Technology changes the way Human Resources departments contact employees, store files and analyze employee performance. Used well, technology makes Human Resources practices more efficient. When used poorly, it can get in the way of managing the company’s human resources. Good HR practices maximize the benefits and minimize the problems.
Recruiting Transformed by the Internet
Before the internet and email, connecting with job seekers meant phone, face time or a letter. In the 21st century, it’s routine for companies to post openings online, and require job seekers to apply through an online applicant tracking system. That frees up a great deal of time that Human Resources would have spent dealing with paper resumes or personal calls.
However, Human Resources practices don’t always take into account how well the system works for the candidates. Online forms have a standardized format that often makes it hard to tell a star performer from a slacker. A badly designed system with confusing instructions and slow response times can actually turn job seekers off to applying with a firm.
Ease of Communication
With email, text and messaging apps it’s easier than ever for HR staff to stay in touch with the rest of the company. If a manager wants to share a new schedule with a project team, one email with an attachment or a conversation on Slack can share the word with a dozen people at once. There’s a risk of relying too much on tech as a time-saver though. Information in a two-page email may be better off delivered to the group face to face. That way everyone can ask questions and hear the answers.
Data Analysis of Employee Performance
Analyzing employee performance used to depend on personal assessments and obvious standards: Did the employee finish the task on time? Does their boss trust them?
Technology makes it easier to gather and break down data on employees to get an overall picture. Which tasks do they perform best? Do they meet all the goals from last year’s performance appraisal? If they fell short, was it by 12 percent, 50 percent or 75 percent? Software programs can even take over much of the work in evaluating employees.
Too Much Data
As Human Resources makes more use of data collection and analysis, employees might feel their privacy shrinking. If, say, a company has security cameras that monitor employees every second, it can be easier to find the facts behind a harassment charge or someone drinking on the job. However, being constantly monitored can alienate employees as well. Good HR practices involve not only knowing how much data can be gathered but also how much should be gathered.
Another risk is that the Human Resources department can end up getting more data than it can manage. After a certain point, wading through data to pick out the relevant material becomes an impossible task. It’s also possible that HR will misread data or make assumptions that a face-to-face conversation could clear up.
Securing employee records used to mean locking a file cabinet. In the 21st century, best Human Resources practices have to include security for the digital data. Some security is more an IT matter, such as a good firewall. HR needs to have good policies in place, though, governing who can access confidential data, both hard copy and in electronic form.