Meanwhile, your firm has won a lot of new business and is growing quickly. It's no longer possible to hold a big company-wide meeting, and you have a nasty feeling that you don't know your workforce well enough to make informed decisions. Your life is taken up with administration and keeping things in the balance. You feel that if only you could get a break from juggling training budgets and headcount requests, writing up reports and arguing with the boss about bonus allocations, you could really make a difference to the way your firm works.
Now, imagine yourself in the same place at the same time, but with the right human resources software to support you. It's internet-based, so everyone in the company can access it via a browser. Instead of your department having to handle paperwork that's been filled in and forwarded to you by employees, the employees enter the information directly into the system themselves. Training requests, appraisal reports, changes of address or name, skills updates - all these things can be keyed in by individual employees or line managers. A workflow engine in the software automatically routes items, so a request for a training course is routed to the line manager for approval, matched against available budget and dates and even booked online, without you having to do anything!
Of course this doesn't mean you're sitting about doing nothing. Automated self-service administration has given you more time to think about strategy. Your HR software includes a database for collecting data about your employees, and tools to analyse it when making decisions. Do you really need to hire a new employee? The software will tell you exactly which skills you already have in-house. Want to develop a reward scheme based on knowledge? At the click of a mouse you can find out who has the most valuable skills and who has worked hardest to update their knowledge. Want to know if there's anything upsetting your employees? Analysing the data from appraisal reports and exit interviews will highlight any recurring issues and enable you to devise new schemes to re-motivate your staff.
The year 2005 may be a way off, but there's nothing to stop HR managers and directors investing in good human resources software now (far exceeding just payroll applications). The right combination of self-service and business intelligence can really pay off when it comes to understanding, rewarding, leveraging and retaining valuable employees.
Michael Klemen is Applications Marketing Director, Oracle EMEA. Questions and comments may be sent to email@example.com