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Complexities of managing a workforce in the 21st century

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It is predicted that companies will focus on upgrading and integrating their human resources technology in 2008 as part of a move to improve administration and better engage employees. Playing a increasingly important role within human resources departments will be the growing popularity – and adoption – of advanced web solutions, such as wikis, blogs and social networking, and a focus on making HR technology easier for employees to use.

This is the viewpoint of Karen Geldenhuys, MD of Pretoria-based IT recruitment company, Abacus Recruitment.
"Social networking – although sometimes frowned upon by companies as a potential distraction at work – is becoming increasingly prolific. Companies are going to have to realise this, even though they might have to carefully monitor the usage of sites such as FaceBook within the workplace."
Geldenhuys says the best approach would be to adopt a "give and take" approach. "It is true that employees are spending time at work to network via social networking sites such as FaceBook. Banning this activity could cause a great deal of dissatisfaction among the workforce, so I think the best route employers could adopt is to realise that these things are part of modern society within the workplace. But they should not be allowed to get out of control.
"Employees, for instance, could divulge sensitive company information on blogs – so this kind of oversight should be monitored. Employees should be made aware that they are welcome to their personal privacy but, so, too, are companies. They should be cautioned not to divulge sensitive company information on blogs, or any social networking sites, or interfaces."
Meanwhile, according to online news site, www.top-consultant.com, Watson Wyatt – a North American technology and solutions practice – concurs with Geldenhuys that managing a workforce is becoming increasingly  complex.
Richard Hubbard, a director of Watson Wyatt's in North America, says: "Managing a workforce is increasingly complex and employers are searching for the right solutions to help them address this challenge. Technology will continue to help companies manage the most intricate HR tasks, including some, such as talent management, that were once done more by intuition than by data analysis. Employers' biggest challenge is staying on top of the trends and investing in areas where they will get the most for their money."
Top trends for 2008, identified by Watson Wyatt in a recent press article in www.Top-Consultant, include:
* Adopting Advanced, Web 2.0 Technology – With the rapid-fire introduction of consumer-oriented Web 2.0 applications, more companies are looking at increasingly interactive strategies and technologies. While many corporations are using Web 2.0 elements such as blogs and wikis, many are just starting to implement other elements of social networking. Interestingly, while e-mail is still 'king' when it comes to the chosen way of communicating, all of these systems could ultimately act to reduce the focus on traditional e-mail and make work communication a more dynamic experience for employees.
* Focusing on Improving Employee Service and Satisfaction – Companies are exploring the best way to maximise their investments and improve employee service and satisfaction. Many are incorporating HR technologies that also include decision support tools and on-line content in addition to improved usability and self-service for employees. These are, in effect, tools that reduce administrative costs while boosting employee engagement.
* Implementing integrated technology solutions for talent management – A growing number of companies are using technology to manage the disparate data involved in talent management programs. Specialised technology for recruiting, succession planning, workforce planning and learning management processes is now widely available and can reduce administrative burdens.
* Adopting a more flexible approach to outsourcing HR administration – Instead of outsourcing the entire HR function, a growing number of companies are taking a flexible approach to their HR administration processes. A flexible outsourcing structure allows companies to administer the processes they are good at, while outsourcing processes and enabling technologies which are less core – and where they boast less expertise.
Watson Wyatt also believes that, during 2008, employers will also make more use of decision support tools, self-service applications and Software-as-a-Service.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – while still in its infancy – is an innovation that helps companies reduce costs by allowing them to access software through an external provider, taking away the burden of internal software maintenance.
Commenting further, Abacus Recruitment's Geldenhuys says: "While it is true that it is important to be more cognisant of the needs and desires of the employee in the workplace, companies must be careful not to pander too much – and not to bend over backwards. The latest technology can certainly improve efficiencies and boost employee production, but the advent of social networking at home and at the workplace adds an entirely new dimension when it comes to managing a workforce.
"Naturally companies want to keep employees happy. Banning the use of web-sites such as FaceBook – which has happened in many instances – is often seen as a draconian move by supporters of social networking. But these decisions by certain companies are, meanwhile, acting to highlight the fact that too much access to information – and too much leeway to 'engage' socially at the workplace – could have a very detrimental affect on overall productivity. Employers have a reason to be concerned. But they have to ensure that, whatever decisions they may take, they not perceived as being too heavy-handed. There is going to have to be a fine balance."