Five technologies to streamline the way HR works

Author: Criselda Diala-McBride | Date: 14 Sep 2016

Microsoft Gulf’s HR director explains how recruitment, retention and operational challenges can be conquered with specialised tools

Anu SabapathyToday’s employees can take the office with them. That is what technology has given us – IT has become a Lego set, to be built, dismantled and reimagined to serve fluctuating organisational needs. And that is great news for HR departments challenged by talent trends.
 
“In the Middle East, as in any other part of the world, we are challenged by growth trends, to recruit and retain great talent,” said Anu Sabapathy, HR director at Microsoft Gulf. “Obviously, as a global organisation with around 114,000 employees, our needs are different to those of a government entity or an SME, but the same principles apply when using technology in human resources.”
 
Here are five technologies that are helping HR departments streamline the way they work.
 
1. Cloud
In cloud computing, IT systems are hosted by third-party providers and accessed through everyday internet connections, saving massively on costs, and freeing up key individuals. Some businesses have begun shifting their entire HR infrastructure and systems to the cloud, though for many this remains a challenge.
 
“We believe digital transformation starts with the cloud, no matter what applications mix you’re using,” said Sabapathy. “It is an exceptional tool [for continuity and mobility]. Hosting providers build infrastructures so that, if a server goes down, it is instantly replaced. That way, you don’t need to worry that you will be cut off if you are conducting a performance review with an overseas employee over video chat.”
 
2. Business intelligence/analytics
BI and analytics systems allow users to retrieve information pulled from other systems and databases across the organisation, and see it presented in a visually intuitive format.
 
Sabapathy said the cloud allows anyone, anywhere to use BI software to query an organisation’s entire data ecosystem, allowing instant answers to common HR questions such as: Who needs training? What was an employee’s last review rating? What city is the sales director currently in and how can they be reached?
 
“All of this can be seen at a glance, enabling teams to have meaningful information linked intuitively with other functions,” she said. “So you have found that sales director; now you can send them an email or start a video chat from the same screen at the touch of a button.”
 
3. Customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning
Customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can be developed to efficiently manage everything to do with an employee, from the time they become a candidate to when they leave the organisation.
 
“While CRM’s core functions support sales and marketing executives in their pursuit of commercial prospects, and ERP suites allow tighter financial and operational management, both technologies are commonly extended to provide rich functionality for HR departments,” Sabapathy said. “Professional development, assessment, incentives and more can all be monitored through such systems.”
 
4. Productivity suites
Productivity suites, such as Microsoft Office, are constantly improving because of other emerging technologies, such as cloud and big data. No longer limited to word-processing and spreadsheets, they provide tools that are very useful for HR departments.
 
“Products for note-taking, personalised content, video and voice can connect ideas across locations and allow HR departments to conduct employee reviews and organisation-wide surveys more simply,” said Sabapathy. “Intranets allow central, searchable resources to contain HR forms for every use.”
 
5. Collaboration tools
Collaboration tools allow teams that are spread out nationally or globally, to work together on designs, documents, presentations or accounts, Sabapathy said.
 
“This is just as relevant to a dynamic HR team as it is to finance and operations staff,” she said. “Think of it: if an employee’s performance review is due and they are in another country, this can be done through the most basic of collaboration tools – video chat.”