Technology alone is not a panacea. Buyers and providers all must contribute to getting the maximum value from today’s tools.
In this age of the Web, it seems technology is moving at a blinding speed. With wireless communication exploding, a cornucopia of information made accessible at the click of a mouse, and a massive proliferation of web sites and blogs taking place, technology appears to be on the verge of making people obsolete (like that episode of the Twilight Zone). But don’t worry, nothing could be farther from the truth.
As any HR professional who has ever worked onpayroll or benefits knows, the excruciatingly manual nature of on-boarding or enrollment is reason enough to outsource these labor-intensive tasks. And the arrival of self-service technology hasn’t made the experience markedly better. As much as the industry talks about self-service, the unfortunate reality is that a lot of existing technology is still not ready for prime time, and even in some organizations in which robust technology exists, management has so incompetently handled change management that rank-and-file employees continue to be intimidated by it.
Moreover, technology has not lived up to its promise of a better employee experience; some of it has had the opposite effect, adding to user confusion and costing them more time as they turn to help desks to accomplish what otherwise would have been a simple paper form to fill out. I was recently reminded of an MIT study that came out in the 1980s that found computers actually made workers less productive. And there have since been other studies with findings to that effect.
Having recently sampled one provider’s portal, it was clear to me that numerous points for errors and mistakes existed. From the customer’s perspective, the technology seemed counterintuitive and awkward. Now I can share the same frustrations that many of our readers probably deal with regularly.
That’s why Robust must accompany Technology in the same sentence when discussing the issue. A lot of organizations that have outsourced, including the global giants, did so to access technology. They could have invested internally but chose not to. Why? There is the business case, but it doesn’t end there. Just buying good technology yields limited benefits; it’s really how you use it and roll it out to the employees that matters.
This is the advantage that HRO providers offer—a blend of appropriate technology and best practices. Their road-tested platforms are ready for prime time and smartly remove manual intervention from the process, saving time and cutting down on human error. In addition, many providers are platform-agnostic, so they are ready to embrace just about any client that approaches them with a need.
To say that all HRO providers offer truly robust technology would be a big, fat lie. Not all do. On the other hand, I bet that service providers as a group are light-years ahead of HR departments as a group when it comes to HR technology. More importantly, providers are more adept at using technology as productivity tools than their HR clients.
One of the concerns I often hear from HRO buyers and providers is employers face a self-imposed bottleneck on their way to HR transformation. Tools already made available to buyers are not used simply because the client is not internally ready. That’s a shame because it also means buyers are not taking full advantage of the benefits that outsourcing has to offer. There are lots of tools available to HRO buyers, but they have to want to use them to get results.
So as we look ahead to HRO’s evolution, here’s how to maximize technological investments: buyers must recognize how existing market solutions can enable them to better use their time, be ready to implement all the useful tools, and educate the customers on their proper use. Providers, of course, need to continually invest in technology and understand which ones will result in maximum returns for the buyers. Only when these things happen will we begin to move into technology’s fast lane.