Wednesday 30 November 2005

HR self-service and virtual social capital

Quite a while ago I mentioned that I had a new article being published in the IHRIM Journal. Following an unexpected delay in the printing of the July/August 2005 issue of the journal, I'm pleased to say that it has how been published. The article, titled HR Self-Service: Empowering Staff while Creating Social Capital in Virtualized Organizations, discusses the need for HR managers to develop "virtual" social capital in organisations where self-service HR has implemented.

In the introduction I say:

"Human resources self-service is perhaps one of the most indisputable HR information management success stories. While in other industries, users and project sponsors alike bemoan failed IT projects, organizations deploying HR self-service systems report high levels of employee satisfaction and a fast return on investment. This successful virtualization of HR services has also coincided with the change of emphasis in the HR profession – from personnel administration to strategic human resource management (HRM). There is, in fact, a strong suggestion that HR self-service is a key enabler of strategic HRM, since it has allowed HR transactional processes to be automated and, in some cases, re-engineered. But as we rush towards implementing second and third wave employee and manager self-service systems, is there now a risk that the potent combination of self-service and strategic HR management is too much of a good thing?

Thomas A. Kochan has criticized the strategic HR management approach for creating what he calls a ”crisis of trust” in the HR profession. While on one hand I agree that there is a need for organizations to modernize HR processes, I also believe that it is possible that the virtualization of HR service delivery has actually contributed to the relationship breakdown between HR professionals and other stakeholders. Surely it was only to be expected that there was a risk of HR professionals becoming isolated when they served the majority of staff from behind self-service systems? After all, people, networks and communities make the social capital in organizations, not computer systems.

If you have trouble getting hold of a copy of this article, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

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