Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS): Providing Business with Rapid Data Access, Information Exchange and Strategic Advantage

Article excerpt

This article will review the major components of a Human Resource Information System (HRIS), including systems that are computerized and those that are not. These basic components provide a foundation for the reader to understand and explore how computerized and non-computerized information can assist human resources (HR) professionals achieve certain human resource objectives. There are many different types of computer software available to help in developing a comprehensive human resource information system. There is no doubt that personal computers can support real human resource decisions, but the information must be available in a form that can be utilized effectively in the decision making process.

Definition

A Human Resource Information System is a systematic procedure for collecting, storing, maintaining, retrieving, and validating data needed by an organization about its human resources, personnel activities, and organization unit characteristics.1

An HRIS need not be complex or even computerized. HRIS can be as informal as the payroll records and time cards of a small business, or as extensive and formal as the computerized human resource databases of major manufacturers, banks, and governments. HRIS can support long range planning, with information for labor force planning, and supply and demand forecasts; staffing with information on equal employment, separations, and applicant qualifications; and development with information on training program costs and trainee work performance. HRIS can also support compensation programs with information on pay increases, salary forecasts, and pay budgets; and labor/employee relations with information on contract negotiations and employee assistance needs. In every case the purpose is to provide information that is either required by human resource stakeholders or supports human resource decisions.

Applications

Some information is gathered for the purpose of satisfying an external stakeholder's requirement. Other information is gathered because it is required to fulfill the employment relationship. Most HRIS begin with this required information. Many of the computerized enhancements to information systems are designed to produce this required information faster or at a lower cost. The benefits of the information are obvious- the organization would not be allowed to continue in business if it didn't use the information to produce the required reports or payments. So, attention focuses on producing the information and completing the reports at the lowest cost. These kinds of applications emphasize doing administrative tasks faster, with less paper, or with fewer people. They are by far the most common HRIS applications, because their value is relatively easy to calculate. One can readily see, based on activities of a number of public and private sector organizations, that the use of HRIS has been a mainstay in their efforts to downsize and reengineer their human resource functions. Two very prominent examples of this type of application are the Department of Defense's conversion to an "off the shelf" software package (Oracle HR) and Hewlett Packard's use of People Soft to assist in their reengineering of how human resource functional services are provided in a global environment. In each organization, substantial reductions in staff were possible through the use of value added process reviews and the use of human resource information systems. There are many examples available that describe the use of a HRIS in the management process, but all utilize the basic premise discussed herein.

While automation can cut administrative costs, such applications are based on the basic assumption that the administrative activity should be continued. Many organizations are finding that the most fundamental value of technology is its ability to encourage new thinking that removes the need for layers of administration. This kind of fundamental change is called reengineering. …