Is HR admin weighing you down?

While HR strives to become an important strategic fulcrum to the organisation, they are still burdened with an avalanche of administrative assignments. HRM explores how HR technologies can be utilised to ease the hassle

There is no doubting HR’s increasing importance as a strategic business partner to an organisation.

According to the Human Resources Technology And Service Delivery Trends in 2014 report by the Information Services Group (ISG), enhancing strategic alignment with the business is the chief area that HR is looking to improve over the next few years (see: boxout)

This sentiment is also espoused by the Rethinking Human Resources in a Changing World 2012 report by KPMG International, which stated that six in 10 (59%) of its survey respondents echoed the notion that HR would grow in strategic importance.

Nevertheless, while there is an acknowledgment that HR professionals should spend more time and resources on strategic matters, administrative overload can sometimes impede their efforts to do so.

The 2014 Global Mobility Survey by the Sante Fe Group, deduced that among other factors, general administration (40%) occupied most of the HR professional respondents’ time (see: boxout).

Olivia Yeoh, Director of PayrollServe, says HR professionals should be spending time developing policies and imparting greater and positive changes within the organisation.

“Because of inefficient technology, many HR professionals are forced to spend much of their time on administrative tasks rather than strategic HR initiatives,” says Yeoh.
“Some common reasons of administration overload are the lack of proper admin support, unnecessary administrative processes and cumbersome work processes and systems.”

Zain Jawadwala, Director, HR Transformation and Technology, Asia-Pacific, Towers Watson, says there has been an almost traditional under-investment in HR technology in Asia, largely driven by the low cost of labour.

“It has always been easier for a business in Asia to hire another administrator than to automate a process and put in an expensive system, despite the promise of larger returns in the long term,” says Jawadwala.

“Now we are seeing a change in that equation.”
 
The push towards HR technology

According to Jawadwala, as Asian firms become increasingly competitive in the global arena, they realise they require more sophisticated systems and HR data to support their managers, employees, and senior leaders.

“The streamlining of processes using technology and the continued emphasis on manager self-service tools is freeing up resources from transactional activities to facilitate highly capable HR practitioners in becoming more involved in driving transformational change,” he says.

Yeoh cites Employee Self Service systems that provide a company’s employees with secure, 24/7 access to their individual payroll, human resource and benefits information.

“By granting employees direct data access, the systems seek to reduce the amount of routine data queries, requests, and transactions made directly to HR professionals,” says Yeoh.

The clear trend of companies utilising HR technology platforms to complement their HR departments’ strategic efforts can be seen from the Towers Watson’s 2014 HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey.

This highlighted that in Singapore, more than 30% of organisations are looking at changing their HR structure in 2014/2015, with the aim of achieving efficiency and quality improvements.

In fact, almost 40% of organisations in Singapore have reengineered their key HR processes over the last 18 months.

“The findings show similar change drivers as last year, namely the need to improve HR efficiency and effectiveness,” says Jonathan Lo, Regional Practice Leader - HR Service Delivery Asia-Pacific, Towers Watson.

“This is compounded change given considerable progress already made over the past year.”

Lo says HR technology and HR portals is proving an effective way to meet corporate objectives.

Jawadwala concurs with Lo’s notion.

“These organisations are emphasising the use of supporting technology tools that help to deliver this experience, from online performance management systems to portals that help manage employees’ careers,” he says.
 
Types of HR technology

According to Jawadwala, organisations are utilising a plethora of HR technologies to meet continuing pressures to be more efficient and effective.

Two key platforms are cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms and HR management systems (HRMS).

In fact, the Towers Watson’s 2014 HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey found that in Singapore, nearly one in three organisations are implementing or planning to implement a new HRMS.

Of these, 77% are considering SaaS as a replacement for their current HRMS with better functionality as the primary expected benefit.

Being a technology driven service organisation, PayrollServe offers payroll, leave, claims and employee self-service systems, all on a single platform.

With payroll outsourcing being their core business, huge investment and resources are merged together to keep PayrollServe’s systems updated with the latest technology.

According to Yeoh, for companies who prefer to keep HR in-house, the most common HR technologies adopted is the Human Resource Management Solution (HRMS).

“It comprises of a suite of HR Administrator and Employee Self-Service (ESS) modules that will greatly reduce administrative work for HR,” says Yeoh.

“Information is stored safely in the cloud and HR professionals can access them anytime, anywhere.”

Yeoh adds that for smaller companies, they may consider PayDay! SaaS – an online payroll system specially designed for firms with less than 50 employees.

“The plus point is that no payroll knowledge is required,” she says.

In addition, a hybrid module is also gaining in popularity.

“The list of combinations is unlimited and flexible for every business’s needs,” says Yeoh.

Jawadwala also says Manager Self Service (MSS) is experiencing a surge in importance, enabled by the new structures, processes and technologies.

“HR recognises that MSS creates many benefits for the organisation,” he explains.

“Among these are decreased cycle times and increased accuracy for HR transactions, manager satisfaction in handling many of these transactions on their own, and a level of comfort for HR that work is being handled appropriately.”

According to the Towers Watsons’ survey, MSS adoption rates in Singapore is at 49%, which is consistent with the rest of Asia-Pacific (46%).

Manager self-service typically constitutes such work as performance reviews and leave approvals.

Enhancing internal communications also ranks highly on the HR agenda, as demonstrated by the continued growth in use of HR portals, says Jawadwala.

“The survey shows very positive sentiment: 75% of organisations in the region currently have or will have an HR portal – 76% see it as an effective way to meet their objectives,” adds Lo.

 “Quite simply, HR portal provides a single online destination where all employees in the organisation – at all locations – have their HR needs met,” Jawadwala says.

“When users enter the portal, the portal knows who they are and where they are located. It tailors content relevant to each individual.”

In addition, Jawadwala states the portal provides the type of consumer-grade online experience employees are accustomed to on the internet and it enables them to be more self-sufficient.

Yeoh says certain HR process areas are easier to outsource than others.

“Outsourcing payroll, leave and claims will generally reduce many man-hours spent on non-core HR activities, enabling HR Professionals to focus on strategic organisational development activities such as employee engagement and talent management, to achieve higher operational excellence,” she adds.

“For HR, robust portals mean fewer calls from employees – and more satisfied employees,” he adds.

“They have the information and services they need at their fingertips. This reduces HR’s administration activities and improves the level of service.”

As the world continues to be wired up, it should perhaps come as no surprise that mobile technologies are also included in the HR technology framework.

“While the use of personal technology is far from prevalent at this point, HR is catching on to the mobile trend,” says Jawadwala.

The survey further highlighted that close to half of the survey respondents (46%) cited utilising mobile technologies for HR transactions, a rise from 36% in 2013.

Nevertheless, there is considerable scope for growth, as only 10% are using mobile access for a majority of HR transactions.

In Singapore though, only 39% of organisations are using or considering using mobile technology; slightly higher than their APAC counterparts.

“As technologies evolve in the personal realm for employees and managers, often enabling greater productivity, it is reasonable to expect that personal technology – especially in the form of smartphones and mobile applications – will be helpful in their professional lives a well,” says Jawadwala.
 
The rise of HR shared services

The Human Resources Technology and Service Delivery Trends in 2014 report shed some telling information on the phenomenon of HR shared services.

The report revealed that two thirds of respondents have either implemented or are in the process of implementing an internal or external HR shared service centre (SSC).

A significant 40% claimed their shared services experience had exceeded expectations while 42% said it met them.

In addition, a similar percentage (81%) claimed that HR outsourcing had met or exceeded case expectations.

Furthermore, the survey highlighted that in Asia-Pacific, internal and external recruiting, onboarding, compensation, career development, workforce planning and succession planning remain manual or paper-based functions for around half the companies polled.

“So there are clearly opportunities to streamline and optimise these processes, and integrate with core HR systems to attain greater efficiencies,” says Lo.

“It also appears that companies are splitting their dollar investments between core HR systems, such as talent management and payroll; next-generation technology, including HR data and analytics; and integrated talent management systems.”
 

Let’s get strategic
 
HR Strategic alignment with the company’ business has become an imperative.

According to the Human Resources Technology And Service Delivery Trends in 2014 report by the Information Services Group (ISG), advancing strategic alignment with the business is the chief area that HR organisations are targeting improvements for between now and 2016.

Close to one third of respondents (32%) ranked strategic alignment as their highest leading improvement aspect, way ahead of the second-ranked talent acquisition, which was the main goal for 19% of respondents.

Enhancing business processes came in at 13%, and delivering on cost reduction targets sat in fourth place, with 10% viewing it as their main focus area for improvement.

 

The administrative nightmare
 
It’s official: HR professionals are bogged down by the glut of administrative work.

According to the 2014 Global Mobility Survey by the Sante Fe Group, a worldwide provider of employee relocation and workplace services, four in 10 HR and in-house global mobility professionals feel they should be channelling their energies into strategic aspects of HR.

However, only one in 10 (11%) are presently able to do so.

In fact, immigration compliance (48%), tax compliance (43%) and general administration work (40%) take up the majority of the 1,269 respondents’ time, according to the global survey.

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