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HR Software: Requiem for a Paperweight

A new wave of Web-enabled software helps companies to streamline HR services -- and size up worker skills.

In October, KLA-Tencor began using a new dashboard that lets end-users change their benefits elections for the following year. All told, Crawford estimates the company will save about $1 million annually using the Workscape toolset. “We’re empowering employees and managers so that they have information 24/7,” she says. “If they need a report, they’re not waiting for HR — no matter where they are globally.”

Like KLA-Tencor, officials at Thomson University, the in-house training and development division of B2B vendor Thomson Corp., were searching for a browser-based human resources application. In their case, managers at the Stamford, Connecticut-based Thomson were looking for software that would help senior executives with succession planning.

After examining several packages, Thomson management chose ExecuTrack, a program designed by HRSoft LLC (www.hrsoft.com) of Morristown, New Jersey. Using the software, each of Thomson’s 1,000 senior managers can create a Web-based profile that effectively serves as a professional resume. Top-level executives can now view an outline of a manager’s background, experience, and education — all in a single location.

Thomson is also building a development portfolio within the tool, which when completed will enable executive-level staff to record more in-depth information about actual work experiences, including special assignments. “As we begin to look for people [to promote] in the organization,” notes Ron Frederick, vice president at Thomson University, “we now have a place to go, where we can see this information.”

So far, the results have been impressive. Since rolling out ExecuTrack, Thomson has filled a sizable percentage of senior-level jobs internally. “We haven’t begun to calculate the savings from not having to hire recruiters, but we know it will be significant,” claims Frederick. “The cost of replacing individuals at that level is somewhere around three times their base salary.”

Still, Frederick concedes that the online approach to succession planning and hiring does not eliminate the need for face-to-face interviews. Indeed, Meta Group’s Schafer warns that software should not be viewed as a panacea for all HR issues. “People processes don’t conform readily to historical information-processing techniques,” she cautions. Translation? “There’s no magic bullet,” she says.

Esther Shein is a freelance writer specializing in finance and technology.

And the Survey Says …

According to a new survey of 342 companies conducted by information management consultancy The Hunter Group, more than 80 percent of the respondents said they plan to deliver HR services to employees via the Web in 2001.

That sort of wholesale adoption is not surprising. Workers seem to want self-service HR, which gives them greater control over 401(k) plans, expense report processing, and the like. In fact, the survey showed that worker satisfaction with HR services rose dramatically when self-service portals were launched. “There’s an expectation in the workforce that they can get the same kind of service from their own companies that they can get if they’re buying from other companies,” says Alexia Martin, research director and principal consultant at The Hunter Group.

Furthermore, the do-it-yourself approach appears to save corporations a bundle. Thanks in part to minimal project cost overruns, the average transaction cost for businesses in the Hunter survey fell by 60 percent. In fact, some respondents reported a 100 percent return on investment within a year of implementing self-service applications.

A number of companies reported that the biggest savings came from Web-enabling low value, high-volume transactions. Circulating pay stubs electronically, for example, saves an average of $7 per transaction, according to Martin.

Mary Ruiz, director of human resources technology and operations at Redwood City, California-based Excite@Home, says the new media specialist’s intranet enables workers to key in changes of address in their employee files. Not glitzy, perhaps, but in Silicon Valley, that sort of simple application can save a company a ton of worker-hours. Says Ruiz flatly, “We can’t afford not to do this.” —Kathy Ford

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