Identifying Trends in Technology Is Critical Skill for HR

By Katti Gray May 17, 2012
The newest HR technologies—such as those that measure hours worked more precisely and online portals for collaboration—can help companies curb costs and make optimum hiring choices.

“Technology is a huge enabler of efficiency gains,” said Michael Martin, a consultant in the HR effectiveness practice at New York City-based consultancy Mercer. It helps firms improve their HR tech strategies and those without an existing framework construct strategies from scratch.

“Many of them are in the middle of making some big decisions … about buying a new HR information system. They need new talent solutions. They want [various types of] portals,” said Karen Piercy, a principal in Mercer’s human capital division. “They’re looking for ease of use for their end users,” she continued.

Mobile, Social Important

Organizations “are asking for robust dashboards and analytics capabilities. They’re looking for things that are mobile and social, with proper controls built into the system to make sure people can’t self-serve in [confidential] areas.”

Increasingly, the consultants say, their clients are focused on cultivating HR processes and a workforce whose skills facilitate business goals, whether a company is growing and extending its international reach or recovering from a fiscal slump.

As a way forward, Mercer advises clients to zero in on these essential areas:

Portal integration that provides ease for employees, whether they’re self-servicing around employee benefits or trying to problem-solve on a work project.

Self-service that goes beyond access to employee benefits. “Push it out as far as you can,” Piercy said. Use technology to record “time and attendance, leaves of absence. … Performance appraisals, career management, pay—all of that is online.”

Easy access to data and other work-related information that’s cloud-powered and available through, as one example, mobile applications.

Workforce analytics and planning. “Once you have all this data in your system,” Martin said, “do something with it. Pull it together in a dashboard and tap people in HR around this … to define metrics so they make a difference, so they can define [return on investment] around business practices.”

Shared services. Make sure that HR conveys how all of this works together and is governed. Seat committees charged with oversight and monitoring of the technology, and determine who designs and is accountable for varying parts of this framework.

Do Your Homework

As part of that transformation—and this is especially key for companies that are on the ground floor of building a comprehensive HR delivery system—institute probing interviews with corporate executives and middle managers. Get the opinions, too, of focus groups of lower-rung employees and corporate customers, because they play an important role as well.

The HR delivery system should spotlight, among other areas, so-called centers of expertise.

The HR staff itself must be knowledgeable of cutting-edge trends in technology and what varying groups of workers bring to the table, said Martin.

New York-based freelance journalist Katti Gray’s work has appeared in Newsday, Ms., Essence, The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other publications. She can be reached at or


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