The Four Waves in the Evolution of HR Technology Practices – Part I


Over time, HR departments have been through several rounds of role variations: driving regulatory compliance and administrative controls, partnering with the business, shaping business strategy and structure, empowering people, streamlining processes, and championing employees. A technology enabled- Human Capital Management (HCM) platform, facilitated by self-service, mobility, and social media capabilities, is the latest tool at HR’s disposal. Such a platform should cover all facets of the role of the HR function in a global context in order to build an engaged employee workforce. The platform should cater to the needs of an employee seeking peer acceptance, a strong sense of identity, and control over one’s own competencies, career, and life.

Need for an HCM technology platform

As HR capabilities and product offerings improved, organizations with global operations were now coping with heightened employee expectations. Employees wanted to take control of their roles, goals, and tasks, structure their careers, maintain their skill inventories, map competencies to changing learning needs, track their performance, seek 360 degree feedback, and create all-pervasive personal development plans. And they wanted the ability to manage all of this in real time.

Very soon, organizations realized that such an evolved HCM state is possible only with the adoption of an HCM technology solution that can be integrated at a functional level, and is accessible 24/7, easy to use, mobile, and scalable.

Let me delve deeper into the people-related changes that have impacted organizations. Organizations committed to building a world class culture will need to understand and appreciate that employees form a microcosm of the society we live in, and their expectations at the workplace are a reflection of the needs and wants of this society.

Wave 1 – Transactional HR

Wave 1 of the HR function’s development is dominated by a moderate emphasis on alignment with business strategy, organizational architecture, and transactional content with some degree of employee autonomy. The focus here is to employ routine work rules based on administrative content that is to be delivered in a near-term, metric-driven environment. The employer does not actively engage employees in any transformational activity, but expects that they possess a basic understanding of the context of the company in relation to their function, industry, and other relevant factors. A certain degree of self-preservation of current practices dominates this type of HR technology intervention. Employees would like basic tasks such as leave application, goal setting, and appraisal activities resolved through a powerful employee self-service portal, and they expect organizations to speedily respond to requests. Employees expect more control over facilities and perks such as flexible holidays.

Organizations in this wave should actively work towards implementing a powerful workforce administration tool and employee self-service portal that provides both employers and employees a comprehensive view of the basic HR management activities.

Wave 2 – People and Processes Orientation

The second wave with people-oriented HR functions is marked by a moderate emphasis on the business strategy, a greater degree of functional depth, and industry knowledge factors. However, organizations place high importance on meeting mutual behavioral expectations, working in teams, establishing goals, effective on-boarding, and group problem solving. Here, the employer has already achieved maturity in the transactional elements covered in wave 1, and now needs a talent management solution to attract and retain skilled employees. The employer wants to enable active participation in learning goals, collaboration with managers on self-assessment, establishment of a basic performance evaluation process, improvement in the employee self-service portal, and definition of policies and administrative processes.

Employees are keen to take up opportunities that allow them to work through small and meaningful problems and bring to bear their people skills, specialist knowledge, functional expertise, and experience in order to provide simple and speedy solutions. They prefer to connect face-to-face, and have simple standardized HR processes with resolutions that can be rolled out quickly to derive economies of scale. HCM platforms in this stage include a mature employee self-service portal with modules for recruitment, training, compensation management, competency building, and career development.

Read about Waves 3 and 4 in my next blog post.

About the Author

Dr. Ganesh Shermon is Partner, Platform Solutions – Sales & Markets, TCS North America. Previously, Ganesh held global leadership roles at a Big 4 consulting firm. He has been recognized as one of the ‘500 Leaders of Influence in the 20th Century’ by the American Biographical Association. He has published numerous books and articles on human resource management, organization models and cultures, and leadership.

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