Keeping a Happy Hive

Beverley Main, chief executive of the Human Resources Institute, feels that it is essential from HR point of view that managers are clear in their objectives and have the skills and ability to lead their organisation into change. There has to be good strategic plan, not piecemeal work, and it has to be seen in the context of the whole organisation.
Communication skills are vital, as people have to understand their role and how it fits. They need to see the implications of the changes.
And, as you have to know in order to convince, HR managers must be able to use the technology themselves and work alongside the planner of the programme. Rather than delegating, senior managers need more ?hands on’ approach.
Adequate resources must be allocated for retraining; when managing the budget, look at the whole picture. You may not always save in terms of labour costs, but people become more effective and efficient so that there is an eventual pay-off.
There are new ways of training with CDs and the Internet so that people can learn at their own pace. But, Main warns, you cannot replace human being. There is only so much you can learn alone – you need to have somebody to help out, even if only workmate.
Main sees e-business causing redeployment rather than redundancies, saying that in her experience businesses tend to grow by redeploying people, an opinion that the Government obviously shares with its strong commitment to e-business.
With e-technology, it is easier for people to do less of the dross and more of the strategic work – they can do more thinking. And it opens up opportunities for work to be done at different pace. It is not just question of new software packages, but different locations, people and work in the e-world.
If managed well, it should make our lives more interesting. People either embrace it or are frightened. But don’t be negative, Main exhorts, e-business is here to stay.
In the eyes of Sheryl Green, general manager of Morgan and Banks, Auckland, the challenges are no different now than they were 10 years ago.
The challenge is to recruit and retain highly talented people and e-business is the tool that enables you to do that more efficiently. Green firmly believes that technology has not taken over, but with one proviso – email.
We would never think of sitting down at our desks, opening rose-scented letter, reading and replying on our own beautiful paper, she says.
We would know that it was incorrect use of work time, but email comes from personal friend amongst business correspondence and you flick off reply. Your personal life is being integrated into your work life.
We are working longer hours and are losing our personal lives by not defining the boundaries and focusing on work while at our desks.
While emails are channel for communication, some people are using it as THE communication – it is sent, therefore it is done.
You have lost the follow-up because although it is like conversation, it is not the conversation.
People learn visually and as all email looks the same, how do you remember? It is elongating discussion process without creating any subsequent action and it is easy to allow it to become your only form of communication.
Organisations need to consider how their business needs to operate, Green warns. Email is not fixed, but casual medium, changing with additions from various contributors.
Green agrees that technology does not cause jobs to disappear, but to be transformed, as knowledge workers with marketable skills are easily able to transfer from, say, front-line work to call centre.
Training, she does not believe to be an issue, but simply part of an ongoing process as skills are built upon. The difference is content and change is both dynamic and essential.
Jim Thompson, of OCG Consulting, agrees that the ease of email does present some hazards. People may tend to rely too heavily on email, to the detriment of effective communication.
Personal contact promotes healthy discussion, exchange of ideas and creative problem solving. If manager has not got the time, energy and commitment to sit down with staff in person when they need to, it can also send messages about what it is they value.
Effective communication is the key when considering the most appropriate medium, and technology is two-edged sword.
While email can cause problems with misinterpretation, meaning and tone, at the same time it is wonderful tool, enabling instantaneous communication and networking across multiple sites and problem solving in peer groups.
From an HR perspective one enormous technological benefit lies in reducing the considerable administrative burden associated with the traditional personnel function. For example, central access for employees to current data on their benefits, company policy information and to collect online feedback to support performance management processes, such as those that include multiple perspectives like 360 degree system.
Thompson says that, for instance, the Internet provides the opportunity to employ an external resource to achieve an independence of process.
Then there’s the research and networking capabilities which give HR practitioners access to wealth of information on the latest practices and case studies from almost anywhere around the world.
For OCG Consulting, technology has meant rapid shift towards paperless systems, allowing staff more time to focus on the all-important personal contact associated with delivery of excellent service to candidates and clients. In the last year, more than 93 percent of job applications were in electronic form and this figure continues to rise.
Thompson believes that there is little danger of professional and personal recruitment and selection services being completely overidden by human-less transactions.
While there is valuable place for the Internet, especially with regard to rapid access and response to candidates, reduced transaction and advertising costs, it is only one tool that helps ensure robust, multi-faceted approach to best practice recruitment and selection.
People generally like to know who they are dealing with and ?eyeball’ them. Service providers can differentiate themselves in the market by continuing to offer personalised service, where they can add value.
The principal challenge for organisations lies in consulting widely, selecting technology and systems that are appropriate to the needs of the business, its stakeholders and the markets it serves.
Thompson warns that increasingly businesses are utilising sophisticated systems, including Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) that don’t live up to expectations.
Efficiencies are lost because inadequate account has been taken of the importance of the human interface, training needs of the users, support and maintenance requirements.
There is real risk in over-investing in technology. Thompson says many systems have been designed for big markets like the US, whereas the majority of New Zealand businesses are small and can suddenly find they have taken on monster which fails to deliver and consumes enormous resources.
Donna Davenport, global integration manager e-business consulting for The Empower Group, likens e-business to playing game of three-dimensional noughts and crosses.
When operating in an environment at the far end of the spectrum from face-to-face meetings, you need people to focus on pragmatic, factual components and the clarity of their communications. E-business allows everyone to accomplish at different time, place and pace.
Online 360 degree assessments and online development plans give employees more control over personal planning and destiny without having to communicate with the manager. And the HR community can service clients any time, anywhere, but do employees and managers cultivate the use of this in terms of

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