Web technology fails to meet HR expectations

No plans to decrease corporate investment

Even though HR professionals are disappointed with the results they have achieved with Web-based technology, that dissatisfaction hasn’t diminished their enthusiasm.

A new survey conducted by consulting firm Towers Perrin reveals that, despite the fact that Web technology has failed to meet many companies’ expectations, they are still planning to maintain and even increase spending in this area.

The results appear in Towers Perrin’s first e-Track survey. The survey was conducted via the Web and reached 233 executives across North America. Towers Perrin plans to poll a panel of executives on a regular basis – every two to three months – on technology’s impact on companies and their relationship with their employees.

The current survey was conducted this summer during the economic slowdown, but before the Sept. 11 attacks. Despite the economic uncertainty, fewer than a quarter of the respondents felt that their employers would decrease investment in technology.

Even though respondents weren’t getting all they wanted from technology, they were experiencing some satisfaction:

•Company’s expectations fully met by Web technology overall: 15 per cent

•Company’s expectations fully met by Web-based HR activities: 4 per cent

•Company’s expectations partially met by Web technology overall: 44 per cent

•Company’s expectations partially met by Web-based HR activities: 45 per cent

Those polled were also able to pinpoint why their companies had failed to achieve expected results. The cause is not due primarily to employee resistance (only 19 per cent cited it as a barrier), but is institutional. Seventy-two per cent of respondents identified the most significant obstacle to success as other business priorities taking precedence over Web technology implementation. Other significant impediments were insufficient budgets to complete the work and inadequate internal resources and skills.

The Towers Perrin survey suggests, however, that satisfaction may improve in the future. It describes two “waves” in business adaptation of Web technology. During the first wave, companies applied the technology chiefly to information sharing with employees or customers. The focus during the second wave will be interactive and transaction-oriented. Those polled identified the following potential growth areas for future corporate Web use:

•Creating a vehicle for employees to transact HR services: 38 per cent

•Automating and streamlining operations: 28 per cent

•Managing customer relationships: 23 per cent

The two areas most likely to see investment in technology are online recruiting and online learning.

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