Human Resource Information System – HRIS

Human Resource Information Systems

The purpose of this paper is to identify other companies who have faced similar human resources issues in regards to information technology. Through benchmarking different companies we can learn how other companies have handled certain human resources issues related to information technology, information systems, new technology, and data security. An overall analysis has been completed using research on IBM Europe, Ameriprise Financial, Terasen Pipelines, Shaw’s Supermarkets, CS Stars LLC, IBM, WORKSource Inc., and Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc. This paper also includes eight synopses of companies facing similar issue to those in the reading.

New Technology

With the changing world and constant new technology that is available, managers need to be aware of the technology that will increase effectiveness in their company. Human resource information systems (HRIS) have increasingly transformed since it was first introduced at General Electric in the 1950s. HRIS has gone from a basic process to convert manual information keeping systems into computerized systems, to the HRIS systems that are used today. Human resource professionals began to see the possibility of new applications for the computer. The idea was to integrate many of the different human resource functions. The result was the third generation of the computerized HRIS, a feature-rich, broad-based, self-contained HRIS. The third generation took systems far beyond being mere data repositories and created tools with which human resource professionals could do much more (Byars, 2004).

Many companies have seen a need to transform the way Human Resource operations are performed in order to keep up with new technology and increasing numbers of employees. Terasen Pipelines moved its headquarters from Vancouver to Calgary to be closer to the oil and realized a major growth in employees. In the past recording keeping was done on paper and with spreadsheets. Mangers at Terasen realized that there was a need to change to a more computerized system and looked into different HRIS vendors. By making the move to a HRIS system, Terasen is able to keep more accurate records as well as better prepare for future growth. Another company that saw the benefits of keeping up with new technology is WORKSource Inc. To meet the challenge of handling 100 new employees, WORKSource Inc. acquired Web-based technology programs from GHG Corp. like electronic pay stub, electronic timesheet software, time-off system, and human resource information system (“Tips,” 2006). By adapting these new programs, WORKSource was able to reduce waste and cost.

The Internet is an increasingly popular way to recruit applicants, research technologies and perform other essential functions in business. Delivering human resource services online (eHR) supports more efficient collection, storage, distribution, and exchange of data (Friesen, 2003). An intranet is a type of network used by companies to share information to people within the organization. An intranet connects people to people and people to information and knowledge within the organization; it serves as an “information hub” for the entire organization. Most organizations set up intranets primarily for employees, but they can extend to business partners and even customers with appropriate security clearance (Byars & Rue, 2004).

Applications of HRIS

The efficiency of HRIS, the systems are able to produce more effective and faster outcomes than can be done on paper. Some of the many applications of HRIS are: Clerical applications, applicant search expenditures, risk management, training management, training experiences, financial planning, turnover analysis, succession planning, flexible-benefits administration, compliance with government regulations, attendance reporting and analysis, human resource planning, accident reporting and prevention and strategic planning. With the many different applications of HRIS, it is difficult to understand how the programs benefit companies without looking at companies that have already benefited from such programs.

One such company is IBM. IBM has a paperless online enrollment plan for all of its employees. Not only has the online enrollment saved the company 1.2 million per year on printing and mailing costs, the employees enjoy working with the online plan. “Since we began offering online enrollment, we’ve learned that employees want web access,” Donnelly [Senior Communications Specialist] says, so they can log on at home rather than through the company intranet. So the company has been working to put in place a web-based enrollment system that employees and retirees can access from anywhere (Huering, 2003). By utilizing the flexible-benefits application HRIS has to offer, IBM was able to cut costs and give employees the freedom to discover their benefits on their own time and pace.

Another company that has taken advantage of HRIS applications is Shaw’s Supermarkets. In order for Shaw’s to better manage its workforce, the company decided it was time to centralize the HR operations. After looking at different options, Shaw’s decided to implement an Employee Self Service (ESS) system. The use of self-service applications creates a positive situation for HR. ESS gives HR more time to focus on strategic issues, such as workforce management, succession planning, and compensation management, while at the same time improving service to employees and managers, and ensuring that their data is accurate. With this solution, employees have online access to forms, training material, benefits information and other payroll related information (Koven, 2002). By giving employees access to their personal information and the ability to update or change their information as needed, HR was given more time to focus on other issues. Understanding the different applications HRIS has to offer will give companies the chance to increase employee efficiency and reduce costs.

Measuring the Effectiveness of HRIS

The evaluation should determine whether or not the HRIS has performed up to its expectations and if the HRIS is being used to its full advantage (Byars & Rue, 2004). One of the most significant challenges faced by public personnel executives today is measuring the performance of their human resources information system (HRIS) In order to justify the value-added contribution of the HRIS to accomplishing the organization’s mission (Hagood & Friedman, 2002). Implementing an HRIS program may seem a necessary stem for a company, but unless it will be an effective tool for HR operations, it will not help increase efficiency and may hinder it instead.

One company that implemented a HRIS system is Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc. (TAMS). TAMS put all employee benefits information online and created an open enrollment option when TAMS changed healthcare providers. Almost immediately upon rolling out the UltiPro portal [new HRIS technology] to employees, TAMS began seeing improvements, with an estimated 70% increase in open enrollment efficiency (Wojcik, 2004). By determining the efficiency of the new program, TAMS was able to realize the benefits of the new HRIS system.

Security of HRIS

The privacy of employee information has become a major issue in recent years. With identity theft becoming a common problem, employees are becoming more sensitive about who sees their personal information, and the security it is kept in. By making sure employee information that is kept in the HRIS is relevant to the company and making sure there is limited access (password protection) to such information, companies can make its employees more secure with the safety of their information. Whether electronic or paper, employee files deserve to be treated with great care. Establishing security and end-user privileges calls for a balance of incorporating, HR policy, system knowledge and day-to-day operations (O’Connell, 1994).

One company that faced a major security issue was CS Stars, LLC. CS Stars lost track of one of its computers that contained personal information that included names, addresses and social security numbers of workers compensation benefits. The bigger problem was that CS Stars failed to notify the affected consumers and employees about the missing computer. Though the computer was retrieved and no information seemed to have been harmed, many employees lost their sense of security with the company. New York’s Information Security Breach and Notification Law, effective in December 2005, requires businesses that maintain computerized data which includes private information to notify the owner of the information of any breach of the security of the system immediately following discovery, if the private information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, acquired by a person without valid authorization (Cadrain, 2007).

Another company that experienced a breach in security is Ameriprise Financial. In late 2005, a computer that contained personal information on clients and employees was stolen. Because many of the employees at Ameriprise take their computers between work and home, the company determined there was a need to put more security into those computers. Ameriprise made sure all employees had the new security suite installed on their computers. By responding quickly to the need for more security, Ameriprise made sure all information is being kept secure. Making sure employees information is kept as secure as possible there will be more trust in the company and the HR employees working with that information.


IBM, Terasen Pipeline, CS Stars LCC, and Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc. are good examples of companies facing issues similar to human resources information technology and human resources information systems. All of these companies know the importance of new technology, human resources information systems, and data security. The remainder of this paper provides synopses of more companies facing human resources issues, how the company responded to the issues, and the outcomes of the company’s responses.

Companies Benchmarked

IBM Europe

The Situation:

IBM is a global organization offering research, software, hardware, IT consulting, business and management consulting, ring and financing. It employs around 340,000 people, speaking 165 languages across 75 countries, and serving clients in 174 countries. In January 2007, IBM established a separate “new media” function within its corporate communication department. IBM main goal is to educate, support, and promote programs that utilize social media. IBM Europe decided to expand internal communication by blogging guidelines. The recognition was that blogging was already happening among IBMers, just in an unregulated way. In a similar way, institutionalizing a function to deal specifically with new media is not a corporate move, or establishing from scratch. It’s a response to the issues already emerging in the company. Now that those technologies are here, people are using them, they’re growing and there here to stay-we’re just going to put some structure around them so that we can try to optimize their use.” The users decide what technologies they want to use and how they want to use them. That main idea is that IBM understands that they must remember to respect the fact that social media are social. IBM had the need to connect its 340,000 global employees more effectively.

The Response:

IBM’s intent around social media has now been officially formalized. From January 22 2007, the company established a separate “new media” function within its corporate communication department. “Its remit: To act as expert consultants inside and outside IBM on issues relating to blogs, wikis, RSS and other social media applications. The main idea is to educate, support and promote programs that utilize these tools. IBM has a history of being a t the forefront of technology based corporate communication. From the multimedia brainstorming “WorldJam” that made news headlines back in 2001 in which 50,000 employees worldwide joined a real time, online idea-sharing session about the company’s direction. IMB has always prepared itself to use breakthrough technologies to establish a two-way dialogue with its employees. The need for social media was necessary and could no longer wait.

The Outcome:

In the last few years IBM has been recognized as being the vanguard of social-media use: IBM was on of the first Fortune 500 companies to get behind collaborative wikis, published internal blogging guidelines as far back as 2003, and is now moving fast beyond RSS and podcasts into videocasting and “virtual world” technologies like Second Life. The intranet search facility extends to all areas of the site, including new media aspects. When an employee logs onto their portal an executes a key word search, the results they get back not only come from the main intranet pages, but include results from IBM forums, wikis, blogs and podcast/videocasts tags. IMB has an understanding that employees are no longer staying in a company their entire lives. It’s just not like that any more. In Belgium for example over 50 percent of 2,300 employees have been there fewer than five years. The company has come to the conclusion that with an increasingly young and mobile workforce, the likelihood is that an employee population full of a younger generation, for whom these tools are part and parcel of life, is not that far away. In years to come IBM will have to deal with employee base for which blogging is just the natural way to interact over a web platform. IBM has created centralized platforms for most tools that fall under its remit, which includes wikis. For Philippe Borremans, new media lead Europe for IBM, has the potential business applications of a wiki cover two broad benefits: Collaborating and knowledge sharing. IBM has scored some notable successes on both fronts in the near 5000 wiki pages now up and running in the organization. The company has been a huge pick-up in interest in podcasting over the last 18 months writing can seem such a technical skill, whereas people feel they can talk more freely than they can write. One of the most consistently popular IBM podcasts, with over 20,000 downloads a week.

Ameriprise Financial

The Situation:

The Department of Justice survey estimates that 3.6 million U.S. households were victims of identity theft in 2004. Trafficking in personal date goes beyond U.S. borders: the New York Times reports that stolen financial information is often distributed among participants of online trading boards, and the buyers are frequently located in Russia, Ukraine, and the Middle East. One reason clients are concerned about data security is the widespread publicity generated by breaches at financial services firm. In late December 2205, an Ameriprise Financial employee’s laptop that contained unencrypted data on approximately 230,000 customers and advisors was stolen from a car. Other financial services firm, including Citigroup and Bank of America, also acknowledge large-scale customer data losses in 2005. President of NCS, Rita Dew, a compliance consulting firm in Delray Beach, Florida, says that the Securities and Exchange Commission requires investment advisors to have policies and procedures that address the administrative, technical, and physical safeguards related to client records and information.

The Response:

Ameriprise Financial had to fight back and had to implement “layers of protection.” It is important for employees who their primary business computer, and employees regularly transport the computer between home, office, and meeting sites. The vulnerability of this arrangement and the need for a safety software program is much needed.

The Outcome:

Employees who are transporting lab tops should install the Steganos Security Suite on their computer. This software allows employees to create an encrypted virtual drive on the laptop that serves as data storage safe. Employees stores all client related data and tax preparation software database on the encrypted drive, which employees has set up with one gigabyte of storage space. The best thing is that when an employee turns off the computer the information is stored “safe”, the software automatically encrypts the virtual drive’s data. The software also generates encrypted backup files, which employees store on CDs in a fireproof safe. This should keep the data secure if any employee’s laptop is stolen or if the drive is removed from the laptop. Other financial advisors are relying on encryption both in and out of the office. Other programs that are being used to protect client’s information are RAID Level 1 system to store data on the drives that are encrypted with WinMagic’s SecureDocs software. Encryption ensures that anyone who steals the computer will be absolutely unable to read the data, even by connecting it to another computer as a “slave drive. This has given many financial advisors the greatest peace of mind.

Terasen Pipelines

The Situation:

Terasen Pipelines is a subsidiary of Terasen Inc. located in Vancouver, Canada and is located in several provinces and U.S. states. In 2001 the company changed its headquarters to Calgary to be closer to the oil. With the big move, the company went through a growth spurt. With the company in many different locations and the growing numbers of employees, the HR department saw a need to find a new system to keep more accurate records.

The Response:

In the past Terasen had kept records on paper and with spreadsheets and with the growth of the company, this system does not work as well as in the past. In order to compensate for future growth, Terasen began to look into HRIS companies to help with the HR operations. After researching different companies, Hewitt’s application service provider model with eCyborg was found to be the right fit.

The Outcome:

Although there was difficulty adapting to a new way of recordkeeping, Terasen was able to find a system that will help support the current and future growth of the company. Fortunately, some of the HR staff had experience working with an HRIS and were able to help their colleagues imagine new processes, as aided by a system. One theme often voiced throughout this process was: “You guys don’t know how hard we’re working when we can make it so much easier with a system that could do a lot of this for us. You don’t always have to run to the cabinet for the employee file just to get basic information. It can all be at your fingertips.” (Vu, 2005). In order to help Terasen ease the HR burden of implementing a new HR system, the management of Terasen was convinced to look for a vendor to help implement and maintain a HRIS system. This system has helped Terasen better prepare for current and future growth.

Shaw’s Supermarkets

The Situation:

Shaw’s Supermarkets is the second largest supermarket chain in New England. With a workforce of 30,000 located at 180 stores throughout six states, Shaw’s HR staff is responsible for managing employees’ personal data. Their employee mix includes approximately 70 percent part-time employees, consisting of students, senior citizens, second-job part-timers, and career part-timers. One third of the workforce is made up of union associates, and Shaw’s staff oversees the company’s involvement with three unions and six separate contracts (Koven, 2002). In order to help manage the workforce, the HR staff became interested in centralizing its HR operations.

The Response:

In order to centralize HR operations Shaw’s decided to implement an ESS (employee self-service) solution. The use of self-service applications creates a positive situation for HR. ESS gives HR more time to focus on strategic issues, such as workforce management, succession planning, and compensation management, while at the same time improving service to employees and managers, and ensuring that their data is accurate. With this solution, employees have online access to forms, training material, benefits information and other payroll related information.

The Outcome:

Shaw’s has had positive feedback since implementing the ESS solution. “The reaction from our employees has been extremely positive,” Penney, VP of Compensation and Benefits, says. “We even had a significant increase in our medical coverage costs, and it was almost a non-issue because the online enrollment featured the plan choices, the employee cost, and the company subsidy. An employee self-service application makes it very easy for them to understand their contributions and coverage options. I received several e-mails from employees saying this was a great change and how easy ESS was, which the case is not often when employees are selecting their benefit options.” (Koven, 2002). By giving the employees more access to their information they are able to see the benefit choices available to them. Employees are also able to update their information online, which helps reduce the paperwork of the past. Shaw’s has also seen improvement in productivity because employees are updating information at home, not during work hours.

CS Stars, LLC

The Situation:
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has announced that New York State has reached its first settlement with a company charged with failing to notify consumers and others that their personal data had gone missing. Cuomo’s office, which enforces the state’s 2005 Information Security Breach and Notification Law, charged CS STARS LLC, a Chicago-based claims management company, with failing to give notice that it had lost track of a computer containing data on 540,000 New Yorkers’ workers’ comp claims.

The Response:

The owner of the lost data, which had been in the custody of CS STARS, was the New York Special Funds Conservation Committee, an organization that assists in providing workers’ comp benefits under the state’s workers’ comp law. On May 9, 2006, a CS STARS employee noticed that a computer was missing that held personal information, including the names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of recipients of workers’ compensation benefits. But CS Stars waited until June 29, 2006, to notify Special Funds and the FBI of the security breach. Because the FBI declared that notice to consumers might impede its investigation, CS STARS waited until July 8, 2006, to send notices to the 540,000 New Yorkers affected by the breach. On July 25, 2006, the FBI determined an employee, of a cleaning contractor, had stolen the computer, and the missing computer was located and recovered. In addition, the FBI found that the data on the missing computer had not been improperly accessed.

The Outcome:

New York’s Information Security Breach and Notification Law, effective in December 2005, requires businesses that maintain computerized data which includes private information to notify the owner of the information of any breach of the security of the system immediately following discovery, if the private information was, or is reasonably believed to have been, acquired by a person without valid authorization. The law affects not only businesses in their dealings with their customers, but employers in their role as custodians of employees’ personal data. (Cadrain)

Without admitting to any violation of law, CS STARS agreed to comply with the law and ensure that proper notifications will be made in the event of any future breach. The company also agreed to implement more extensive practices relating to the security of private information. CS STARS will pay the Attorney General’s office $60,000 for costs related to this investigation. (Cadrain)


The Situation:

IBM’s paperless online enrollment system, introduced in 1999, has proved to be a winner for both the company’s 135,000 active U.S. employees and the company, according to Cathleen Donnelly, senior communications specialist at company headquarters in Armonk, N.Y. The company saves $1.2 million per year on printing and mailing costs alone, Donnelly says, and the employees’ can take advantage of a variety of technologies to learn about issues, research program information and access decision support tools from their desktop computers. (Heuring, 2002)

The Response:

One of those tools, a personal medical cost estimator, enables employees to calculate potential out-of-pocket health care expenses under each of the plan options available to them, Donnelly says. Employees log in personally and are greeted by name and with important information regarding their benefits enrollment, such as the deadlines and when changes take effect. They automatically get access to health plans that are available to them, and the calculator lets them compare estimated benefit amounts for each plan.

“Employees can select the health care services they expect to use in a particular year, estimate expected frequency of use, and calculate potential costs under each plan option,” Donnelly says. “The feedback that we’ve received from employees tells us that this tool has really helped them to make a comparison between plans based on how they consume medical services.” The calculator shows both IBM’s costs and the employee’s. (Heuring, 2002)

The Outcome:

“Since we began offering online enrollment, we’ve learned that employees want web access,” Donnelly says, so they can log on at home rather than through the company intranet. So the company has been working to put in place a web-based enrollment system that employees and retirees can access from anywhere.

Employees can get summary information on the plans, drill down into very specific details and follow links to the health care providers for research. Donnelly says the system has received high marks for convenience because employees can “get in and out quickly.”

WORKSource Inc.

The Situation:

To meet the challenge of handling 100 new employees, WORKSource Inc. acquired Web-based technology programs from GHG Corp. like electronic paystub, electronic timesheet software, time-off system, and human resource information system (“Tips,” 2006). These tools enabled CEO Judith Hahn to handling payroll procedures efficiently and effectively.

The Response:

WORKSource has eight workforce centers, with approximately 108 employees, located throughout a six-county region. Previously, payroll, benefits, and human resources for those employees were processed and managed by a Professional Employer Organization. The company also has 52 administrative staff in its headquarters office. When the contract with the PEO terminated on June 30, 2006, those 108 employees were immediately moved to the payroll of WORKSource, which meant Hahn’s workload more than doubled effective July 2006 (“Tips,” 2006).

Hahn, in an interview with PMR, said she relied on LEAN to help get a handle on what needed to change for her to manage the increased workload. Two years earlier, Hahn’s CEO had introduced her to LEAN, a Japanese management concept of eliminating wasteful steps and motion when completing processes. “I began to read as much as possible about LEAN and joined an HR LEAN focus group” (“Tips,” 2006).

The Outcome:

Mastering the concepts of LEAN led Hahn to develop and apply her own acronym of “REASON” to her department’s payroll and HR processes. Review the process: map payroll tasks from start to finish. Eliminate waste: determine how to complete a payroll task most efficiently without unnecessary steps. Analyze alternatives: research and evaluate the applicability of new technology. Sell innovations to management: document the return on investment of each innovation. Open the lines of communication: communicate openly—and often—with all stakeholders, including employees and top management. Never allow negativity: make change simple and fun. Give employees plenty of encouragement and time to learn (“Tips,” 2006). Judith Hahn was able to implement the right human resource functions using information systems.

Toshiba America Medical Systems Inc.

The Situation:

Lynda Morvik, director of benefits and human resources information systems at Tustin, California-based Toshiba America Medical Systems Inc. (TAMS), thought it would make sense to add a benefits communication component to it. By having all the benefit information online, the TAMS employee handbook would also be a living document, enabling Morvik to make changes when necessary. Such was the case halfway through the project, when TAMS changed health care plans from Aetna Inc. to United Health Group Inc (Wojcik, 2004).

The Response:

TAMS, an independent group company of Toshiba Corporation and a global leading provider of diagnostic medical imaging systems and comprehensive medical solutions, such as CT, X-ray, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, MRI, and information systems, had been using a payroll service bureau and an in-house solution for HR that didn’t include easy-to-use consolidated reporting or an employee portal. After evaluating UltiPro alongside several enterprise resource vendors, TAMS selected Ultimate Software’s offering and went live in September 2002 after an on-time and on-budget implementation. Almost immediately upon rolling out the UltiPro portal to employees, TAMS began seeing improvements, with an estimated 70% increase in open enrollment efficiency (Wojcik, 2004).

The Outcome:

In an effort to expand the usage of the Web beyond the benefits enrollment process, TAMS has posted a library of documents and forms on its HR portal, including the benefits handbook, which garnered a 2004 Apex Award for publication excellence. That same year, Business Insurance magazine also gave TAMS the Electronic Benefit Communication (EBC) award for outstanding achievement in communicating employee benefits programs over the Web. To continue elevating its use of Ultimate Software’s HRMS/payroll solution, TAMS modified the UltiPro portal to meet the imaging company’s unique needs (Wojcik, 2004). It was completely integrated with several proprietary applications created to address compensation and performance management issues so that TAMS employees have a central location for comprehensive workforce and payroll information from a Web browser that they can access with a single sign-on (Wojcik, 2004).

Valuable Human Resources Career Info You Just Gotta Read

The very goal of every graduate is to find a decent job. On the other hand, every organization knows the value behind the employment of competent and skilled employees. They know that once they have employed the right kind of employee and place them in a position that can best reflect their skills and competence is absolutely important in organizational success.

However, for some businesses that have bigger sets of connections and extensions, there must be somebody or something that will serve as the mediator between the two entities. This is where the human resources sets in. The human resources department bridges the gap between the job seekers or employees and the management.

For this reason, every institution, whether private or government-owned businesses are equipped with highly competent human resource department that facilitates the training, hiring of job applicants, and other labor-related concerns.

Before, the primary work of anybody who is in the human resource department would have to perform the clerical function of an institution, like manipulating the inquiries of every employee or the management of interviews, recruiting, and hiring of new employees or personnel in conformity to the rules and regulations of the company.

Nowadays, the human resource department acts individually and generates suggestions. If before they are concealed behind the top executives of the company, human resources these days can already make recommendations and modification of the company policy. Hence, people are assured of a more competent and highly productive human resource department.

Human Resources Management

The primary goal of the human resource department is to provide quality services to the public by providing them jobs that work best for them. Hence, it is the duty of the human resources department to supervise the “human resources” of the company.

In fact, experts say that it is the most significant part of the job. The people behind this department should be well equipped with the proper communication skills in order to reach out with the employees so that the problems will be solved and the necessities met.

The duties of the human resources management include career development, hiring, compensation, training, benefits, and other purposes.

This is the very delicate portion of the job because managing a multitude of people is not an easy thing. That is why for those who wish to engage in this kind of job, it is best that they try to finish off a masteral degree in Human Resource Management. S specialization is extremely necessary in order to stay knowledgeable in doing this kind of job.

Human Resources Careers

In spite of the many difficulties that the human resources department may encounter, there are still many opportunities of developing a career in this department as well.

However, for those who wish to develop a career in the human resources department, one must hold a bachelor’s degree that entails a fair set of courses in general business, accounting and statistics, behavioral sciences, business and labor law, and economics.

Basically, there are two kinds of career in this department: the human resources specialist and the generalist. Employing one over the other is actually dependent on the size of the institution. This is because the human resources generalist is applicable for a small institution, while the specialist constitutes the broader horizon of the bigger organizations.

The next position available is the “directory of human resources.” The person involved here handles mostly the supervision of the different human resources department within a bigger organization.

Each human resources department is supervises by the managers. They are the ones that are responsible in dividing the different employees according to their position and their specific field of expertise.

For recruitment, the recruiters are the ones that handle the job. They are the ones who maintain a close connection in the society, hence, they travel frequently. They are the ones that will conduct interviews, and evaluations on the applicants. They are also the ones that do the background checking as stated in the references of the applicants.

These are just some of the available positions within the human resources department. Indeed, this is the part of the organization that best serve the main component of an organization — the people. Without this kind of department that specializes in managing and employing people, the institution might have been in disarray.

Human Resources: What Drives an Organization

Human Resources Careers

The new millennium recognizes the importance of human resources personnel in their contribution to supplying the best manpower supply in a thriving industry.

Organizations in the business world rely on Human Resources management teams in overseeing business functions such as hiring, training, conducting interviews, relaying of company-related business trends and issues and employees’ benefits and the like.

Individuals who work inside this type of industry are tasked to making sure that the provided workforce are adept in their respective business roles and are able to function optimally under any condition.

This type of thinking is oriented among professionals whose function are those of above. They keep the company they are working with able to stay on top despite of existing competition against companies who competes with the same product or services a certain company is caters for.

Human Resources Certification

The field of Human Resources Industry evolved into creating a body of professionals or individual industries that take care of providing reliable certification activities whose purpose is to provide, attest and authenticate suitable capabilities among professionals in this field.

Human Resources Certification board’s certifying examinations are guided and are guided by core values and principles which an individual aspiring to be part of such industry should pass in order to gain the desired testament of ability.

Human Resources Management and Human Resources Consulting

Management and consulting groups take on the function of most of the above jobs typical of an HR staff member.

They work hiring the best professionals in the field as demanded by a corporate client. They make sure that these individuals are retained and that their continued career development is ensured.

Tailoring benefit plans is also one of Human Resources Consulting firms’ structured course of function. They regularly check medical health benefit plans that is beneficial for the company without sacrificing the overall quality of health premium option features given to employees.

This department is also in charge of regular relay of company policies to each employees and making sure that satisfactory conformation is met. It is also their task to remind erring employee of regulations that are intentionally or accidentally infracted and make the necessary adjustment as well.

Human Resources Outsourcing

Outsourcing job functions, or taking internal business functions to business industries via another firms or overseas proved to be more cost effective than having a single Human Resources team handle all job at hand.

The study conducted by The Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) provided conclusive evidence of how outsourcing human resources personnel and various HR functions could cut average company cost on HR spending and free them from other legal risk.

This type of initiative also gives core HR professionals the chance to focus on a more important HR functions and company goals.

Human Resources Program, Human Resources Studies and Human Resources Software

If Human Resources Management is the lifeblood of various Business Industries, Human Resources Programs on the other hand is the lifeblood of Human Resources Management.

HR is less capable of ensuring that its tasks and objectives are met without following a program at hand. Programs are effective when they bring results to the organization.

An independent HR Consulting industry study in Missouri explains how HR programs help professionals in this field in realigning HR policies to that of the company they are working for.

These programs are carried out to effectively implement job functions and seek on ways to improve them. Compensations, health benefits, relaying company regulations and management, staffing and culture change is communicated through designed programs.

What is Strategic Human Resource Management?

n Human Resource (HR) and management circles nowadays there is much talk about Strategic Human Resource Management and many expensive books can be seen on the shelves of bookshops. But what exactly is SHRM (Strategic Human Resource Development), what are its key features and how does it differ from traditional human resource management?

SHRM or Strategic human resource management is a branch of Human resource management or HRM. It is a fairly new field, which has emerged out of the parent discipline of human resource management. Much of the early or so called traditional HRM literature treated the notion of strategy superficially, rather as a purely operational matter, the results of which cascade down throughout the organisation. There was a kind of unsaid division of territory between people-centred values of HR and harder business values where corporate strategies really belonged. HR practitioners felt uncomfortable in the war cabinet like atmosphere where corporate strategies were formulated.

Definition of SHRM

Strategic human resource management can be defined as the linking of human resources with strategic goals and objectives in order to improve business performance and develop organizational culture that foster innovation, flexibility and competitive advantage. In an organisation SHRM means accepting and involving the HR function as a strategic partner in the formulation and implementation of the company’s strategies through HR activities such as recruiting, selecting, training and rewarding personnel.

How SHRM differs from HRM

In the last two decades there has been an increasing awareness that HR functions were like an island unto itself with softer people-centred values far away from the hard world of real business. In order to justify its own existence HR functions had to be seen as more intimately connected with the strategy and day to day running of the business side of the enterprise. Many writers in the late 1980s, started clamoring for a more strategic approach to the management of people than the standard practices of traditional management of people or industrial relations models. Strategic human resource management focuses on human resource programs with long-term objectives. Instead of focusing on internal human resource issues, the focus is on addressing and solving problems that effect people management programs in the long run and often globally. Therefore the primary goal of strategic human resources is to increase employee productivity by focusing on business obstacles that occur outside of human resources. The primary actions of a strategic human resource manager are to identify key HR areas where strategies can be implemented in the long run to improve the overall employee motivation and productivity. Communication between HR and top management of the company is vital as without active participation no cooperation is possible.

Key Features of Strategic Human Resource Management

The key features of SHRM are

There is an explicit linkage between HR policy and practices and overall organizational strategic aims and the organizational environment
There is some organizing schema linking individual HR interventions so that they are mutually supportive
Much of the responsibility for the management of human resources is devolved down the line
Trends in Strategic Human Resource Management

Human Resource Management professionals are increasingly faced with the issues of employee participation, human resource flow, performance management, reward systems and high commitment work systems in the context of globalization. Older solutions and recipes that worked in a local context do not work in an international context. Cross-cultural issues play a major role here. These are some of the major issues that HR professionals and top management involved in SHRM are grappling with in the first decade of the 21st century:

Internationalization of market integration.
Increased competition, which may not be local or even national through free market ideology
Rapid technological change.
New concepts of line and general management.
Constantly changing ownership and resultant corporate climates.
Cross-cultural issues
The economic gravity shifting from ‘developed’ to ‘developing’ countries
SHRM also reflects some of the main contemporary challenges faced by Human Resource Management: Aligning HR with core business strategy, demographic trends on employment and the labour market, integrating soft skills in HRD and finally Knowledge Management.

Beyond the Human Resource Function: What Lies Ahead?

An increasingly common theme in Human Resource (HR) literature in the 1990’s concerns how the HR Department can make a greater contribution to the success of the business it serves. To do so, we must first change our view of the Human Resource role as being only executable within a traditional “Department.” We must view HR more as a “function,” or “a set of activities,” than as a department. While HR services may not be delivered in the future via what we know as a Department, they must be delivered in some way. This article is about the realm of possibilities.

The HR Function Today

Today the HR Department is in a transitional phase. Some organizations have long ago realized that the HR Department can make a greater difference. Others need convincing. A positive trend seems to be developing, as evidenced in publications of the Human Resource professional’s accrediting organization, the Society for Human Resource Management, (e.g. see HR Magazine, 11/98). Chief Executive Officers are increasingly viewing the HR function as an actual or potential “strategic business partner.” This is encouraging, for as recently as the early 1990’s the notion of the HR function as a strategic partner would have been quite novel.

To understand where the HR function is going, it is helpful to briefly review its past.


In the first half of the 20th century, the Human Resource function grew out of the Payroll function. The remnants of this can be seen in companies that retain the responsibility for payroll processing within the HR Department. Today, the payroll function can often be found in the Controller’s functional area.

This new entity then became known as the “Personnel Department.” It was responsible for those duties that, quite frankly, didn’t seem to fit anywhere else, such as overseeing the employment process. Unlike later iterations, the Personnel Department was not concerned with strategic recruiting and selection. Its goal was simply to hire people to fill “jobs,” a 20th century creation. This emphasis explains how, even today, many people think of the Personnel Department as simply “the Department that hires people.” So engrained is this idea that, even in surveys of HR practitioners that we conduct today, many of them still define the main purpose of the HR Department as being “the employment of people.” Of course, it is true that in many of their companies, hiring people still is their main focus and purpose.

Since its inception, the HR Department has gone through a number of transformations, as depicted in Figure 1. During the 1970’s and 1980’s as it sought a new identity. These changes attempted to reposition the function as the guardian of employee relations and a provider of services.

The Evolution of the Human Resource Department:

– Payroll
– Payroll/Personnel Department
– Personnel Department
– Employee Services Department
– Human Relations Department
– Employee and/or Labor Relations Department
– Personnel Relations Department
– Human Resource Department
– Human Assets Department
– Human Capital Department
– Human Systems Department

In terms of the evolution of Management, this change had its origins in the “Human Relations” and “Human Resource” Movements of prior decades. The core notion of these movements was that organizations should proactively establish closer links with its employees to create the perception of, if not an actual concern for, employees, because of the employees’ potential to disrupt organizations when “relations” became unstable.

This era was also the beginning of the “employee involvement” movement and strategy. Employees became more increasingly engaged in decisionmaking that affected them. Progressive companies increasingly realized that employees who did the work, knew the work best. To gain greater acceptance of change, it was best to involve employees whose lives would be affected by the change. Human Resource professionals became “Employee Relations Counselors” and had the responsibility of bridging, establishing and maintaining a stable relationship between the employer and its employees.

Eventually, the notions of the HR function as the Personnel Department and the Employee Relations Department gave way to a new notion: the idea of employees as organizational “resources” to be valued. Thus was born the “Human Resource Department.”

Structurally, the Department did not change very much. The various sub-functions of Employment, Compensation, Training, and others remained. But the connotation of employees as “resources” permitted the HR Department to be viewed as something more than just a hiring function or as a mere provider of counseling and other services to employees. It suggested that the HR function recognized that humans as resources could be valued, served, recognized and “invested in,” in ways which could increase their value to the company.

It was the start of what would later emerge as “Human Capital” theory. This theory holds that, through training and education, an investment in people will provide a “return” to the company in the form of greater innovation and/or productivity. We see this final transition represented in Figure 1 by several newly conceptualized titles, including “Human Systems” and “Human Assets” Departments. Human Systems, for example, refers to the potential involvement of the HR practitioner in any human system within the company, be it a pay system, a sociotechnical system, a team-based systems or others requiring the internal consultation of the HR professional. Their contribution is tied more closely to the strategic nature of the business and the impact can therefore be even greater than that which was possible within the traditional HR Department.


Where is the HR function today? In an increasing number of companies, HR services are being delivered in new ways. In others, the HR Department resembles the same function and structure used in the 1960’s.

Fortunately, we are seeing long overdue change. The change is prompted by how organizations of the 1990’s need to be or demand to be serviced. For some, this means being a full-fledged strategic partner in the business. For others, it simply means being utilized as something more than a mere hiring or administrative function.

Change is also affecting the name of the emerging HR function. As depicted in Figure 1, the HR function in some companies is becoming the “Human Capital,” “Human Systems” or “Human Asset” Department. These names suggest the need to invest in human capital or human assets, as well as to evaluate how people are integrated in various organizational systems. Being new, these names may be better thought of as part of HR’s future.

The Effect of Cross-Functionalization

Specifically, how are HR services being delivered today? Certainly, functional structures are still in use, with their traditionally separate specialty areas such as Employment, Compensation, Training, and others. However, as “team-based,” “lateral,” “cross-functional,” or “matrix” organizations (choose a name) proliferate, the HR function has adapted. It is increasingly common to see a cross-functional HR representative assigned to other functional areas to provide general, ongoing HR services to that area, team, or group.

A more radical approach for the delivery of HR services is one in which it is understood that the HR representative is more strongly aligned with the assigned functional area than to the traditional HR Department. The difference is one of emphasis. While this is happening now, this structure could be considered more of a model for the future.

Unfortunately, this structure sometimes creates a split allegiance for the HR professional. Internal conflict increases under this model both within and across the HR functional representatives because the HR representative can become more emotionally tied to the assigned function than to the central HR function.

The Trend Toward Generalists

The trend toward the use of more HR generalists and fewer specialists also continues. This is an outgrowth of downsized organizations and the “do more with less” philosophy of the 1990’s. Thus, the makeup of HR Departments reflects this demand, increasing the use of generalists who can “do it all.” Some companies complement this approach with specialists, such as Compensation Specialists, for example, who are called upon as needed to serve the entire company in an internal consulting capacity. Company size also impacts the ratio of generalists to specialists. The larger the company, the more likely it is that it will create specialist positions.

Shared Services Model

Another current model gaining increased attention is the delivery of HR services via a “shared services” model. This is a centralized model in which HR specialists and generalists deliver services to the entire company on an as-needed basis, charged to the functional area served.

The central HR function also can perform normal or expected services such as administrative services (somebody has to do it!) on behalf of the company. These may be free to specific functions or the costs may be distributed over all functions.

The shared services model creates a more positive image for the HR Department as an internal consulting function rather than an administrative function, or in the other, less attractive ways the function has been traditionally viewed. A disadvantage of this approach can be the reluctance of other functions to utilize services for which they will be charged. An HR function operating in this environment would be wise to internally market its services to, or “partner” with, other functions.


The future will be an interesting time for the Human Resource function. As one HR consultant observed (ACA Journal, Spring 1997), a review of the debates in the national business media might lead one to conclude that the future HR Department will be “a fraction of its size, with the remaining activities pushed up (to the CEO), down (to line management), out (to vendors and consultants) and in (to technology).”

Will it continue to exist, but as a smaller entity? Will it become functionally stronger, gaining greater acceptance, meaning and value in organizations where it serves? Or will its duties remain but be delivered in other forms?

Here are some of the more radical possibilities.

The Devolution of the HR Department

One scenario has the HR function being “devoluted” (i.e. de-evolved), with its tasks being redistributed or incorporated into other functional areas. Thus, managers in what once were the “customer” areas served by HR take on HR functions such as employment, compensation, counseling, and many more.

This envisioned future is disconcerting to HR professionals. A common reaction is that the supervisors and managers of other functional areas do not possess the HR professional’s knowledge, gained over a long period of time about matters such as discrimination law, dispute resolution, pay strategy, administrative requirements, designing and presenting training programs, and many other responsibilities resident within HR Departments. A major concern is that this lack of knowledge on the part of the receiving function about compliance law will result in financial damage to the company, in the form of fines and penalties.

In fact, the belief that the HR function can be devoluted can be a serious misconception. From the general HR literature, it appears that non-HR professionals, including Executives, sometimes minimize the value of the HR function. Consequently, they conclude that absorbing its responsibilities will be relatively easy. This is a very dangerous assumption. One reason why an absorption of duties does not work is the time demands placed upon the absorbing functions and individuals. Whether the HR role is one capable of absorption or not, time constraints prohibit its successful and timely execution.

Thus, the thinking about the HR function’s role and importance comes full circle. It is a unique function with unique preparatory requirements. In another irony of perspective concerning the absorption of the HR function, it is interesting to observe how commonly companies assign the HR function to the Financial function, but never the converse! In fact, both functions should be viewed as different, unique and, above all, separate.

Human Systems Management

Another scenario for the HR function’s future is a movement toward “Human Systems Management.” As briefly defined earlier, this is the management of human systems, or any organizational system in which the role, impact and reaction of the human element is of primary importance.

Human Systems Management encompasses much of what Human Resource Management has become, and more. In it, the HR function is re-creating, redefining, and essentially retuning for the Post-Modern and Information Ages. The system may be exclusively human (e.g. the process of team building) or sociotechnical (i.e. the interaction of people and technology). It may involve the redesign of work or the design of new pay systems to improve employee satisfaction and organizational performance. The key element is the human element. The desired outcome is twofold: improved individual and organizational performance.

In this HR future, we move away from the view of HR as a functional area and redefine it in terms of its internal consulting capabilities. Yet it still permits the HR function to fulfill a role we have come to expect, namely, to provide services which do not fit neatly into the roles of other functions. It is that “crossover” activity, in which the business’ operations must be understood and combined with the special expertise that HR professionals possess, including knowledge of organizational behavior, organizational theory, organizational development, and human resource management. Human Systems Management thinking recognizes that the HR professional has a unique view of the organization, and serves to capitalize upon it.

Shared Services Model

The Shared Services Model has become an increasingly popular model of HR Department design, and, as previously described, could be considered as a current design. What makes it more of a future model at this time, however, is its relative lack of implementation. Practitioners are still working out the organizational issues it creates, and discovering its usefulness.

In this model the HR Department acts as a kind of “central consulting organization” and, sometimes, even becomes a “profit center,.”” charging its services to other departments as its services are retained by them. While the traditional HR Department can provide consulting services out of its historically common structure, the consulting relationship is more formal in the shared services model. It is not the “old” HR Department redefining itself as internal consultants. Rather, it is a formal re-introduction of HR into the company as a functional area with a newly defined mission. This mission is to provide HR consulting services as requested for a fee.

While it may not actually be profitable as a profit center, it is an intriguing way to assess the organization’s need for HR services. If one believes that the HR function can act like a strategic partner, how often are we afforded the opportunity to prove it? Do others see HR as being a mutually useful and beneficial partner in order to achieve their business objectives? Being organized in a Shared Services Model will give you the answer quickly.


An increasingly popular model today is outsourcing, which permits the HR function to rid itself of activities that can often be performed by others more effectively or economically. In other cases, outsourcing simply permits the HR function to turn its attention to other, more important matters.

It would be easy to view the use of outsourcing as a current phenomenon, not as something that will occur in the future. However, a growing change in the outsourcing strategies of companies is to move beyond the simple outsourcing of administrative tasks and into the realm of professional services like compensation program management and maintenance activities. For example, third parties may be used to maintain a company’s job descriptions. This is important and useful because this activity is normally a time-consuming responsibility that is often avoided internally. Third parties/consultants also can design and implement training and development programs, as well as conduct audits (e.g. pay program audits, retention audits, skill audits, etc.).

We have always outsourced a number of HR activities. These include contingent/retained recruiters, benefits administration, and training and development programs to some extent. What has changed? Specifically, it is the expansion of the activities that we are willing to outsource, spurred by the new rationale for outsourcing more HR activities: namely, that we are recognizing that the HR role can be performed much more effectively in other ways. We are moving away from the “administrative, service and control” HR model and toward the “strategic partner” HR model, and extensions of it. When we can lighten the load of HR functions in order to address more meaningful challenges, we are increasing our worth and value to our organizations. Outsourcing helps us to achieve this.

Environmental Scanning

This is, perhaps, the most unusual possible course of action for HR Department design in the future. Scanning refers to the monitoring of activities in the company’s external environment. Scanning activities have been part of the HR Department’s role for quite some time. For example, Compensation Departments are responsible for conducting pay surveys to gather external marketplace data. The HR Department also scans governmental activity to monitor changes in laws which affect the management of people. Employment Managers monitor demographic changes in the workforce to establish recruitment strategies.

The suggestion, therefore, is that the HR Department become the entity which is responsible for those and other scanning activities, some of which may now be performed by other functional areas, such as Marketing which is responsible for market research, or for outsourcing tasks (once again, to the “outside” of the company).

The possibilities are endless but require very different thinking about the tasks of different departments and a willingness to centralize them under the new entity. Like any other cross-functional redesign effort, a “natural work group” of tasks (i.e. a combined task group that makes sense) would need to be assembled to make this vision a reality. Not all external scanning possibilities would make sense for grouping in a department that, in the end, may have a name other than the Human Resource Department. It could be called the “Environmental Monitoring” Department, as one of many possibilities. Whatever its name, the core concept is that what happens on the outside of our companies is important and worth researching, or simply, good “strategic management.”


Ask someone to quickly define the purpose of an HR Department and you’ll receive some interesting answers, from both practitioners and non-practitioners alike. The diversity of their answers reflects the uniqueness of the HR function.

We seemingly can’t live with the HR function, nor without it. It is becoming something more than it has been historically, and yet it faces the prospect of further evolutionary change. Different methods of service delivery will be seen in different companies. The demand for services will differ depending upon the company and its view of the role and purpose of the HR function.

I believe it is safe to say that the HR function can be “something more” than it has been in many companies. In some, HR has already demonstrated how valuable its contribution can be. In others, it continues to provide only administrative support. Perhaps the solution rests in what the contract will be between the HR function and the organization it serves. What does the organization want HR to be?

We see the potential emergence of the HR function as a “hybrid” structure, consisting of the valuable parts of its past, but combined with new services and approaches aimed at supporting the new business entities and thinking that have emerged in the last fifteen years. For example, the training and development of human assets has now become just as important to the managers of Manufacturing, Engineering, and other functional areas, as it has always been to the HR professional. This convergence of thought provides new opportunities to the HR professional to serve in ways which are increasingly valuable and meaningful to supported functions.