From an historical perspective, human resource (HR) activities rarely captured the respect of line executives who often view this area as “staff chores” rather than high value-added business. This, coupled with the large amount of complex information required to execute personnel tasks, partially explains why HR departments did not tend to be early adopters of information technologies (ITs). The situation has changed radically over the last decade, as personnel departments increasingly seek to offload paper-intensive, compliance-oriented processes to technology-supported flows so that they are better able to support and evolve the company’s strategy to achieve competitive advantage in an era of increased global competition. Little is known, though, about the process by which HR-related software applications and services spread from firm to firm, and ultimately country to country. In response, we draw upon a set of geographically diverse practitioner surveys and early findings of our ongoing research program (Florkowski & Olivas-Luján, 2006) to examine the diffusion of HRITs across nations. We also include suggestions for future research and definitions of terms that aid in understanding this increasingly important phenomenon.
There is little doubt that information and communication technologies (ICTs) continue to transform our society at a blistering pace, and particularly our workplace. Even back in 1965, Intel co-founder and former chairman Gordon Moore famously said that he expected the complexity of integrated circuits to double every year (Intel Corp., 2005). Debates have followed arguing whether this so-called “Moore’s Law” is applicable to other IT components, but the fact remains that ICTs are renovating our society and our organizations in ways we never imagined. HR functions certainly have been swept up in this tide. Companies worldwide invested an estimated $5.5 billion (U.S.) on HR-linked technologies in 2005, with annual expenditures projected to grow in North America, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific region by 7, 20, and 22%, respectively, over the next 5 years (Frauenheim, 2006). In many developed economies, HR intranets have become cornerstones of the service-delivery model in larger firms (Mercer HR Consulting, 2002a, 2003a, 2003b; Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 2002). These and other sources (Cedar, 2002, 2004; SHRM, 2005; Towers Perrin, 2003) document that self-service applications for employees (ESS) and managers (MSS) are becoming increasingly widespread, bordering at times on majority practice in bigger organizations. Not surprisingly, HRITs tend to be less prevalent, but very much on the rise, in emerging markets with greater emphasis placed on the deployment of fully integrated HR information systems (e.g., Deloitte, 2005; Zuo & Zheng, 2003). That being said, countries like Mexico, Brazil, and China are not strangers to HR intranets and other Web-based technologies (Mercer HR Consulting, 2002b; Olivas-Luján, Ramírez & Zapata Cantú, 2007; Watson Wyatt Worldwide, 2000, 2004). It is in this environment that the need to use solid theories to better understand how these ICTs are spreading seems warranted.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Compatibility: An innovation characteristic that deals with how the innovation is perceived as congruent with the existing needs, past history, and current priorities of the potential adopter. The greater it is, the faster the innovation is expected to be adopted.
Diffusion: It is the process of dissemination or transmission of a certain idea, process, or product among potential adopters or users.
Relative Advantage: An innovation characteristic that refers to adopters’ belief that the innovation is better than the way things were done before it was embraced. The greater it is, the faster the innovation is expected to be adopted.
Complexity: An innovation characteristic that is the degree to which the innovation is perceived be complicated or difficult to understand and use. The greater this characteristic is, the slower the innovation is expected to be adopted.
Adoption: Process by which a potential user of an innovation becomes an actual one (i.e., an adopter ). It has been theorized to have a variety of influences, including characteristics of the adopter, of the innovation, and of the environment that surrounds the system of potential adopters.
Innovation: Something new, original, or fresh that had not been used previously. An idea that may take the form of a product (material objects or devices like a computer or a software package) or a process (a sequence of steps like a production line or a business model).