"We investigate the adoption of applications that have an impact on an organization's overall social responsibility by asking organizations to rate themselves from excellent to terrible on how well their organization addressed a variety of social responsibility initiatives such as healthcare, diversity and inclusion, paid family leave and compensation and pay equity, employee assistance, flexible schedules, wellness, and retirement planning. Organizations that did well were found, on average, to have higher return on equity and improved overall business outcomes," according to the survey report.

It Pays to Plan

"Our data [also] shows that when strategies are in place they are highly correlated with business outcomes," the survey report reveals. Harris added, "Once you've made a transformation decision, having an integration strategy" is important.

"Strategies, including standards and guidelines for HR system integrations, as well as data risk and security management efforts, garner even greater outcomes," according to the survey report. "HR has a real opportunity as it is often the first enterprise function to deploy consumer-based cloud technology within an organization."

Harris said "it pays to have a strategy for where essential data is located and how you are going to connect one data set to another data set before you pick your software. We make a lot of decisions on HR technology based on features and functions. My take is that features and functions are not nearly as important as how you get data in and out of an application and how you can use it afterward. It doesn't have to all be on the same platform, but you need to think about how that data gets pulled out and shared and how it helps the organization run."

She said those organizations with integration strategies in place saw 21 percent better business outcomes.

Even so, only 17 percent of organizations have a strategy for integrating HR applications, with 47 percent handling them on a case-by-case basis.

The future for HR technology looks bright.

"The next generation of technology is being designed to inform our decisions and simplify our activities," according to the survey report. "It is meant to be invisible and ubiquitous in our lives and expected to perform as an intelligent system."

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