And that’s theTruth
HR software is expensive, requires customization and will put
people out of jobs. People can’t look for jobs on the Web
because they don’t have access to computers. A good HR software
package will solve all of a department’s problems. When
it comes to human resources technology, truths and myths surrounding
the interaction of these two entitties run the gamut, from the
cost of softwareto recruiting on the World Wide Web. So to explore,
and sometimes explode, the most common myths as well as the facts
about HR and technology, we turned to a few experts: Gerry Crispin,
an HR consultant and co-author of CareerXRoads, a direcory of
the 500 best recruiting/staffing sites on the Web; James D. Witschger,
CEO of Technical Difference, Inc., a Bonsall, Calif-based HR
management sotfware company; and David Russo, vice president
of human resouces at SAS Institute Inc. in Cary, N.C., and chair
of the Human Resources Technology Management committee for the
Society of Human Resource Management.
Truth or Myth: HR software will
eliminate jobs in the HR department. Myth.
“Very seldom does anyone get terminated or even reassigned,”
says Jim Witschger. “The person who slaves over the filing
cabinet-and this may be you-loses the filing clerk job and gets
a real HR job as an information provider and analyst. Instead
of serving the filing cabinet, you serve the management staff.
We have never heard anyone complain about losing one job to obtain
a better one.”
In larger HR departments, however, there can be an excessive
staffing situation to compensate for the lack of automation.
“We have found that staffing member are typically reassigned
to HR functions that were not getting done before,” Witschger
adds. “For example, some former file clerks have become
employment specialists who focus their talents on recruiting,
taking advantage of the applicant tracking capabilities of the
recently implemented HR software.”
Truth or Myth: HR software will
solve all of HR‘s problems. Myth.
“HR software automates processes that already exist,”
says Witschger. If you have a well-tuned HR function, software
will simply make that well-tuned operation work much faster.
If you have poorly organized HR function, software will simply
expose any problems or issues very rapidly.
“The speed with which HR software operates has the di-
rect result of allowing more work to get done and for it to
be done more efficiently. This enable the HR functions to be
more vital, more visible and more timely. If timeliness is a
problem-and it can be with reporting-HR software will solve it.
However, if reports are problematic due to missing data, you
will simply have the ability to create bad reports more quickly.”
Truth or Myth: HR people don‘t
have a clue about technology. Truth.
“It’s generally true, unfortunately, because the typical
HR practitioner has always been told what technology he or she
needs, rather than being able to define what technology he wants
and needs,” says Russo. “As a result, the average HR
practitioner feels other part of the organization that has been
foisted upon them.”
The way to correct that? The most important aspect is training,
Russo says. Second is exposure to the latest in fourth-generation
technology, which is easy to use. And third? Requiring that the
information technology folks understand the business rules of
HR, just as they have to understand the business rules of finance.
Truth or Myth: HR software is
very expensive and requires expensive consultants to customize.
Russo says this is true. “All of these systems are very
expensive, but the cost is not the hard cost of the system-it’s
the software, customization, and design to get these systems
to respond to the business rules of any organization. “There
is no such thing as turn-key technology. People who think they
can plug and play with HR technology are sorely mistaken. It
takes $3 or $4 in customization and implementation costes for
every dollar of product costs. Is that high? Yes, it is.”
But Witschger disagrees. “HR software can be expensive,
and if you have very large organizational needs, it will be.
However, for corporations with [fewer than] 2,000 employees or
with needs somewhat less than General Motors, this statement
is simply not true.
“And the normal reason software needs to be customized is
because you wish to change the software to more precisely meet
your needs. The hard work is already done because you know what
your needs are. Most HR software provides some type of user customization
capabilities. A well-designed customization feature will allow
you to make most, if not all, of your desired changes in just
a few hours or less. It is very important that you purchase a
product as close to your needs as possible and determine if using
the inherent user customization feature can make the final adjustments
Truth or Myth: HR software requires
lengthy and costly training. Myth.
“HR software merely automates tasks you already perform
or need to be performing,” says Witschger. “A well-conceived
and well-designed software solution should take into account
typical ways in which HR tasks are performed. The does not need
to be reinvented.
“Granted, you will need to learn how the software does things
that you used to do manually, but we are dealing with capture,
storage and retrieval of information. Any software that cannot
simply automate the process of putting information into computer
files instead of putting paper into filing cabinets is probably
not well conceived or well designed.”
Witschger points to an old saying in the software business: If
software is hard to use, it won’t get used. An indication
of how hard software is to use is how hard it is to learn. “If
you need weeks and weeks of training to learn how to do what
you already know how to do, there is something wrong with the
software,” he says. “Yes, you may need some training
with your HR software, but if it is more than just a few days,
you may be paying for a badly designed software product.”
Truth or Myth: People don‘t
have access to the Web without computers. Myth.
“One of the biggest myths is that the people who don’t
have computers may not have access and therefore may not be likely
to take a look at Web sites and apply for jobs,” says Crispin.
“The story I often tell to counter that involves a casino
in Atlantic City, N.J. They argued for weeks about putting up
a Web site with applications for jobs. But when they did, they
had dozens and dozens of people applying for positions ranging
from maids to mechanics.
The bottom line is that as long as someone has incentive, they
can get access tot he Web. In the case of Atlantic City, the
alternative to getting on a bus or a train and finding a babysitter
and going to a crowded room to fill out an applica-
tion was to go to library, religious center or an organization
that is wired to the Web and apply online with the help of
some very friendly people. This myth is further broken by the
fact that if you look at any library, a computer that is wired
to the Web is being used as a resource by people to look for
jobs and other information.
Truth or Myth: HR administrators
will be overwhelmed with responses if they post a job on the
Web, particularly from people who are not qualified for the current
open positions. Myth.
“People who feel this way are missing the whole point about
communication for the long term,” says Crispin. “What
they are missing is the fact that someone came to the Web and
is qualified for a position that might open tomorrow, or they
apply for a position that they might be qualified to fill in
two years. You save the communication, the e-mail address for
two years, and you build an efficient, low-cost means of communicating
with those applicants, so that by the time they are trained and
qualified, you are the employer of choice in their mind.
The myth is that Internet is about now. It’s not. It’s
about building communities for the future, and that’s how
it should be applied,” he says.
Truth or Myth: Technology will
drive everything and supplant existing HR tools & strategies.
“There is that fear, but the fact is, emerging technology
will more likely be an enhancement of many of the tools, strategies
and tactics that we use today,” says Crispin. “It’s
really the job seeker that will drive everything. It is kind
of backwards, but it’s the people who have the incentives
that drive the technology. It’s not the technology that
drives the people.”
Truth or Myth: Transactional systems
satisfy HR needs . Myth.
According to Russo, transactional system are very useful for
storing, analyzing and processing information. But historically,
they have been virtually useless in providing reports, consolidating
data and surfacing trends or issues that are part of the HR needs
in order to be a strategic partner in the work place.
Instead of that, what needs to exist is a robust reporting and
analytical tool that has to be designed within or purchased to
really exploit the power of the transactional system,” he
Truth or Myth: There is constant
friction between HR and IT. Truth.
“That’s not a myth, but I don’t know why,”
says Witschger. “I know that HR data is sensitive, and they
have to give IT access to it, because it’s their job. There’s
just friction there. These two departments are often at odds,
and the only way to get around that is obviously to buy into
the common vision for what they are trying to put together.”
Reprinted from Human Resources Executive,
April 1999. Article by Margaret O Kirk