Human Resource Information Systems: A Review and Model Development

Article excerpt


This paper presents a human resource information systems (HRIS) model with a primary objective: To provide a comprehensive framework that advances HRIS research (Kuhn, 1996). This model is based on general systems theory, relevant academic research, and practitioner observations. Our prototype is a necessary and vital step in developing a thorough and systematic strategy for analyzing one of the most dynamic and potentially useful areas in business today. More specifically, our model addresses all major HRIS components and offers information on how these facets interact to support each other and larger organizational outcomes. These model units consist of organizational vision, strategic integration, personnel development, communication and integration, records and compliance, knowledge management, HR analysis, and forecasting and planning.


This paper presents a comprehensive model of human resource information systems (HRIS) functions. Management scholars contend that enhanced theoretical rigor is necessary to bridge the gap between research and practice (Becker, & Gerhart, 1996; Kuhn, 1996; Ulrich, 1997). In response, our model is drawn from over a decade of HRIS studies, organizational learning and general systems theory, human resources development research, and other relevant work in organizational behavior and information systems literature. The model underscores the role of HRIS as the operational link between strategic organizational vision and human resources implementations. Management scholars have long called for stronger and more explicit paths between strategic planning and applications in human resources. Yet implementation guidance for this vital connection has proved elusive (Cascio, 1998; Haines, & Petit, 1997). We contend that HRIS is a powerful tool in forging this link, and increased understanding must be gained to develop its maximum potential.

Unfortunately, relatively few studies have focused specifically on HRIS, and many of these studies have been descriptive, narrowly focused, or anecdotal (Haines, & Petit, 1997; Kovach, & Cathcart, 1999; Richards-Carpenter, 1997; Richards-Carpenter, 1996). To help fill this gap, we have developed a model to serve as an initial step in building the necessary foundation for a more systematic analysis. Our model is based on a review of selected, pertinent research, and a discussion of the major HRIS functions embodied in its design. Finally, we will present the implications of our model for future research and practice.


Human resources operations challenge organizations with a dualistic yet interdependent set of outcomes. One summons organizational change that may be perceived as a threat to the status quo, while the other set of outcomes gives highly valuable potential benefits for organizational performance. This paradox stems from the requirement for U.S. businesses to improve productivity from their skilled workers in order to satisfy the demand shift from manufacturing to technological and intellectual innovations (Cascio, 1998; Robbins, 1998). This transformation means that both organizational productivity gains and competitive advantage depend on high quality worker competence. In other words, increasing productivity through people is now paramount. Consequently, essential human resource functions have recently become even more critical to general organizational well-being.

To achieve these complex objectives, many organizations have turned to information systems technology (Haines, & Petit, 1997; Richards-Carpenter, 1997; Simon, & Werner, 1996). The reliance on technology has deceptively been prompting the false assumption that HRIS is synonymous with computerized human resource information systems. In reality, computer technology is not required for a successful HRIS function, and many HRIS activities still defy computer automation (Grossman, & Magnus, 1988; Haines, & Petit, 1997; Simon, & Werner, 1996). …


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