HRM and Technology

In the field of Human Resources (HR)—the learning and human development arm of most organizations—technology has completely altered business processes. This occurred in spite of the fact that HR departments tend to change more slowly than other departments and tend to be reluctant to use technology. It may be HR professionals’ emphasis on workers, rather than the tools used by the workers, that in some cases dampens their enthusiasm for technology. Typically, if you are in Human Resources, you care about people more than about things. There is a reason for that predisposition.

When Leonard Nadler coined the term human resource development, he cited Human Resource professionals’ role within organizations as helping individuals to grow and learn. The role became more sophisticated as human resource development (HRD) became more clearly defined to include the three-fold notion of training, education, and development. In the twenty-first century, Human Resource responsibilities surpassed a focus on individual and organizational development to encompass oversight of learning at the individual, team, and organizational lev-els.

An interesting phenomenon in this century has been the redistribution of conventional HR functions into the hands of non-HR managers. In this case, the care of employees becomes the responsibility of the employees’ direct supervisors rather than someone in the HR department. In such cases, the “people care” shifted from HR to managers. It is important to note this migration of responsibilities.

Consequently, many HR roles and responsibilities appear under the job descriptions of supervisors and managers rather than a bona fide HR department. The impetus for this change can in part be attributed to cost efficiencies offered by HR technologies.

This migration of responsibilities may explain why non-HR professionals often make many of the technology decisions that impact the Human Resource department. As technology has gained in importance, it has begun to support many of the people-care functions that HR professionals previously handled themselves.

Traditionally, HR professionals have performed several key functions, including: HR strategic advisor, HR systems designer and developer, organization change consultant, organization design consultant, learning program specialist, instructor/facilitator, individual development and career consultant, performance consultant, and researcher.

In the past, each of these functions contributed significantly to an organization’s well-being. Interestingly, however, in the twenty-first century the functions have morphed to a new set of competencies, many of which can be enhanced or entirely performed using technology. In a study performed by the RBL Group and the Ross School at University of Michigan (assisted by the Society for Human Resource Management), a new set of competency domains were identified for the HR professional.

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