Tech skills critical for HR

Few employers have HR technology plan: Survey
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 10/01/2010

Being proficient with technology is an important skill for HR professionals and they should have more access to technology training, according to the latest Pulse Survey.

Eighty-one per cent of respondents say it is essential or very important for HR professionals to be tech-savvy, found the survey of 555 Canadian HR Reporter readers and members of the Human Resources Professionals Association.

“The tools that are offered today do require some level of technology background. Whenever something changes, it’s important for staff to understand how the technology works,” said Jennifer Charron, an enterprise architect in Montreal who is working on revamping her organization’s HR systems.

“All sorts of opportunities exist through technology that can improve various HR functions,” said Jennifer King, an employee relations officer in London, Ont. “It’s something HR should embrace.”

And to help HR professionals attain the skills they need to make the most of technology, there should be more emphasis on technology-related topics in professional development, according to 86 per cent of respondents.

“The technology that’s out there today for HR is more forward-looking,” said Charron.

Along with more advanced HR software and architecture, many organizations are starting to use social media as part of their HR strategy and a lot of the more mature workers aren’t familiar with this technology, she said.

“There should be more training offered to refresh some of these folks,” said Charron.

While the majority of respondents and their departments (80.6 per cent) spend some or a significant amount of time or effort thinking about technology-related challenges and opportunities, 57.6 per cent say their HR function or department doesn’t have an HR technology plan.

Charron’s organization is re-working all HR practices, including the technology that supports the function, and is beginning to develop an HR technology plan.

“We’re at the early stages of the project so we’re not quite ready to list what we do need from a future system,” she said.

Up until now, the public sector organization has been reluctant to spend money on new HR technology because it has a lot of highly personalized legacy systems in place and hasn’t wanted to spend money on something that’s not broken, said Charron.

But with the new plan, the organization will be looking at new technology, including a new health and safety system, virtual training and more self-serve options for employees and managers, she said.

Many respondents (33.7 per cent) are in the same boat as Charron and classify their organizations as being among the late majority with respect to the adoption of HR technology, while 23.4 per cent see their organizations as laggards, 21.1 per cent see them as the early majority, 12.3 per cent see them as early adopters and 4.5 per cent see them as innovators.

King categorized her organization as among the early majority when it comes to embracing technology in general. The organization has started using webinars and it videotapes board meetings to share with all employees.

“But we haven’t really embraced social media yet,” said King.

However, the organization isn’t as advanced when it comes to HR technology. King, who spends about one-half of her time providing support for the human resources information system, would like to have an applicant management system.

“There are so many efficiencies that can be found by using technology,” she said.

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