Making Sense of e-HRM: Transformation, Technology and Power Relations

Making Sense of e-HRM: Transformation, Technology and Power Relations

Steve Foster (University of Hertfordshire and NorthgateArinso, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-304-3.ch001
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Several organisations have adopted e-HRM technology as a platform for achieving transformational change, improving HR operational processes, allowing distributed access to employees / managers and providing better decision support. However, as a consultant working in this field, the author regularly encounters organisations that fail to take advantage of the transformational potential of e-HRM, particularly those in the United Kingdom public sector. This chapter argues that the concepts of sense-making and technological frames may explain the inertia experienced in some organisations. It contends that the analysis of technological frame domains provides a valuable lens for understanding and interpreting e-HRM, where high levels of frame incongruence may act as a barrier to transformational change. Research suggests that power relations between key groups of stakeholders, in particular HR Managers and line managers, may influence these frames and shape attitudes to technology. This approach may also provide the basis for strategies to manage e-HRM related change more effectively. Using a grounded theory approach, the research, currently work in progress in support of a professional doctorate (DBA),investigates how United Kingdom public sector organisations make sense of, plan for and implement HR technology.
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The Transformative Effect Of E-Hrm

A wide range of Human Resources (HR) processes and information can now be managed and devolved to line managers and employees through web-based technologies using e-HRM (‘electronic Human Resource Management’), with potentially significant benefits in terms of cost reduction and improved service levels (Ashton, 2001; CedarCrestone, 2006). Organisations make a significant investment of time and resource in implementing e-HRM, with more than $1.5bn pa being spent in Western Europe on related software and implementation (Lykkegaard, 2007). At least 91% of midsize and large US organisations claim to be using web based HR technology in some way (Keebler & Rhodes, 2002).As a consultant working in the e-HRM field, the author has observed that organisations typically choose one of three paths when implementing HR technology:

  • Replication: Simply re-creating the content and functions of the existing system(s)—this is typically an IT ‘refresh’ activity, often because existing technology becomes non-viable or is simply out of date. There is generally no intention to restructure HR/Payroll services.

  • Enhancement: New systems provide additional functionality (such as self-service, improved integration and reporting) but are intended to have only an evolutionary impact on the overall HR service delivery model.

  • Transformational: Involving a revolutionary restructuring of HR service delivery, including the use of service centres, outsourcing and business partnering. E-HRM effectively becomes an enabler for these new approaches.

Reddington, Williamson & Withers (2005) claim that the greatest benefits of e-HRM arise when transformational outcomes are pursued and clearly, HR technology has a role to play in supporting the transformation effort. As Boroughs, Palmer and Hunter (2008) observe, “The development of human resources is bound inextricably to the technology that serves it” (p.3). While HR transformation appears to be the Holy Grail of e-HRM, the term ‘transformation’ itself is problematic, since it is often mis-used and abused, covering a range of activities from simple process redesign through to dramatic change. One definition that seems to capture the general spirit of current usage is “the process of recreating or reinventing the HR function—such as re-engineering, restructuring, implementing new systems or a new HR service delivery model, outsourcing or co-sourcing—with the specific intent of enhancing HR’s contribution to the business” (Mercer, 2007).

Although a recent study by the UK’s professional HR body, the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD, 2006), provided evidence that organisations are beginning to use technology to enable HR transformation, in practice, the main focus of many software implementation projects remains administrative efficiency and HR operational cost reduction rather than strategic, transformational outcomes (Ball, 2001). As Broderick & Boudreau (1992) note, “most organisational investments in HR information technology support only a narrow range of administrative decisions” (p.9) and the author’s own experience suggests that the statement remains largely true. Projects often pursue a replication or enhancement strategy, implementing basic functionality during the first phase, then fail to capitalise on the full transformative potential of the investment in subsequent phases.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Process Technology: Systems or parts of systems that re aimed at supporting transactional HR processes such as payroll, personal data management, enrolment etc

e-Human Capital Management (e-HCM): Technologies that are specifically focused on supporting the people management aspects of an organisation, providing managers with the tools to support this activity

HR Transformation: “The process of recreating or reinventing the HR function—such as re-engineering, restructuring, implementing new systems or a new HR service delivery model, outsourcing or co-sourcing—with the specific intent of enhancing HR’s contribution to the business” (Mercer, 2007).

Sense Making: People in organisations try to understand what is happening around them by making interpretations, translating events, developing models for understanding or bringing out meaning and assembling conceptual schemes. These sense-making processes are thought to be critical in influencing the decisions that are made about e-HRM

Enterprise Resource Planning: (ERP): Systems such as SAP and Oracle, covering a wide range of business functions such as Finance, Manufacturing, Logistics and Procurement. These large systems typically have a Human Resources module.

Human Capital Technology: Systems or parts of systems that support the management of people, such as providing decision support, planning and employee data

Technological Frames: Cognitive structures or mental models that are held by individuals that impose structure on and provide meaning for social and situational information to facilitate understanding. They influence our assumptions, expectations, and knowledge and can be positive and negative.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Tanya Bondarouk, Huub Ruel, Karine Guiderdoni-Jourdain, Ewan Oiry
Tanya Bondarouk, Huub Ruel, Karine Guiderdoni-Jourdain, Ewan Oiry
Chapter 1
Steve Foster
Several organisations have adopted e-HRM technology as a platform for achieving transformational change, improving HR operational processes... Sample PDF
Making Sense of e-HRM: Transformation, Technology and Power Relations
Chapter 2
Cataldo Dino Ruta
Intellectual capital is today considered a key issue in analyzing the critical determinants of company performance. Companies design more and more... Sample PDF
HR Portal: A Tool for Contingent and Individualized HRM
Chapter 3
Barbara Imperatori, Marco De Marco
The evolution of the managerial discourse is the result of fashion lifecycles that sometimes have no rational or technical foundations and find no... Sample PDF
E-Work and Labor Processes Transformation
Chapter 4
Gerwin Koopman, Ronald Batenburg
This chapter theoretically and empirically addresses the notion that user participation and involvement is one of the important factors for IS... Sample PDF
Early User Involvement and Participation in Employee Self-Service Application Deployment: Theory and Evidence from Four Dutch Governmental Cases
Chapter 5
Karine Guiderdoni-Jourdain, Ewan Oiry
In organizations, researchers as well as professionals have generally observed insufficient use of computer technologies when compared to their... Sample PDF
Does User Centered Design, Coherent with Global Corporate Strategy, Encourage Development of Human Resource Intranet Use?
Chapter 6
Nawaf Al-Ibraheem, Huub Ruël
Companies new to the e-HRM technologies are overwhelmed by the dilemma of choosing either the ready-made, off-the-shelf e-HRM systems, or develop... Sample PDF
In-House vs. Off-the-Shelf e-HRM Applications
Chapter 7
Pieternel Kuiper, Betsy van Dijk
Adaptation of electronic forms (e-forms) seems to be a step forward to reduce the burden for people who fill in forms. Municipalities more and more... Sample PDF
Adaptive Municipal Electronic Forms
Chapter 8
Hazel Williams, Carole Tansley, Carley Foster
Global, enterprise-wide, information systems (GEIS) projects are often delayed with budget over-runs often due to a lack of understanding of the key... Sample PDF
HRIS Project Teams Skills and Knowledge: A Human Capital Analysis
Chapter 9
Adam Smale, Jukka-Pekka Heikkilä
The design and implementation of a globally integrated e-HRM system within a multinational corporation (MNC) requires different parties to reach... Sample PDF
IT-Based Integration of HRM in a Foreign MNC Subsidiary: A Micro-Political Perspective
Chapter 10
Huub Ruël
Research on Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) implementation lacks theoretical depth and richness. For that reason this paper applies a... Sample PDF
Studying Human Resource Information Systems Implementation using Adaptive Structuration Theory: The Case of an HRIS Implementation at Dow Chemical Company
Chapter 11
Jonas F. Puck, Dirk Holtbrügge, Alexander T. Mohr
This chapter empirically analyses the influence of the cultural context on the comprehensiveness to which companies in different countries make use... Sample PDF
Applicant Information and Selection Strategies in Corporate Web Site Recruiting: The Role of National Culture
Chapter 12
Emma Parry, Shaun Tyson
HR practitioners are often expected to be both efficient administrators of the employment relationship and to act as a strategic partner to the... Sample PDF
What is the Potential of E-Recruitment to Transform the Recruitment Process and the Role of the Resourcing Team?
Chapter 13
Pramilla Rao
This chapter will address the role of national culture on e-recruitment practices in India and Mexico. The GLOBE (Global Leadership and... Sample PDF
The Role of National Culture on E-Recruitment in India and Mexico
Chapter 14
Marielba Zacarias, Rodrigo Magalhães, José Tribolet
This chapter will address the role of national culture on e-recruitment practices in India and Mexico. The GLOBE (Global Leadership and... Sample PDF
Modeling Human Resources in the Emergent Organization
Chapter 15
Elfi Furtmueller, Celeste Wilderom, Rolf van Dick
In order to maintain their customer base, many e-recruiting firms are in need of developing innovations. The Lead User (LU) Method has been heralded... Sample PDF
Utilizing the Lead User Method for Promoting Innovation in E-Recruiting
Chapter 16
Sven Laumer, Andreas Eckhardt
In 2007 Erickson and Gratton asked “What it means to work here” and discussed the need for a structured approach to establishing an employer image... Sample PDF
What Makes the Difference? Introducing an Integrated Information System Architecture for Employer Branding and Recruiting
Chapter 17
Karine Guiderdoni-Jourdain
The subject of our communication will be a better understanding of how the regulation between the on line HR designers and HR experts is built, and... Sample PDF
The Enrichment of the HR Intranet Linked to the Regulation's Process Between HR Actors
Chapter 18
Tanya Bondarouk, Vincent ter Horst, Sander Engbers
This research focuses on acceptance of Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) in medium sized organizations. We look at general SME’s in The... Sample PDF
Exploring Perceptions about the Use of e-HRM Tools in Medium Sized Organizations
Chapter 19
Loubna Tahssain, Mouna Zgheib
The changing business environment and increasing technology is redefining the role of the human resources function. Nowadays, corporations have to... Sample PDF
Perceived Performance of the Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) and Perceived Performance of the Management of Human Resources (HRM)
Chapter 20
Leon Welicki, Javier Piqueres Juan, Fernando Llorente Martin, Victor de Vega Hernandez
Employee life-cycle processes management (hiring new employees, changing their conditions, and dismissing them) is a critical task that has a big... Sample PDF
Employee Life-Cycle Process Management Improvement with Web-Enabled Workflow Systems
Chapter 21
Manel Guechtouli, Widad Guechtouli
Information Technologies (IT) seem to be affecting individuals and organizations’ communication and behaviors since many years now. This chapter is... Sample PDF
Information Technologies' Impact on Individual Learning Process: The Case of a Community of Practice
Chapter 22
Valéry Michaux
In a second step, this research shows that ICT poses threats but also offers opportunities for unions and trade unionism. The tensions between... Sample PDF
What are the Main Impacts of Internet and Information and Communication Technology on Unions and Trade Unionism? An Exploratory Research in Europe and North America
Chapter 23
Isabelle Parot
In this communication, the author attempts to answer the question of coordination in virtual teams (or remote teams). Virtual teams can result from... Sample PDF
Coordination of Virtual Teams: From Trust to Control
Chapter 24
Jeroen ter Heerdt, Tanya Bondarouk
In this chapter the authors present a revision of the information overload concept elaborated by Eppler and Mengis (2004). The main elements of our... Sample PDF
Information Overload in the New World of Work: Qualitative Study into the Reasons
Chapter 25
Mitchell van Balen, Tanya Bondarouk
In this chapter the authors consider articles in professional literature regarding Human Resource Centers, with the goal to explore issues raised by... Sample PDF
HR Shared Service Centers: From Brand Management Towards Success
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