HR Online -How Technology is Pushing HR up the Corporate Ladder

Now that they’re finally getting their organisational structures right and administering HR online through self-service model, most large organisations want to harness the potential available from integrating HR with the rest of the business.
Peoplesoft’s sales manager Andrew Batchelor says many bigger firms are at varying stages of implementing web-based HR performance management, workplace analytical tools and enterprise learning initiatives. While most organisations are choosing stand-alone systems they can implement quickly and cost effectively, few have anything remotely resembling complete end-to-end solution.
The stumbling block is cerebral indigestion. With system capability running ahead of human capacity to grasp it, Batchelor says larger organisations have had to re-think desired outcomes. Costly end-to-end integration needs to deliver better staff retention, cost efficiencies through automation, and productivity improvements.
The art of automatically facilitating personal career development through enterprise learning across the entire organisation – be it through online e-learning, instructor-led or classroom-based training – is now regarded as the latest weapon in the war to retain key talent.
In fact, sales consulting manager for Oracle NZ David Rainbow says offering learning to employees is key driver of employee retention. That’s why he says much of what HR professionals are about today centres around process improvement. “The constant mantra of HR is getting the best out of staff within budgetary constraints.”
Taking their cue from front runners in the enterprise learning stakes – like healthcare, banking and finance sectors, and tertiary providers – growing number of organisations are embracing e-learning systems to deliver information down into their businesses. This could include anything from induction sessions, health and safety guidelines, through to user documentation and manuals over an intranet.
Smart performance management software systems are far from new, but Batchelor says many companies have only just started to realise that better access to HR data won’t, of itself, add value to the organisation unless it’s acted on. This revelation has spurred the uptake of workplace analysis tools that measure the real impact performance management systems have on their organisation. “It’s providing clearer window into existing competency gaps, especially in succession planning, training, and redeploying staff more effectively throughout the organisation,” says Batchelor.
Much of Sky City’s recent decision to implement full end-to-end Peoplesoft solution was driven by insufficient depth of information to manage the business more effectively, says general manager HR Paul Walsh.
The casino operator recently confirmed plans to adopt true end-to-end solution when it added Peoplesoft’s Human Capital Management to the existing Peoplesoft enterprise platform. “Under the old [paper-based] system we couldn’t tell [for example] how many Filipino women between age 20 and 30 left the business last year. This sort of detail could provide meaningful insights into employment issues,” says Walsh.
Another important driver was Sky City’s evolution into multi-casino and entertainment operation, including its latest casino acquisition in Darwin. “They wanted to ensure commonality of business processes and business tools across geographic locations,” says Batchelor. “For example, transferring floor manager from say Auckland to Adelaide has to be both quick and seamless.”

e-Learning foray
Sky City recently made its first foray into e-learning when it implemented web-enabled training module for over 1000 staff needing training on conducting performance and salary reviews. What triggered the e-learning approach, says performance knowledge manager Catherine Reynolds, was the impracticality and cost of getting busy managers (at different sites) to front-up at classroom-based training facility.
While the module is decidedly ‘low-spec’ option that fits with the company’s existing technology infrastructure, Reynolds says Sky City’s full e-learning strategy (linked to the Peoplesoft platform) will be signed off before July 2004. With the aid of Peoplesoft’s Enterprise Learning management tool, Sky City plans to provide online training for dealers, retail, and food and beverage staff across various sites.
Another company planning to follow Sky City into e-learning is Fisher & Paykel. But the timing is an integration issue, says CEO John Bongard. Driven by the need for better staff retention, he plans to get serious about e-learning once smart HR performance software is bolted-on to the company’s existing JD Edwards systems.
Vodafone also became front runner in the e-learning space with the launch of its sales academy three months ago. Based on similar programme running within its European operation, sales academy is an online, intranet-based learning framework for front-line sales people.
While e-learning is significant within Vodafone’s agenda for upskilling staff, HR services manager Rachael Finnemore says full roll-out means developing single-source platform offering full integration between systems.
It was Vodafone’s fairly rapid acceleration in staff numbers from around 300 to 1300 (check re what period) that saw the telco opt for Peoplesoft’s HR version 8 late last year. Because it was looking for web-based functionality – without having to do installations – the company opted for ‘thin-client’ architecture offered via Peoplesoft’s Sydney-based ASP platform. “Peoplesoft HR has streamlined business processes and reporting functions.”
Finnemore says offering an online self-service approach to transactional tasks, like changing staff member’s salary, has eliminated lot of time and cost associated with what was manual paper-intensive process. Letting staff update personal details or enrol in courses online, she adds, makes them more responsible for managing their own careers. “Being able to track data and run reports on things like headcounts and turnover has also significantly reduced the work volume for our 18-person HR department,” says Finnemore.

Functionality breadth
While e-learning is arguably the hot space in smart HR technologies right now, director with HR consulting firm In 2 Action, Brian Shaw says there are infinitely more content providers than there are e-learning frameworks on which that content can be delivered. An unbundling of, Carter Holt Harvey subsidiary, Mariner7’s home-grown performance management and leader development tools last year saw In 2 Action commissioned to sell these two products into the market.
What niche software providers in the human capital management space (like Mariner7) typically offer that their enterprise counterparts don’t is greater breadth of functionality. But having recognised this void, enterprise providers appear to be picking off their niche-based counterparts. For example, Peoplesoft, which acquired JD Edwards late year, has also acquired enterprise learning provider Skills Village and repackaged it within its enterprise people management offering. Batchelor expects industry consolidation to continue unless niche providers have sufficiently deep pene-tration within their respective markets.
Beyond e-learning, the other hot space within human capital management, says Shaw, is strong push by mid to larger-sized organisations to make performance appraisal more streamlined.
Initially popular in the 1980s, 360-degree surveying that lets peers, clients, managers and reports rate the organisation on leadership qualities is enjoying an internet-led resurgence, according to senior consultant with software developer, SHL NZ, Jonathan Brown.
“Today’s internet-literacy – that automates the scoring and reporting on performance and capabilities – has repositioned 360-degree surveying in the minds of the market.”
There’s been resistance to add to existing enterprise systems, and r

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